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How NoCopyrightSounds went from YouTube channel to indie label with 1.2bn streams


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NoCopyrightSounds first came to the attention of many people in the music industry for its role as the launchpad for Norwegian artist Alan Walker’s track ‘Faded’.

How could a YouTube channel devoted to making tracks available royalty-free for gaming channels on that service and Twitch to use as their backing music spawn a global hit?

It’s a fascinating story that has continued, with NCS now having more than 14 million subscribers to its channel, and having sold a million tracks as it evolved into an independent label.

Label manager Daniel Lee outlined some of the lessons of this journey in a speech at the FastForward conference in Amsterdam today.

“We’re not actually ‘no copyright’ we’re more ‘No Content ID’,” said Lee: because anyone using the company’s music in their videos won’t face a copyright claim for doing it. “When people use our music we ask that you credit the track: we create a template in the descriptions of our songs on YouTube or SoundCloud, and you can copy that and put it in the description of your video.”

The label side of NCS works with bedroom producers and now some bigger artists too. “We’re a traditional label in one sense in the fact that we commercially release music, and that we have artists who we pay. But we also have our promotional platform within YouTube, SoundCloud, Facebook and socials. We’ve created this bubble where we can release music commercially and promote it at the same time.”

Lee said that NCS currently gets 5m daily streams on YouTube, 2m daily streams on Spotify and 500k daily streams on SoundCloud, and has generated 1.2bn total streams on Spotify and Apple Music since 2015.

It has sold 1m paid downloads through iTunes since 2015 – this despite giving away all that music for free – as well as 2m free downloads via a ‘download gate’ – given away in exchange for social interactions like retweets, Facebook likes and follows on SoundCloud.

Artists on NCS include Cartoon (300m total streams); Unknown Brain (50m) and Retrovision (45m) as well as more than 250 others. “These are songwriters, they’re producers, all sorts of different levels,” he said.

The future? “We’re moving into merchandising, we have a rebrand coming soon which is long-awaited, and we want to get more involved in writer camps and making music: getting closer to the artists and songwriters that want to make music, and providing them with a platform. We provide them with a commercial and social platform, but we also want to provide them with a platform to create music.”

What was the toughest challenge so far for NoCopyrightSounds? “The name is one of the hardest things, and that’s why we’re trying to rebrand it as NCS. NoCopyrightSounds sounds like we don’t own any of the copyrights. We release songs like a traditional label, publish them etc,” he said. “We’ve confused that a bit. That’s why we’re going to change to NCS.”

Was the plan always to have a label? “Billy Woodford founded the company as a YouTube label, and it was quickly realised that we needed to have the music available across various different platforms, and then it moved into a commercial label. And it’s grown ever since then.”

He also fielded a question about publishing. “Yes, and the reason for that is so we can ensure there are no claims for these,” he said. NCS may allow songs to be used for free on YouTube and Twitch, but for other commercial uses – adverts for example, or soundtracks – it does sync licensing like any music company would.

Stuart Dredge

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