Feeds

YouTube in shock indie music nuke: We all feel a little less worthy today

Depressing message for small producers

Remote control for virtualized desktops

Comment Yet another argument has brewed up between independent record companies and a wholesale customer, in this case YouTube. The accusation, that YouTube had given the major labels better terms than they were offering indies, was wearyingly familiar; as was YouTube’s reported response.

That response was an offer of “take it or leave it” terms for a settlement, and to try to pick off labels that were willing, for whatever reason, to leave the collective arguing with YouTube.

Both sides have plenty to justify their position. On YouTube’s side, independently produced music brings vast catalogues, a disordered supply chain, and a lower average value per track. Collectivisation solves some problems – but not all – and relatively few recordings are so compelling that consumers would leave YouTube if they were not available.

The indies can counter that they produce more high quality new recordings than major labels, with much more diversity, that the administration can and will be made much smoother if the incentive is there, and that who is YouTube to say that any individual recording is worth more or less according to the size of the corporate entity that is selling it?

Some compromise will no doubt be found in time. YouTube, however, should be much more circumspect about how it manages its relations with music producers; professional independent producers create disproportionate value in music, and YouTube does not have a credible alternative to their skills and investment if it wishes to avoid a disastrous drift into sub-optimal Gini coefficient content markets.

How YouTube skewed the content funnel model in their favour

A music producer who has not contracted away the rights in their recordings can upload their work to YouTube and accept whatever revenue is offered in the click-through licence. Any business wanting to insert itself as an intermediary needs a mixture of pull and push to attract musicians who would otherwise have no reason to give up a share of their revenue from YouTube – or from anywhere else.

Naturally, YouTube would ensure the balance of risk and reward would be very much weighted to its advantage in a deal offered indiscriminately to anyone who fancied signing up. With so little information available about the eventual value of any recording, no advances against future revenue are likely to be offered, and nor will the music producer be able to argue that each listen or view should have a minimum fee attached.

YouTube is extremely unlikely to wish to pay for many recordings before they are made and would find it very hard to organise production. Rival platforms might not wish to carry its content, meaning a proportion of the market would be inaccessible.

All this is obvious, but it benefits from a restatement in this context. Intermediaries can compete by advancing funds for production, bringing organisational skills (hiring arrangers, session musicians, and studio time), and by offering their access to the whole market, as well as their ability to negotiate better terms than would be offered to random uploaders. They can invest in better supply chain management, and can work cooperatively with YouTube and other platforms to find and focus interest in the music.

A content funnel with many intermediaries competing for the attention of music producers raises standards all round.

Focusing only on the big players makes us all poorer

Systemic discrimination in favour of three global companies sends a depressing message about YouTube’s view of the world of music, musicians, and music industry expertise. If it is motivated by anything other than ignorance, laziness, or spite, such discrimination is a broadcast to policy makers, creative people, and to its audience, that YouTube believes any music not owned by music’s Big Three (Sony, Warner, UMG) is by definition less worthy of attention, and the musicians who made it less worthy of investment.

Like the legendary cigar-chomping music exec of yore, this is YouTube’s way of saying “don’t give up the day job”. The fewer highly rewarded music supplier partners YouTube has, the more such systemic discrimination is multiplied, meaning even less investment in quality and diversity.

In an organisation as smart as YouTube, owned by one of the most capable businesses of the age, there must be people capable of taking a forensic view of the music industry and analysing with the greatest precision where incentives should be created to reward diversity and quality in music on a scale never before seen. It is surely too soon in the development of super-massive platforms like YouTube to decide that any encouragement outside the corporate hegemony is a pointless waste.

We should all hope that those people within YouTube who still have a little hope for the future of music soon find their voice. ®

Paul Sanders is the founder of the state51 Conspiracy, an independent music company, and CI which provides a connected digital media platform to record labels and music distributors. He has been working in digital music since 1991, focused always on bringing innovation and technology into the marketing and delivery of music.

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
Bladerunner sequel might actually be good. Harrison Ford is in it
Go ahead, you're all clear, kid... Sorry, wrong film
Euro Parliament VOTES to BREAK UP GOOGLE. Er, OK then
It CANNA do it, captain.They DON'T have the POWER!
Musicians sue UK.gov over 'zero pay' copyright fix
Everyone else in Europe compensates us - why can't you?
I'll be back (and forward): Hollywood's time travel tribulations
Quick, call the Time Cops to sort out this paradox!
Megaupload overlord Kim Dotcom: The US HAS RADICALISED ME!
Now my lawyers have bailed 'cos I'm 'OFFICIALLY' BROKE
Forget Hillary, HP's ex CARLY FIORINA 'wants to be next US Prez'
Former CEO has political ambitions again, according to Washington DC sources
prev story

Whitepapers

Seattle children’s accelerates Citrix login times by 500% with cross-tier insight
Seattle Children’s is a leading research hospital with a large and growing Citrix XenDesktop deployment. See how they used ExtraHop to accelerate launch times.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
Why CIOs should rethink endpoint data protection in the age of mobility
Assessing trends in data protection, specifically with respect to mobile devices, BYOD, and remote employees.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Website security in corporate America
Find out how you rank among other IT managers testing your website's vulnerabilities.