BPI returns to vinyl / YouTube comparison for 2015


Comparing vinyl sales with online-video revenues has become one of the sticks the music industry is using to beat YouTube with.

The BPI was first to make the comparison in November 2015 with chief executive Geoff Taylor’s speech at the Music Futures conference, with US body the RIAA recently following suit. Now the BPI is returning to the theme.

Its Music Market 2016 yearbook, published today, claims that ad-funded video music streams in the UK rose 88% in 2015, but trade revenues from them only grew by 0.4% to £24.4m.

That compares to the £25.1m revenues from vinyl sales that year. Cue flaming pitchforks, although the caveat remains that judging YouTube against vinyl on gross revenues rather than on costs/profitability is designed to make the point about the “value gap” that rightsholders see in the streaming world.

A better comparison, which makes the same point, comes with audio-streaming, which the BPI says saw an 82% increase in streams (to 27bn) but a 69% rise in income to £146.1m in 2015.

Cue Geoff Taylor: “Dominant tech platforms like YouTube are able to abuse liability protections as royalty havens, dictating terms so they can grab the value from music for themselves, at the expense of artists,” said the BPI chief.

“In 2015, UK fans streamed almost twice as many music videos as the year before; tens of billions more views. Yet artists and labels did not benefit from the increased demand for what they created. This is wrong.”

YouTube’s main argument against this remains its claim that at least it’s getting *something* from the 80% of listeners who have never shown much interest in paying for music.

The safe-harbour argument will continue to rage – it was interesting to see Kobalt’s Willard Ahdritz, who is strongly pro-YouTube on its potential for the music industry, call for its safe-harbour protection to be stripped earlier this week – but the BPI figures should spark more conversation around a separate strand to the debate.

If music video streams are rocketing but revenues are not, shouldn’t we be talking more about trends around inventory-fill and rates in the digital advertising market, and how those problems might be addressed?

“Online advertising: the rates keep going down. The music industry is a little boat that’s tied to this iceberg, that’s the entire online advertising ecosystem. And I don’t think that’s healthy right now,” artist David Lowery told Music Ally recently.

Pressing YouTube on safe harbour is understandable, but poking around its business model may be just as important.

Stuart Dredge

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