YouTube have confirmed that the launch of their new subscription service is very close, but at the same time they are in the process of removing some of the biggest indie label acts.
YouTube and several indie labels have failed to agree on the royalty terms covering the new YouTube subscription service. These terms are in addition to the terms already covering its free service.
Here we go. Again.
The payment dispute between YouTube and indie labels is threatening acts like Adele and Arctic Monkeys, who may now find their music pulled from the service. Such indie label acts account for approximately 10% of all the music that YouTube has permissions to feature. However, their music is now likely to be withdrawn by YouTube from the worldâ€™s largest video service, as YouTube has been unable to reach an agreement with Beggars Banquet and several other leading independent labels. Details of the proposed license are at this time not known. Perhaps the indie labels are being unreasonable, however, we have been here before with YouTube.
YouTube executives claim that they cannot continue to offer music as a part of their free service without it also being made available on their new paid service as this would "disappoint" its subscribers. Hmmmm, really?
Arguably, users will be more disappointed that the music of these indie artists will not be available on the service at all and if they suspect that YouTube has unnecessarily withdrawn music from many indie artists, denying their fans the opportunity of enjoying their music on the YouTube platform, believing that they are showing contempt for both music fans and for artists, in a highly cynical, self-serving, negotiating tactic.
Such a bullish approach by YouTube is hardly a new negotiating tactic. This isn't the first time that YouTube has removed acts due to a payment dispute. UK YouTube users may well remember the last large scale dispute where a large amount of YouTube content was withdrawn from broadcast within the UK. At the time Google had recently acquired YouTube. Accusations of manipulating public opinion abounded as search results appeared to be dominated by content condemning the position taken by PRS, the UK based PRO, in a dispute over license payments.
Some privately say that YouTube (Google) are using their size and domination of the online video and internet search markets to unfair advantage, yet again, by bullying the music business and intimidating artists, labels, publishers and writers into accepting exceptionally low levels of payment, by YouTube(Google), for permission being granted to YouTube(Google) to use their content within their products and services.
YouTube will not yet give a date for the subscription service launch, and they are currently testing the service internally. No doubt such testing is carried out within the terms of usage allowed by their current license.
â€œWeâ€™re adding subscription-based features for music on YouTube to bring our music partners new revenue streams in addition to the hundreds of millions of dollars YouTube already generates for them each year,â€ stated a YouTube spokesperson. Of course, they neglected to mention how much streaming such content had made for YouTube and Google over the same time period. They also left us to wonder at the levels of earnings that might have been enjoyed by writers and artists had their service not existed and listeners had had to find their music elsewhere.
While, on one level, the music industry is looking forward to there being more platforms in the streaming market place, the industry remains nervous about ceding even more control to the already highly dominant Google. Googleâ€™s track record, regarding respecting the rights of content owners, isn't exactly fantastic. In fact it is pretty poor. Terrible even. YouTube claims that it has paid more than $1 billion out to rights-holders in the "last several years.", however many in indie music have long complained of unfair treatment at the hands of YouTube. This is especially true when compared with other digital services.
In an interview with Billboard, Rich Bengloff, president of the independent label trade association A2IM, said that "We are treated equitably and fairly by Rdio, Spotify and Rhapsody, and about 20 services, but obviously not YouTube,". He also stated "I filed a complaint with the FTC last week.â€
Going by past actions, YouTube and Google are highly unlikely to change their approach. From a music business perspective, there is little incentive to do so as long as PROs, labels, publishers, artists and writers continue to lie down and let themselves be walked all over.
A new, competing service is due to be launched by Amazon. Amazon's Prime Music service launches yet another major new player into the music streaming service business. While competition might improve the market overall, YouTube (Google) are bound to feel secure in their position, feeling that they can do whatever they want, for as long as their service dominates the marketplace to the extent it does, which of course it is highly likely it will, just as long as Google dominates search engine wars to the extent it does, leaving Google in complete control of their search results.