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Resale Renegade: Will Ticketmaster’s new decisions combat touts or cause more web rebellion?

Resale Renegade: Will Ticketmaster’s new decisions combat touts or cause more web rebellion?

“That’s right, we’ve listened and we hear you: secondary sites just don’t cut it anymore and you’re tired of seeing others snap up tickets just to resell for a profit. All we want is you, the fan, to be able to safely buy tickets to the events you love” (Ticketmaster, 2018).


One door closes and another opens as Ticketmaster UK shuts down its controversial ticket resale websites Get Me In! and Seatwave for a updated and more regulated site. Drastic actions have taken place, one namely being a stricter ticket pricing regime, including a 15% commission rate, all in order to reduce ticket-touting on its web page. Perhaps restricting the resale value could do the trick?

Some hold faith with this outlined plan by Ticketmaster; Mark Savage, BBC Music Reporter has since welcomed the disposing of such websites being “excellent news”. Furthermore, they believe that the reduced number of outlets will serve the updated site well and will inevitably provide ticket buyers with “another safe and trusted place to resell their tickets”.

The FanFair campaign also share a similar opinion about Ticketmaster’s unprecedented decision. As an organization of unified promoters, managers, primary ticket sellers and agents their collective purpose is to eliminate large-scale ticket-touting and therefore any action that benefits their goal is seen as a success. They believe it has brought “a genuine transformation of the secondary market… much closer”. In response to such widespread approval, Ticketmaster has since removed all listings of events from both Seatwave and Get Me In! from August 13th, 2018.

On the other hand, others believe that such action taken by Ticketmaster is “futile”. The chief executive of The Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers, Jonathan Brown, states despite this change, reselling for a profit will still continue in other marketplaces, “including those based overseas”. Although the process of two of these outlets being shut down is positive, critics could argue that ticket resellers may move onto other sites such as Viagogo and Stubhub.

Personally I believe that this was a clever move on behalf of Ticketmaster. Despite this change being in its early stages, its impact so far suggests that a permanent change to industry isn’t far off. Furthermore not only are Ticketmaster financially improving their company’s sustainability in the industry, but they’re supporting concert ticket consumers by making all of their associated ticket sales fair and left untampered. Arguably this also has the potential to benefit touring artists in the music industry, as tickets are sold to dedicated fans as opposed to secondary retailers, which often price real fans out of seeing their favourite artists.

More importantly, what are your thoughts on this?

YouTube Red: The Next King Of The Hill Of Streaming?

Susan Wojcicki, the CEO of YouTube, recently stated at the ‘Code Media Conference’ with Kara Swisher, that the 3-year-old paid streaming subscription service, YouTube Red, is going to “roll out of the paid-for platform to around 100 countries” (Music Business Worldwide, Article). This interview has tickled many music fanatics and has given rise to several questions surrounding the aftermath of this remodel; will changing this to more of a global service be more appealing to a mass audience? How will other streaming services compete, will YouTube Red be the next new favoured music service everyone uses?

Keach (2018) argues that YouTube Red is having an ‘identity crisis’ due to the wide range of content it supplies, it can’t be classed as a music-based server and therefore incomparable to servers such as Spotify. However, Wojcicki (2018) expresses ‘“YouTube Red is a service that is really a music service. We have an amazing collection of music; we have all these music videos”, suggesting that its rivals are music servers, like Spotify, opposed to video based streaming services, like Netflix. In addition, surely paying for a service that provides more than just musical content and at the same price as a solely music releasing platform, is going to be more favourable to users? Arguably, you are getting more for your money… right?

Spotify Comparison:

Spotify and YouTube Red are extremely similar: they both have a free service, a premium opt-in service, exclusive content to paid users and the luxury for paid users to download content for when they are offline. Despite both offering the same services, Spotify has a far larger number of users in comparison to YouTube Red and this may be due to it being globally available to more people; ‘most of Europe, most of the Americas, Australia, New Zealand, and parts of Asia’, whereas YouTube Red is currently only available ‘in five countries: the US, Australia, Mexico, South Korea and New Zealand’ (Wojcicki, Interview).

However, without this global advantage it’s hard to see what is holding Spotify users back from using a service that is just as good, or if not offers more (due to the video content). Investopedia (2015) states, “with over 20 million subscribers and 75 million active users, Spotify has taken a significant share of the streaming music market but may struggle to differentiate itself in the face of competition from services like YouTube Red”. Wojcicki (2018) goes on to express “now that we’ve finished all of our music deals we’re actually going to be expanding to a large number of countries”.

