YouTube vs Indie Labels

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youtube vs indie

Times are tough for YouTube and vast majority of independent labels/artists. Another significant topic that continues to stir heated debate though I think it’s a good time for us to take a more cautiously optimistic point of view. In mid-June, YouTube announced it would soon launch a premium subscription-based streaming music service to join the crowded music-subscription market contending with Spotify, Amazon Prime Music, Beats Music, and other well-developed services – and a refusal to sign this new agreement eliminates all label-upload videos which is ultimately dipping into negative territory for consortium of indie labels.

Youtube confirmed to Mashable:

“Our goal is to continue making YouTube an amazing music experience, both as a global platform for fans and artists to connect, and as a revenue source for the music industry,” a YouTube spokesperson wrote in an email. “We’re adding subscription-based features for music on YouTube with this in mind — to bring our music partners new revenue streams in addition to the hundreds of millions of dollars YouTube already generates for them each year. We are excited that hundreds of major and independent labels are already partnering with us.”

Internet critics have expressed disagreements; shaking their heads and wagging their fingers at Youtube (parent company Google) for wanting to commoditize its success and alleged threats to penalize videos affiliated with these indie labels from its entire platform consequently, would affect artists such as Radiohead, Arctic Monkeys, Vampire Weekend, Adele, Jack White, Animal Collective, Basement Jaxx, Franz Ferdinand and The xx among many others. There are still hurdles in the new service despite a large number of major records labels already agreed to the new terms – Universal, Sony and Warner. Whatever the reason, YouTube’s licensing terms are debilitating to the music market unlike how it used to.

A YouTube representative told the BBC, “Our goal is to continue making YouTube an amazing music experience, both as a global platform for fans and artists to connect, and as a revenue source for the music industry.”

This fight between YouTube and indie labels triggered a wide variety of responses and complaints from labels like Domino Records and XL Recordings as well as large trade independent bodies like IMPALA and A2IM – which are totally pragmatic considering Youtube wants labels’ entire catalogues made available to their streaming services which would mean zero autonomy for indie artists over their own distribution of music, not forgetting the possibility of being cut off from a stream that generates hundreds of millions of dollars for labels each year.

American Association of Independent Music, Rich Bengloff said during an interview with Billboard “We are treated equitably and fairly by Rdio, Spotify, Rhapsody and about 20 other services, but obviously not YouTube.”

Imagine the thousands of team players within the SEA context that could potentially be affected by this commotion. What about local and regional indie labels like Laguna Music, Soundscape Records, Kasi Gegar Entertainment (Malaysia), So::On Dry Flower (Thailand) and Aksara Records (Indonesia)? Will they be affected? In fact, the rate of change for digital landscape is only going to speed up in the coming year and indie labels hinge on opportunity from streaming sites like YouTube as they allow for songs/music videos to be produced, marketed and shared by clocking up views from streaming.

There’s a tremendous advantage to having videos on YouTube and barring these indie labels from the most popular streaming site in the world could possibly obstruct the progress and maybe shake the career of established, independent and up-and-coming artists from thriving. Case in point: K-Pop artist Psy, makes money off YouTube including live and cover versions and parody videos, fairly insignificant but those videos helped him accrue views at the same time earn over millions from YouTube alone.

Though YouTube has agreed to renegotiate contracts with indie labels, some can hardly believe that platitude for a second. There are always going to be benefits and drawbacks with any major change like this. All in all, considering the measure of how confusing the licensing and royalty game online streaming companies can be in this fast-growing part of the industry that is constantly undergoing a paradigm shift, it’s a matter of adapting, waiting for the right moment to act and see if YouTube will stand by its words.

by Izyan Liyana