Music has always played an important role on YouTube. According to the most recent comScore numbers, VEVO pulls in over 35 million unique viewers to the site. Just last month Rihanna’s VEVO channel became the first to top 5 billion views, although who knows how many of those could be fakes with VEVO’s main hub losing over 62 million views just last month. But the music scene is much richer than just the VEVO videos. Indie labels like Keep Your Soul are helping artists like Madilyn Bailey find their audience. Just last month Maddy pulled in over 7 million views with the help of Keep Your Soul. So it comes as a bit of a surprise that YouTube is rumored to be strong arming indie labels into terms that undervalue the worth of their artists to the site.
YouTube to Block Indie Music Content?
According to music industry trade association the Worldwide Independent Network (WIN), YouTube has been sending “termination” letters directly to labels and threatening to block their content if they do not sign up for YouTube’s new service that is planned to compete with Spotify. This is a bit of a slap in the face to Indie labels who, like VEVO, have helped keep millions of viewers on the site. Videos have been routinely blocked in Germany over the years due to GEMA (a society which governs musical rights in Germany) not signing agreements offered to them by YouTube.
YouTube Holds the Advantage
And through all of this, YouTube holds the advantage. As a site that hosts user generated content, no matter how hard an artist may try their content will be covered, copied and posted over and over without compensation. That is, unless they take a deal with YouTube to monetize said postings. But without a deal in place from Indie labels, YouTube would be in danger of launching a new streaming service that would lack Indie music, which would be a significant misstep. The big hits from major labels may help bring viewers to the site, but the plethora of covers of those songs and original content from the artists who cover them keep viewers on the site long after their Justin Bieber video has finished.
Rather than working with labels directly, YouTube should be working with larger bodies such as Merlin, the global music rights agency that represents the world’s leading Indie labels. The deals and terms being offered to Indie artists and labels should be the same as those being offered to the big labels like Universal, Sony and Warner. Indie labels bring the richness and variety of content that defines the modern music scene and should not be treated as second class artists, but valued for their importance to YouTube.