On the contrary, one thing that does differ between the two services is the income revenue creators earn from their content uploaded. YouTube is known to pay less per stream than Spotify does to their creative users. Sanchez (2018) states, “Last year, at $0.0006 per play, the video platform had the worst artist revenue pay-outs”. Therefore, artists/creators may favour putting their content on Spotify over YouTube Red and as a result bringing their fans along with them. Although, this can ultimately affect the content uploaded on to these different platforms, it’s more likely for artists to upload their music on to both platforms, therefore shouldn’t have a huge effect overall.

All in all, while it is great to hear that YouTube Red is growing globally – not to mention supposedly coming to the UK, we are still unsure on whether Wojcicki’s promises will actually go to plan. The real question is, what do you want to happen? What streaming platform do you prefer? Let us know!

Spotify’s New Feature: Giving the Unsung Heroes of Music Recognition

Spotify have now announced their latest feature which allows users to view a song’s production and song-writing credits while listening to a track on the desktop platform.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Annika Goldman, ‎Director of Music Publishing Operations, says, “The more we share information, the more opportunities we can help create for songwriters.” The company is aiming to increase visibility and shed light on song-writers and music producers in order to “foster discovery among new collaborations, industry partners and fans.”

So now, when you right-click on a track and select “Show Credits” from the menu of options, you will be able to view information on the performers, song-writers and producers of the song, therefore acknowledging their hard work. This is important because many talented people go overlooked as the main focus is on the performer. Competing services such as Tidal have also recently announced similar features in which they give credit to the people involved behind the scenes.

 

Songwriters Ali Tamposi, who has written songs for Justin Bieber, Kelly Clarkson & Camila Cabello along with Frank Dukes, also a writer for Camila Cabello, Lorde & more are both extremely excited for this launch saying that it’s “definitely a step in the right direction.”

This comes with the news that Apple Music are predicted to overtake Spotify in having the most paid subscribers in the US this summer. Globally, Spotify still lead with 70 million subscribers and it is presumed that the upcoming launch of the HomePod speaker has attributed to the growth in Apple Music’s subscriber numbers.

ShaoDow Joins Forces with MonoKrome Music.

MonoKrome Music have announced the signing of ShaoDow, having recently won the UK’s hardest working artist award at the AIM (Association of independent music) awards and the same accolade at the AME awards, ShaoDow has chosen MonoKrome to provide publishing, distribution, sync, neighbouring rights & back end services.

ShaoDow picks up the AIM Hardest Working Artist Award 2017

ShaoDow says:

“After meeting the team it was apparent they share many of the same values as I, it’s amazing to have them as an extension of my team and look forward to working with them whilst I continue on my journey. This year I have an appearance on Ninja Warrior UK whilst also doing a UK tour and releasing more records, by having the support of MonoKrome it means I can now do more than ever before”.

MonoKrome have also signed Attaque, previously signed to Bad Life Artists he released his last record through a label services deal with Kobalt, The record ON LY OU was received with great acclaim and achieved support from the likes of Lauren Laverne, Annie Nightingale, The Guardian, NME, Uncut and more.

Attaque (aka Dom Gentry) album ‘Protection’ will land in 2018

Attaque is to self release his next record in conjunction with Amplify Music, MonoKrome have secured this deal and will manage the project end to end for distribution, Sync, Neighbouring rights and campaign management for this and future records, they have also secured a publishing deal with Attaque.

Dominic Gentry AKA Attaque has sung the praises of the MonoKrome team:

“From the start of our talks until landing the deal with Amplify the team has been a pleasure to deal with, always on hand for a chat and to offer support. It feels like the perfect way to retain creative freedom while having the right team to in place in moving the project forward, I am really looking forward to working on the rest of the project with them”.

Other notable signings announced by MonoKrome include TQX Project, the first record featured Sia and was released in November, Cream Collective and Vinnie Stergin both on publishing whilst DJ Luck & MC Neat and J Lee & The Hoodoo Skulls have signed for distribution.

