Advocacy Update: YouTube and Independent Labels
Like us, you've likely been keeping tabs on the brewing situation between YouTube and independent labels across the globe. The Worldwide Independent Music Industry Network (WIN), just a few short weeks ago, put together a press release decrying what it described as YouTube's "unnecessary and indefensible" negotiation tactics with independent labels as it prepares to launch its streaming service - culminating in threats from YouTube to pull content from indpeendent labels off of its service . CIMA, as a member of WIN, provided comment on this release, which you can read in full here. WIN has now moved into stage 2 of their campaign - filing a compliant directly with the European Commission based on some of the evidence and testimony it has received from its members.
Here at CIMA, we're also watching this situation closely. Here's a short update on where we stand with regards to our advocacy on this issue:
- We're working with WIN on the issues outlined above and participating in their advocacy efforts as much as possible.
- CIMA's President, Stuart Johnston, was recently interviewed for a piece that appeared in NPR about this situation. You can consult the story here.
- We've also just begun polling our members on their experiences negotiating with YouTube. If you have a story that you'd like to share with us on this, please get in touch with our Research and Communications Coordinator, Lisa, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 416-485-3152 extension 223
Update: June 18, 2014
It looks like YouTube is making good on its promise to remove content associated with the independent labels who've received termination notices back in April. According to YouTube's head of Content and Business Operations Robert Kyncl in an interview with the Financial Times, the Google-owned company will start blocking videos "in a matter of days" to ensure that all content on its platform falls under the new contractual terms it offered about 60 days ago - those same contractual terms that WIN describes as "unnecessary and indefensible".
Kyncl is quoted as saying, "While we wish that we had a 100% success rate, we understand that it is not likely an achievable goal and therefore it is our responsibility to our users and the industry to launch the enhanced music experience." (Financial Times). He went on to state that labels representing 90% of the industry had signed on to YouTube's terms and conditions.
Obviously, Alison Wenham, the spokesperson for WIN, quickly disagreed, being quoted by the Guardian as saying that "We have tried and will continue to try to help YouTube understand just how important independent music is to any streaming service and why it should be valued accordingly. Music fans want a service that offers the complete range of music available. This is something that companies such as Spotify and Deezer do, both of whom have excellent relationships with the independent music sector." (The Guardian).
This battle isn't anywhere near over, and WIN continues to mobilize on this issue, issuing another press release on behalf of its members that you can consult in full below:
WIN CALLS YOUTUBE’S DECISION TO LAUNCH STREAMING SERVICE WITHOUT INDEPENDENT LABEL SUPPORT “A GRAVE ERROR OF COMMERCIAL JUDGEMENT”
London, June 18th 2014 – The Worldwide Independent Network (WIN), the organisation that represents the interests of the global independent music community, has issued a new statement further questioning the actions of YouTube as the Google owned company presses ahead with plans to block and “cull” the content of independent labels that do not sign up to a new music streaming agreement.
YouTube continues to issue content blocking threats to WIN’s independent label members who refuse to sign what many labels are calling highly unfavourable, and non-negotiable terms, which undervalue existing rates in the marketplace from partners such as Spotify and Deezer.
WIN was formed in 2006 to represent the global independent industry, which boasts the second largest global market share after Universal.
YouTube has announced plans to launch a new music streaming service later this summer. The service has apparently negotiated separate agreements with the three major labels – Sony, Warner and Universal – but according to WIN’s membership has yet to reach any substantive agreement with the independent sector.
Alison Wenham, CEO of WIN said, “Put simply, by refusing to engage with and listen to the concerns of the independent music sector YouTube is making a grave error of commercial judgment in misreading the market. We have tried and will continue to try to help YouTube understand just how important independent music is to any streaming service and why it should be valued accordingly. Music fans want a service that offers the complete range of music available. This is something that companies such as Spotify and Deezer do, both of whom have excellent relationships with the independent music sector. By not giving their subscribers access to independent music YouTube is setting itself up for failure. We appreciate that a small number of independent labels may have their own reasons for agreeing to YouTube’s terms, that is their prerogative, but they are very much in the minority. The vast majority of independent labels around the world are disappointed at the lack of respect and understanding shown by YouTube. We once again urge YouTube to come and talk to us. “