YouTube’s Soul Stealing Music Key Contract – What you should know.
If there is a reoccurring theme so far in 2015, it surely is the dis-satisfaction and frustration that music industry professional share for YouTube. Maybe no other artist globally is as vocal about their feeling towards YouTube then Zoe Keating. In 2014, she released her revenue statements from all her digital streaming sources, and called out YouTube for their lack of monetization efforts, describing how the streaming service helped to cannibalize her sales efforts. Last week, Zoe shared a discussion she had with her Google Rep, feeling pressured into agreeing to YouTube’s unfair new terms for Music Key.
Keating is one of the most prominent artist releasing music herself, rather than through a label. She is therefore not covered by a deal between YouTube and indie labels licensing agency, Merlin, which was signed in 2014 following a similar over contractual terms for Music Key.
“My Google YouTube rep contacted me the other day. They were nice and took time to explain everything clearly to me, but the message was firm: I have to decide. I need to sign on the new YouTube music service agreement or I will have my YouTube channel blocked,” wrote Keating in a blog post outlining her concerns.
1) All of my catalog must be included in both the free and premium music service. Even if I don’t deliver all my music, because I’m a music partner, anything that a 3rd party uploads with my info in the description will be automatically included in the music service too.
2) All songs will be set to “monetize,” meaning there will be ads on them.
3) I will be required to release new music on Youtube at the same time I release it anywhere else.
4) All my catalog must be uploaded at high resolution, according to Google’s standard which is currently 320 kbps.
5) The contract lasts for 5 years.
Many indie artist are independent because they don’t want someone telling them what music to create or how to release their music. With these updated terms and conditions, YouTube effectively grants themselves a mandatory 5 year contract and distribution deal for any content an artist releases online under that term. In addition to the music an artist puts out, YouTube grants themselves the right to effectively own distribution rights to any 3rd party content that is uploaded to their platform, even if the creating artist consciously decided not to put on the YouTube platform.
This news is contradictory to how Google reps have described their new music service publicly. Sources like The Guardian describe YouTube’s policy as not to block or remove artists’ channels if they do not agree to its Music Key terms. They can still upload videos, but they cannot make money from advertising around them, nor can they claim third-party videos that include their music via the content ID system.
Keating would still be able to get those tracks removed if she chooses, but without content ID she would have to first find them herself, and then submit individual “takedown” requests for each video – a time-consuming process, especially for a self-released artist. Indie artist are already wearing many hats, filtering YouTube’s massive content library for infringing content is just like finding the preverbal needle in a haystack, but only if the hay was reproducing at 4 billion straws per day. To that we say…
There is no doubt that the online video space is becoming more fragmented nearly everyday. Content is still king, but controlling distribution has become the name of the game for many creators globally. Artist like Weird Al, labels like Def Jam, and management companies like RocNation are testing new release strategies for their content, hoping to control either more of the data collection or the monetization efforts. These updated terms don’t come as much surprise from YouTube, as it would behoove them to create terms that grant them such egregious rights.
All of this said, I think artist and the music industry as a whole have a misconception of the true value of YouTube. YouTube’s value is in the size of the audience they can reach and the social engagement happening on their platform, not in their ability to be creators go to monetization technology. Just like when artist license their music videos to MTV or VH1 without seeing part of the revenue share from TV ads, artist placing their content on YouTube are really doing it for the exposure.The fact that they allow artist to earn anything seems to be a step up from what Facebook, Twitter, InstaGram, etc offers to creators for engaging with their platforms.
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