DJ Luck & MC Neat

Kristian Davis Downs – MonoKrome Founder said

“It’s really great to see that people are beginning to take note of what we are here for, by using our services it frees artists and labels up to concentrate on live and building their profiles. We now have tech and teams in place to take away the mundane chores associated with releasing records and are able to work with multiple companies in order to make our clients lives easier”.

 

 

 

Withdrawal Symptoms – Britain’s EU Comedown.

Sorry. I truly am sorry. I’m just as sick about hearing about the EU as you are. We’re actually refusing to use the “Br**it” word in the office – partly because it’s an annoying verbal mesh that has no place in society, like “Kimye” or “Hiddleswift”, and partly because it’s fills us with the same feeling of dread we get when we see letters from the bank on the doormat. We know we need to be grown up and open them but it’s just so much easier to put them on the side and use them as ominous paper coasters. The reason I’m writing this article is because talks have begun and there is so much on the line for the music industry. So what is it exactly that we have to fear?

Before the crucial vote on 23rd June last year, most in the music industry, from artists to labels to promotors to the guy who cleans the windows at Sony*, were united in their desire to remain in the EU. A pre-referendum report by the BPI found that 67.7% of UK record labels were in favour of staying, with fears about EU copyright laws being scrapped. 90% of members agreed that it’s important that we are a part of the governing body that dictates the terms of British music sales in Europe – after all, 1 in 4 albums sold on the continent last year was by a British artist.

News stories about the Prime Minister trying to fill the committee that handles the passing (and scrapping) of EU laws into British legislation with prevalent “leavers” from her own party are slightly disconcerting. The “Great Repeal Bill” could be an opportunity for the Government to refine and update music copyright laws, making them fit for the YouTube age. But it could also be the chance some libertarian-leaning politicians have been waiting for to trash certain EU laws that they believe inhibit ‘progress’ (that’s sneaky-speak for ‘profit’). Neither of the two main political parties have been particularly clear on their positions, no one wants to fly their flag on a sinking ship, but Labour’s recent revelation that they wish to remain a part of the single market for a transitional period at least puts some distinction between them and the Conservatives. They may be offering some short-term stability but sectors like the music industry require long-term assurances when it comes to writing and renewing contracts and this move still falls notably short of a complete withdrawal plan.

Let’s get real. Europeans aren’t suddenly going to shun British artists. They won’t be smashing up their Ed Sheeran CDs and returning their Coldplay tickets. At worst, they might sharpie the odd accent on their album covers – 25 by Ádèle maybe… In fact, No, it’s not the popularity of our musical exports that are at risk, it’s the value that they return to us. If copyright is not sufficiently protected, recording income for musicians is going to continue to fall, and that has wider ramifications for all of us.

If that recorded income falls and if touring artists are required to apply for visas, tax levies and insurances as a result of leaving the EU, then musicians’ belts will grow ever tighter, making it harder for them to take the time required to make the truly expressive music that is part of the make-up of our lives.

As put by Achal Dhillon, MD of Killing Moon Records, in the Metro: “Quality music, albeit to a lesser extent prior to the digital age, relies on sustainable income in order to perpetuate itself. The business and the music must co-exist as they are inherently reliant on each other. So if the business takes a hit, my fear is that it is only a matter of time before the music logically does also”.

If artists’ incomes start taking a kicking, the bruises will be felt in the consumers’ pocket. Not only could ticket prices hike as bands have to pay for visas, the merch stands could also see price hikes if t-shirts, cds and vinyls are subject to import duties. There are some, like Vannesa Higgins (Director of Regent Street & GoldBar Records/BPI Council Member) who predict this may stop some artists touring in Europe altogether:  “We could be looking at not only visas for the artists involved on European tours, but increased safety checks on all equipment (as used to happen) with the increased costs that both of those would incur. That could stop many acts of all sizes from being able to tour in Europe.”

This could have a positive effect on UK music festivals as both artists and attendees see the cost of going to European festivals increase. The weather may not be quite as appealing but the line-ups might feature some great bands who would otherwise be rocking out in Amsterdam.

It’s a different story for vinyl however. Every indie band’s dream of one day holding their first vinyl LP in their hands may have to stay that way – a dream. This is because the world’s leading producers of vinyl is Czech company GZ Media. They, and their other European competitors, produce nearly all our vinyl. The unpredictable exchange rate between the Pound and the Euro plus the potential levies on imports could drive up the price of buying vinyl, perhaps to the extent that it’s no longer financially viable to produce. This does, however, present an opportunity for UK vinyl pressing plants to step up to the plate and absorb some of the business of their continental counterparts.

