For the past 3-4 days, my phone hasn’t stopped ringing from artists and local labels asking why YouTube is going to be removing their music. For those that haven’t already heard, YouTube (owned by Google) is planning on launching its own subscription music service soon. It has been in negotiations with the 3 major record labels and the independent labels to set a rate for their music used in the new service. The details of these deals has been kept very quiet, but apparently the Big 3 have already signed on, as have most of the independents. Only a small percentage of indies are holding out for better rates.
The big swirl of confusion started a few days ago when the Financial Times website posted a story quoting YouTube exec Robert Kyncl, stating music could start being removed in a couple of days. This sent “the internets” into a frenzy, and is what began my phone ringing.
Now, here’s the problem…there is a HUGE misunderstanding of what most artists and labels consider themselves, and what the Industry considers them. In every day lingo, either you’re a Major label or act (signed with either Universal, Sony, or Warner) or you’re an Indie. This works for most conversations. BUT, in business, there’s really a third option. The Local. And chances are YOU fit this category.
No one, especially artists, like to consider themselves local, and for good reason. It has garnished a very negative, unprofessional, and unskilled connotation to it over the years. However, in this case it actually is a GOOD thing!
We all know what a “Major” label is. But what exactly is an “Indie”? Well, on it’s face, it’s anyone who isn’t a Major. But there’s an unspoken truth here. In the entertainment industry, when we talk about “Indies”, we really mean either an independent company with ties to a Major somewhere down the pipeline, or an independent company that grosses a LOT of money on it’s own (we’re talking near and above the millions per year mark here). So, as many of the recent articles stated, Indie artists like Adele, would be forceably removed from YouTube. But let’s look at her independent status for a second. She is signed to XL Recordings, a British indie label. They are distrubuted thru the Beggars Group, a larger, but still independent record label in England. They in turn are distributed in the US by Alternative Distribution Alliance, the “independent” distribution wing of Warner Music Group.
The case is true almost all across the board when we speak of Indie labels or artists. Somewhere, somehow, there’s one of the Big 3 connected. Then there’s everyone else,aka the Local. Locals may have a decent YouTube view count of a few thousand per video. They may sell out performace venues of 500 people or so on regular basis. Maybe they even sold 5,000 to 10,000 units on their own. All of which are REALLY huge acomplishments. But compared to the millions of views the Indies and Majors get, the tens of thousands that buy tickets to their live shows, and the tens to hundreds of thousands of records sold, there’s no comparison. Which is why you probably haven’t gotten a call, or email, or anything from YouTube in regards to their new music service deal yet. They’re just not that into you. Again, a very GOOD thing in this case. That means your videos are probably safe. YouTube is not checking your video ID tags to see if you’re uploading music to their free site. They’re not worried about how you’ll compete and/or affect their paid music subscriptions. They’re not thinking about you at all right now. Or at least…not yet!
Of course, depending on how succsessful this paid service ends up being, or how succssesful you end up being, things could change. Move from Local status to Indie/Major, and you’ll feel the effects. But for today, keep making those groundbreaking music videos, keep building those views, and keep working your music because YouTube probably isn’t touching your account anytime soon.
UPDATE (since I began typing):
It turns out there is one area where you may feel the sting. It is likely if you are an artist or label who monetizes your videos, that may change. YouTube and Google still haven’t made any clear statements about anything, but in order to switch over the new paid system, you may recieve a notice to either join the new paid service, or lose monetization rights. Your video will remain up, and most Local artist/labels don’t make money or even have it turned on, but if you do, that may change. There’s an interesting line of thought on this on StJamesBlog worth reading.
Nate Talbot is an entertainment consultant with almost 20 years in the music, television, and theatre industries. He is also the author of “The Absolute Guide” series of books, which teaches crucial concepts like music publishing and intellectual property to readers in 30 minutes or less, and hosts a website, KnowTheBiz.com, which gives free information on entertainment related topics.