YouTube launches Foundry initiative amid Euro criticism


YouTube’s latest response to music-industry criticism of its investment in artists is, well, a program to invest in artists.

It’s called Foundry, and was first reported by Bloomberg this weekend. The initiative has kicked off with a series of workshops in Los Angeles and London, with emerging artists invited in to use the YouTube Space production facilities, shooting videos of live performances while there.

This appears to be the start of something deeper, with Bloomberg adding that YouTube execs have been “reaching out to peers in the music industry and have scheduled meetings over the coming weeks to discuss a deeper collaboration” – including “the potential opportunity to star in a web TV series”.

That places Foundry firmly within YouTube’s existing push for original, exclusive content on its service, which has already seen it fund new shows from online-video stars like PewDiePie, Lilly Singh and the Fine Brothers for its Red subscription service.

This, in turn, plays in to a wider trend around ‘original content’ and music. See also Google Play’s recent announcement of a partnership with New York creative studio Milk to film audio and video performances as well as documentaries with emerging acts.

Apple Music has been funding music videos for the likes of Drake and The Weeknd; Spotify is gearing up for a new push in original music-related content, as is Vevo; and on the label side, Sony Music has been developing original shows with digital firm Above Average and YouTube star Kurt Hugo Schneider.

In YouTube’s case, there is an additional layer of politics as the company steps up its efforts to prove it’s a constructive friend to musicians and the music industry, rather than a DMCA-wielding foe.

The first reports of Foundry came as the EU’s digital commissioner Andrus Ansip made comments sympathetic to the music industry’s latest campaign against the “value gap” created by free, ad-supported music-streaming and existing safe-harbour legislation.

“This is not only about rights owners and creators and their remuneration — it is also about a level playing field between different service providers,” Ansip told the Financial Times. “Platforms based on subscriptions are remunerating those authors; others service providers do not. How can they compete?”

Ansip may have gone on to admit that the EU remains “unclear” about what to do about the value gap, but his decision to comment publicly ups the pressure on YouTube.

The new Foundry initiative will be part of its defence, alongside the $3bn of royalties it has paid to music rightsholders, and its Content ID technology for identifying and monetising user-uploads.

Stuart Dredge

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