The truth is, not much is clear about the future for the music industry in relation to Europe. Only time will tell how copyright, touring, distribution and ultimately the revenue of British music will be affected by Brexi- WHOOPS – nearly said it!

What is clear is that artists, labels and publishers alike must adopt an outward-looking/forward-facing approach. By forming solid partnerships with Collecting Societies across the globe and working with worldwide network of partners, MonoKrome are making sure that their artists are taking full advantage of all markets and will continue to have full and effective distribution options, whatever happens. After all, whilst music’s future after Article 50 may not be guaranteed, it’s intrinsic value to our lives certainly is.

*The guy who cleans the windows at Sony was not available for a direct quote.

Goliath vs Goliath: Facebook taking on YouTube

It’s a strange time to be a human being right now. We’re living on a planet that we’ve already damaged irreparably, that could either be torn apart by historic hurricanes or blown to blighty by maniacal men with hilarious hair. I am hoping that this won’t happen. Like most men, I’m increasingly scared of going bald but want to live long enough to find out if I do. If we’re lucky and the humanity does survive the current onslaught of idiocy, the question is what happens next? With corporate entities like Amazon, Google, Apple and Facebook all vying for digital domination, who will emerge, like a glistening scalp, as the true titan of the age?

Recently it’s been Facebook making the most obvious efforts. With their clear dominance of the social media and messaging markets, Facebook is now turning its head towards the cool business – the music business. Reputedly, the social media giant has been offering music rights-holders hundreds of millions of dollars to allow their more than 2 billion users to start using music in their videos without infringing copyright. While any solid details are hard to come by, allegedly Facebook is aiming to have a blanket music licensing deal in place for the launch of its new video hub, ‘Watch’.

Considering this is the same company that recently posted 3 new music licensing job positions on its site, it’s clear that Facebook is making music a central part of its bid to compete as a major video platform. They even sent their VP EMEA, Nicola Mendelsohn, to the annual general meeting of the BPI. There, Mendelsohn highlighted the opportunities that Facebook gives artists to reach their audience and made the bold statement that they “understand and respect the value of all artists“. Facebook’s acquisition of copyright identification platform Source3 in July implies that they intend to take music copyright seriously.

There are some who think that these recent rumblings at Facebook are also part of an effort to supersede Spotify. If they are able to secure large licensing deals, what’s to stop them integrating their own streaming service into Facebook’s platform? The distinction at the moment is that Facebook is entirely free where as access to Spotify’s ad-free, offline-compatible service requires a monthly subscription. However, a look at the numbers shows Facebook has potential here. Facebook has over 2 billion active users to Spotify’s 140 million. Over a third of Spotify users are now paying subscribers. If Facebook was able to match that conversion rate, they’d have over 600 million paying subscribers – something the music industry would no doubt embrace with open arms.

Spotify may not be in immediate danger though. A recent article in Variety claims that Facebook is limbering up to enter the original content arena, competing with the likes of Apple, Amazon and YouTube. They have also been bidding on sports programming deals which can bring in huge revenues. Whilst Spotify has managed to increase revenues for rights-holders and established itself as the clear front-runner in streaming, it is still yet to turn a profit. This means streaming is still a risky area for Facebook to try and dominate.

Video hosting, on the other hand, is already a very lucrative market and Facebook is one of the few companies with the resources and know-how to present a legitimate challenge to YouTube. The music business, in general, is no fan of YouTube as they refuse to get around the table and have a serious discussion about the “value gap” – what they pay verses what they make – which makes this the opportune moment for Facebook to align itself with the industry by promising to be a better partner than their Google-owned competitors.

This could be a good thing for the music industry. If Facebook paid more to rights-holders than YouTube then a seismic user-base shift from the former to the latter could be a positive. But, ultimately both platforms are beholden to shareholders. It may be naive to believe that Facebook’s genuine intention is to give the music industry a better deal long-term. Music may simply serve as the weapon Facebook uses to strike YouTube in the windpipe, to be cast aside when the fight is won.

What we have here is a digital story of Goliath vs Goliath. What we need is a David. Perhaps instead of relying on one corporation to offer a slightly better deal than another, the music industry needs to present its own alternative. One where the aim isn’t digital domination but copyright conservation. That way, artists, writers and rights-holders can stop cowering in the shadows of Goliaths and take control of their own digital destiny.

