The Indie Artist Community At War Again, This Time With YouTube 678 words · 4 minute read

Despite the growing power of the independent music community and the increased overall market share, there are still much larger kids at the playground who occasionally like to remind everyone else that, although everyone may be playing nicely in the sandbox together, they’re bigger, meaner, and it’s their sandbox.

The Issue…

Case is point, we’ve got front row tickets to a David and Goliath scenario playing out before our eyes.

The Indie Artist Community At War Again, This Time With YouTubeYouTube is laboriously launching a paid streaming service allowing consumers to ingest musical content sans the annoying appearance of ads. By harnessing its infinite storehouse of musical content, this will position the video sharing site to compete with the likes of services like Spotify and Beats Music.

But, it seems that YouTube, flexing their rippling media muscles, is proposing “join the empire or die” terms to rebellious independent labels hosting content on the media behemoth’s site.

Here‘s what the mediasphere is saying:

  • The paid service is rumored to be called “YouTube Music Pass.”

  • Disputes over contract terms and streaming royalties rates are causing hundreds of independent labels to hold out from agreeing to the proposed terms.

  • Labels that do not agree to YouTube’s terms will have their non-Vevo content (content uploaded by the label, the artist, or users) removed from YouTube.

  • Apparently, contracts and terms offered to major labels are the not the same for independent labels.

  • The deal allegedly offers streaming rates below that of popular services like Spotify, Rdio, and Rhapsody.

  • Users will be able to download music from YouTube Music Pass.

  • User-uploaded content may no longer be monetized by labels who don’t play ball, meaning they won’t generate ad revenue for rights holders.

There’s a lot of speculation going on right now, making it difficult to properly assess the potential damage of this dispute for the independent artist community. Until we get our eyes on the proposed terms and stream rates, it’s really difficult to know how hard YouTube is planning to slap the indie community across the face. According to YouTube, this isn’t a slap at all, just a minor pinch.

Yet, their proposed terms and rates must be highly insulting for hundreds of indie labels to band together like an angry mob of pitchfork and baseball bat carrying townsfolk.

If it’s really as bad as everyone is saying…

Now, let’s say this is as bad as it’s reported to be. Here’s what would suck. This would have been an opportunity. This would have been an opportunity for the big kid at the playground to go against the grain and propose more fair circumstances to a group that’s already being aggressively shaken down for lunch money.

The Indie Artist Community At War, This Time With YouTubeThis could have been an opportunity for one of the world’s largest content gatekeepers to institute standards that would have began to reverse the troubling trends facing content creators by advocating deals and terms that reflect the importance of their service rendered through creativity. But it seems that opportunity is missed.

Artists, independent ones in particular, many of whom rely on every penny to stave off having to quit and get a job, are already howling for better rates and reform with the current system of streaming / licensing rates.

The reported lower streaming rates, combined with potentially lost revenue from ad monetization, adds to the present challenge of earning enough income to keep the lights on. Not to mention, being banned from the site would make marketing and promotion a nightmare without being able to upload to YouTube.

Our hopes…

We’re hoping, for the sake of the independent music community, that things aren’t as bad as everyone is saying they are. We’re hoping that a mutually beneficial agreement is reached.

As advocates to the independent artist community, we’re keeping a close eye on this one to see how it plays out. The Music Dealers mission is built around providing a strong source of revenue to independent artists. We’ve worked to be a step forward for these artists. We’d hate for this YouTube situation to bring us two steps back.

By: Christopher Rucks, Music Dealers

Photo Credit: harlandspinksphoto