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'Screw the Long Tail'? Not us!

Songwriters strike YouTube royalty deal

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The first deal of its kind to compensate songwriters for music played on YouTube should benefit them all, the parties said today.

The British collection society the MCPS-PRS Alliance, which represents over 55,000 publishers and composers, today announced a licensing deal with the Google-owned site covering 10m pieces of music. It's the first collecting society to strike a royalty deal with the service. But what appeared to be an offhand remark by an Alliance executive struck a sour note with members.

The Financial Times website quoted the Alliance's online director Andrew Shaw saying the Alliance would only skim the top five to ten per cent of the most popular videos to begin with.

"The long-tail is not worth calculating," the paper reports. It's an incendiary comment from a membership organisation, and sent message boards and mailing lists into a frenzy today.

But Shaw tells us the quote got mangled on the way to the web, and doesn't represent the Alliance's intentions.

"I was simply explaining that where no reporting data exists, it's impossible to go from no data to 100 per cent data overnight," he told us. "So a video that has 3m views is a higher priority at the outset than one with three views. That's not to say that the long tail is unimportant - we represent all our members," he added.

"Most of the composers are in that Long Tail," Paul Sanders of digital distributor Consolidated Independents, and ISP PlayLouder MSP, reminded us.

Shaw said the onus is on YouTube to undertake the reporting, and that audio fingerprinting and recognition would be deployed. A harder challenge was identifying music in the background.

Did Shaw feel he'd got the best possible deal from Google?

"It's a deal we're very happy with," he said. "It's the beginning of a long-term relationship, it starts a market and builds revenues. The fact they're owned by Google hasn't really changed anything in the last nine months. Having a big parent may have encouraged us to negotiate by litigation, but we didn't think that was the most constructive way forward for our members."

Terms have not been disclosed. ®

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