The End to the Comedown From Hell?

The year is 1997. Everyone is on pills, a computer beat worldwide chess champion Garry Kasparov and Aqua’s ‘Barbie Girl‘ has been at the top of the charts for an entire month – probably because everyone is on pills…
This may sound like a terrible time for music but actually, the music industry was enjoying global revenues of around
$40 billion with label executives earning banker-sized bonuses. HMV and Virgin Megastores populated the high-street, enjoyed double-figure growth and the RIAA introduced the ‘Diamond’ certification for albums that sold more than 10 million copies. It seemed like the party would go on forever. And then ‘piracy’ rocked up, unplugged the speakers and switched on the lights. For the industry, what followed was the kind of awful comedown that would even give Bez the shivers.

Of course, you know all this. Recorded music sales plummeted, as did the value of the industry and even Saint Steve Jobs couldn’t save the industry with his magic iPod, yada yada yada… Then came Spotify, with the answer to ‘How can we beat free?’ – ‘We have to be better than free.’ And so, since Spotify’s inception in 2006 and with the arrival of some big competitors, streaming services provided the industry with some much needed paracetamol (cash, I mean cash) to start bringing it round. After the all-time low of 2014 ($14.97bn) the value of the global music industry has been on a slow but steady increase. According to the IFPI, global recorded music industry revenues increased 5.9% in 2016, up to $15.7bn.

With the arrival of offline-playing, the introduction of windowing and the rising influence of playlists, more and more people are using streaming services, either ad-supported versions or as subscribers, and this has been a major contributor to the recovery of the music business. As major contributors to major label revenue, more power than ever lies with Spotify, Apple Music and other streaming services . At the end of August, Universal Music Group posted their numbers for the first half of the year – more than $1bn from recorded music streaming alone. That’s $6m per day, all from streaming. And that’s just one of the big three.

A quick look at all 3 majors’ figures shows exactly how much streaming platforms are aiding the recovery of the big labels. In the first 6 months of the year, Warners, Sony and UMG generated just under $2.4bn in revenues from streaming platforms – over $90m a week between them – with UMG taking 44% and Sony and Warners taking 28% each.

Goldman Sachs’ recent ‘Music In The Ear’ report predicts that streaming revenues will rise 500% by 2030 pulling in $28bn. The report also alleges that the number of total paid streaming subscribers will hit 847m in the same time-frame – a jump of more than 700m from the end of 2016.

Whilst pretty much everyone in the industry would rejoice at such an upturn in the fortunes of the music business, it may be too soon to hail streaming as the miracle cure. As pointed out in a recent Forbes article, Goldman Sachs will be representing Spotify on the New York Stock Exchange, giving them a vested interest in making a ‘healthy’ prediction for a company that is yet to turn a profit. So, whilst crazier things have happened, growth of that scale would be unprecedented and is far from certain given how many disruptive influences the industry has had to endure in the last decade alone.

And whilst such an increase in the overall value of the music industry would be widely welcomed, there will be concerns that the vast majority of that revenue will go straight to those who are already doing well, namely the three majors, without any real guarantees for artists and songwriters. Unless record deals and the laws surrounding them are regularly revisited for the digital age, these figures may not be quite so awe-inspiring for the music creators themselves.

If these figures are to be believed, then clarity from the labels on the structure of their business and the nature of their deals will be vital for the industry to bounce back to full effect. The big players will need to embrace new technologies that address the disparity between the labels and their artists. Otherwise we may well have another Bez-sized headache to take care of…

 

MonoKrome’s Mercury ‘Shouldabin’ Awards – No.3

For our third ‘Shouldabin’ award, we’re going to have to break a Mercury rule. But that’s fine because, as every GSCE Chemistry student knows, Mercury is a liquid at room temperature so, to our minds, the rules can be somewhat fluid. Mercury Nominees have to either be born in the U.K. or 30% of the band must have British citizenship. But, in a world where talk of erecting borders is everywhere, we at MonoKrome are tearing one down. After all, music can’t be bound by borders. So, with out further ado, our third, approximately 0% British winner…

A Tribe Called QuestWe Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service

(listen here)

