YouTube’s dispute with independent labels has gone quiet in recent days, amid reports of Google’s video service delaying its planned takedowns of channels from labels that haven’t signed up for its new subscription service.
But there’s plenty going on around this story, starting with a statement from British songwriters’ body BASCA entering the row.
“Youtube are imposing unfair contracting conditions on independent labels and they also insist collecting societies make contracts under non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) which mean that they cannot share with their own membership the rates achieved for their work,” claimed the body.
Individual songwriters are also providing supportive statements, including Texas’ Sharleen Spiteri (“Songwriters fully support independent record labels in their fight to get better terms and deals from Youtube. It’s about time we all made some noise about the way they negotiate with take-it-or-leave-it deals”) and Barry Mason, whose artist clients include Tom Jones.
“Someone must be making money out of the music on You Tube but it certainly isn’t the people who write the songs … Delilah would need to be streamed roughly 113,250 times for Les Reed and I to earn enough for a coffee each at Starbucks,” he said, metaphorical knife in hand.
YouTube isn’t commenting publicly on the ongoing dispute, but we noted with interest the launch of a section on its Creator Academy website: Music artists and album promotion.
In keeping with its online resources for other creators, it’s a mixture of tips and case studies – this one encompassing lyric and audio videos, optimisation, playlists, metadata advice, live streams and Hangouts, and the benefits of album promotion timelines.
It’s a reminder of what we’ve been saying since the beginning of this row with labels: the frustrating mismatch between YouTube’s undoubted power as a music promotion platform (and the hard work of its creator relations team in helping musicians make the most of it) and the company’s approach to licensing, which is a larger corporate-culture issue than just the latest dispute.
Finally, some context: technology site The Information has published new estimates for YouTube’s annual revenues, which are lower than recent analyst estimates.
Its piece claims that YouTube generated $3.5bn of gross revenues in 2013, and $1.5bn after payouts to channel owners and rightsholders. That’s less than the $5.6bn analyst figure that’s been regularly floated in recent months.
The report also claims that YouTube is nearly at 300m viewing hours per day, up from 100m in the autumn of 2012 – although with Google reportedly aiming for 1bn daily viewing hours by 2016, it also questions whether YouTube’s growth is proceeding as the company hoped, amid competition from the likes of Netflix, Facebook, Vine, Amazon and other video-focused services of varying types.