Independent music on YouTube is due to take a major blow, as the streaming service announced it will be blocking content from artists and labels who haven’t signed up to its new ad-free subscription service that will be rolled out sometime later this summer.
Few further details are available about YouTube’s as-yet-unnamed service, but all labels are required to sign up to the new terms and conditions, and those who don’t will have their content removed–some in “a matter of days”, according to YouTube’s Head Of Content, Robert Kyncl (pictured), as the service begins internal testing. Kyncl also told the Financial Times (behind paywall) that although a free, ad-supported version will still be available, all labels must sign up in order “to ensure that all content on the platform is governed by its new contractual terms.”
According to The Guardian, British indie label body WIN has already filed a complaint to the European Commission about YouTube’s negotiating practices, though numbers are currently confused. Billboard and Merlin have stated that indie labels make up 32.6% of the market, in contrast to the 15.15% Nielsen stated in 2012. However, YouTube has stated the restrictions will only affect 5% of musicians signed to labels. Reports are already surfacing that some indie labels have now agreed to the terms with YouTube and have signed deals as a result.
YouTube itself remains confident, with a representative telling CNET that the new service aims to “continue making YouTube an amazing music experience, both as a global platform for fans and artists to connect, and as a revenue source for the music industry.” A press release states that “We’re adding subscription-based features for music on YouTube with this in mind–to bring our music partners new revenue streams in addition to the hundreds of millions of dollars YouTube already generates for them each year.”
With more and more services looking to monetize the increasingly lucrative streaming music market, it’s also proving to be an increasingly controversial area for the industry. Amazon’s new Prime Music service and Apple’s buyout of Beats Music have shown that the industry is starting to take the idea seriously and it’s something artists and labels are going to need to adjust to. On the one hand, the industry needs to find ways to ensure continued revenue streams despite one of the most significant developments in music since the invention of recorded sound, yet on the other, the little guys are as keen as ever to ensure big business doesn’t drown them out.