Zeitgeist. That’s always been the underbelly of A Tribe Called Quest’s albums; pounding poetic potency. So, in what are, for most of us, terrifying times with actions causing fractions and the infliction of friction, came the call to arms for A Tribe Called Quest. The saying goes “Sometimes it has to get worse to get better”, for Tribe, it had to get worse to get together. And so, with enough source material to shake a Q-Tip at, they set about making ‘We Got It From Here…

Recent events in Charlottesville and the general rise of bigotry in the U.S have given lead single ‘We the People…’ a harrowing pertinence. With a hook that would have a Trump rally swooning, Q-Tip refrains “All you Black folks, you must go/All you Mexicans, you must go/And all you poor folks, you must go/Muslims and gays, boy we hate your ways”.

But, as the ultimate rebuttal of those scornful sentiments ‘We Got It From Here…’ is a testament to togetherness. Jack White, Andre 3000, Elton John, Kayne West, Kendrick Lamar and Andersoon Paak all lent their considerable talents to the album and, crucially, all their contributions were made in Q-Tip’s New Jersey studio (with the exceptions of Elton and Kanye). Jack White’s scratchy guitar and Elton John’s transportive vocals give ‘Solid Wall of Sound’ the credentials to become a hip hop classic. And, with help from André 3000, Q-Tip neatly sums up the exhausting frustration that most millennials feel everyday when they wake up to headlines of Trump, Korea, Brexit etc: “Fuck it, kids, the grown-ups won’t own up”. The album is a funky but terrifying address to the many elephants in the room.

But lurking behind those elephants is a big black dog – namely the passing of founding member Phife Dawg in March of 2016. Whilst his passing at only 45 years-old is a tragedy, it bestows upon the album a poignancy that few hip hop albums obtain. Tracks like ‘Lost Somebody’ and ‘The Donald’ (a reference to Phife Dawg’s moniker ‘Don Juice’, not the pugnacious President) pay heartfelt tribute to the flawless flow of the “Five Foot Assassin”.

For me, it’s the pure musicality and the pertinent wit of this album that set it apart. Whilst hip hop can have a tendency to focus on braggadocio, the darkness-defying deferential undercurrent of ‘We Got It From Here…‘ proves that true brilliance is earned, not claimed.  If only they were British ay…?

MonoKrome’s Mercury ‘Shouldabin’ Awards – No.2

Our second ‘Shouldabin‘ award winner is already a 3 time Mercury nominee. Never one for ground-breaking production or cut-throat lyrics, she calms assesses the world around her and her place in it. But on her sixth album, Laura Marling comes to terms with her femininity, and that of those around her, in all its fragile beauty.

Laura Marling – Semper Femina 

(listen here)

Semper Femina is Latin for “always a woman”, a sentiment that is clearly close to Marling’s heart. We knew femininity was on her mind from her excellent series of podcasts ‘Reversal of the Muse’ in which she spoke to various women of the industry about their experiences. The surprise on this album is that, despite the many casual acts of sexism she and her interviewees have experienced, Marling isn’t seething with bitterness, she’s seeping empathy. With her creamy vocals unashamedly placed right at the front of the songs, you can close your eyes and sit in the room with her, hanging off every syllable.

Characteristically self-aware, Marling often turns the telescope on herself. In ‘Always This Way’, she reveals “lately I’ve been wondering if all my pondering is taking up too much ground“. And on the stunning slow-builder ‘Wild Once’, Marling laments the process of ageing over the gradual approach of strings: “I was wild once/And I can’t forget it/I was wild, chasing stones“. But perhaps it’s precisely because she’s a little more seasoned now that this album stands out from her previous work.

Listening to Semper Femina is like watching a super-8 film of your life at 6am, tucked up on the sofa when you can’t sleep, a mellow reminder of life’s journey.

With 3 Mercury nominations (2008, 2010 and 2013) under her belt, it would be hard to argue that she’s been over-looked. But if any Laura Marling album deserves a prize, it’s this one, for it’s stylish simple beauty.

YouTube vs The Music Business… ding ding ding!

Well, what a weekend. The most-hyped fight in a generation: Mayweather vs McGregor. The underdog put up a good fight, with the will of the people behind him, but in the end, the seasoned pro won the day, hiding behind his gloves and landing the blows he knew would matter.

