Neil Young has said some thought-provoking things about digital music in the last few years, but his latest blog post about Google could have done with a fact-checker.
“Today, in the age of FaceBook, GOOGLE and Amazon, it’s hard to tell how a new and growing musical artist could make it in the way we did,” he wrote.
“The Tech Giants have figured out a way to use all the great music of everyone from all time, without reporting an artist’s number of plays or paying a f***ing cent to the musicians.”
YouTube literally publishes play-counts alongside every video on its service, and pays royalties through licensing deals with labels. Amazon is a fully-licensed music service with no UGC aspects, reporting plays and paying royalties too.
The ‘value gap’ debate is very real, but Young’s claims don’t correspond to the genuine complaints of rightsholders. Rather than his accusation that Google “continue to rip off the artist community, building their wealth on music’s back and paying nothing to the artists”, the question here is whether YouTube would be paying more if its licensing deals were negotiated without the backdrop of safe-harbour protection for its platform.
Young’s other claim, that Google “directed users to pirate sites to get artist’s creations and not pay”, at least corresponds to the terms of a longstanding argument between the music industry and Google’s search-engine arm – albeit one that has seen some developments in recent years, from pirate-site demotions to sidebars of links to legal services.