But whilst that fight is done, a more important brawl is brewing, albeit it with less fanfare, fewer memes and fewer shouty Irishmen. In the red corner… YouTube, backed by the richest company on the planet – Alphabet. In the blue corner… The Music Business and, well, virtually anyone who wants to make a living from music.

The build-up to this fight has been going on for years now and heated up earlier this year when a number of A-list artists, led by legendary producer T Bone Burnett, called on Congress to amend the DMCA. Artists such as Katy Perry, Nile Rodgers and Lionel Richie have railed against the piece of copyright legislation, introduced in 2000 (4 years before YouTube was born), that allows sites like YouTube to earn money from copyrighted content illegally uploaded to their site.

The trouble for the music industry is that YouTube has no reason to get in the ring. This is a fight they don’t need to have. But, with industry heavyweights lining up opposite them, YouTube have sent someone to try and deflect the punches.

Last week, YouTube’s global Head of Music, Lyor Cohen, used a blog post to address “the disconnect between YouTube and the rest of the industry”. He professed that, despite being “late to the party“, YouTube are very serious about their commitment to subscription services and turning their users into paying subscribers.

He also argues that advertising revenue has already given billions to the music industry and that will only increase with time. Citing the industry’s initial scepticism about iTunes and Spotify, Cohen insist that “the growth that the industry is seeing today proves that ads and subscription thrive side by side.”

Well the industry has, unsurprisingly, responded to Cohen’s proclamation. Cary Sherman, Chairman & CEO of the RIAA, wrote an article on Medium that calls out some of Lyor Cohen’s claims. He is understandably irked by Cohen’s claim that “focus on copyright safe harbors is a distraction“, mainly because it is the centrepiece of YouTube’s business model. It is the protection of ‘safe harbor’ that gives YouTube an indisputable advantage over other music platforms like Spotify and Apple Music, that have to pay the copyright of every song in their catalogue.

But, contrary to the picture often painted by Google/YouTube, Sherman believes safe harbours should be preserved in the right circumstances: “But if safe harbors are to drive innovation and fair competition in today’s digital environment, they must be applied as originally intended, not as they are exploited by YouTube for its own competitive advantage.”

In Cohen’s mind, transparency is the main issue for YouTube, with artists confused about how much they are actually earning from adverts compared to subscriptions. YouTube pays over $3 per 1000 streams in the U.S which, according to Cohen, is “more than other ad supported services.” However, according to Sherman, this is an exaggerated figure. YouTube actually pay seven times less than Spotify – a service which also has both subscription and ad-driven models.

Seemingly, this is a debate that will go on until the big labels put their foot down completely and disrupt YouTube’s business model to the point where they start taking things seriously. Earlier this year, Warner Music signed a new deal with YouTube under “very difficult circumstances“. The label made it clear that the deal was signed because it felt it had to, not because it wanted to. CEO Steve Cooper said in a memoThere’s no getting around the fact that, even if YouTube doesn’t have licenses, our music will still be available but not monetized at all.”

In June, Beggars Chairman Martin Mills, penned an article in Music Business Worldwide addressing concerns about safe harbours from an indie labels’s perspective: “The problem remains simple – services such as YouTube have our music, whether we choose to license them or not. And if we don’t, we don’t get access to content management tools, so we have to endure an unlicensed uncontrollable free-for-all.”

Mills also noted his scepticism of YouTube’s many attempts to draw parallels between them and other media platforms: “They say they’re like radio, but of course they’re not at all, because they’re on-demand. They say they bring users into the licensed eco-system, but at such a paltry return that they might as well be in the pirate world.” 

According to Mills, many Beggars artists make more than half their income from audio streaming services like Spotify but less than 2% of their income comes from video streaming platforms like YouTube, which have far more users.

Ultimately, the figures speak for themselves. 82% of YouTube visitors use it to listen to music while 9/10 of the most viewed videos on the platform are music videos. Whilst it may well have paid billions of dollars to the industry, their persistent lack of transparency and their tendency to hide behind carefully constructed statements means YouTube are a long way from being the “better partner” that Sherman and the rest of the music industry believe they could be. And with Facebook reportedly preparing to make forays into the music video business, YouTube’s complacency could be their undoing.

If things are to change then perhaps the music industry will have to learn from McGregor’s defeat: continually landing jabs is all good and well, but without real force and commitment behind them, you’re destined to scrap yourself into exhaustion.

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