Business News Digital Labels & Publishers

A2IM adds to stack of responses to Lyor Cohen’s ‘YouTube is great’ blog

By | Published on Wednesday 23 August 2017

Have you written your response to Lyor Cohen’s blog post yet? Well, have you? You did know that was your homework for last weekend, right? It’s official, everyone in the music industry is obliged to respond to Cohen’s blog post. You know, the blog post that explained why YouTube is brilliant. And why YouTube is the music industry’s best bud. And why the music industry should shut the fuck up about safe harbours.

As previously reported, record industry veteran and now YouTube music chief Cohen defended his current employer’s music operations last week. The blog post came as record companies and music publishers continue to publicly and loudly criticise YouTube which, they argue, exploits the copyright safe harbour to force music rights owners into unfairly preferential deals. The music community, of course, wants copyright law rewritten so that YouTube is no longer protected by the safe harbour.

The bosses of the Recording Industry Association Of America and UK label trade group BPIhave both already responded to Cohen, disputing his figures, listing the music community’s various YouTube moans, and insisting that safe harbour reform – dubbed a “distraction” by Cohen – is, in fact, very important indeed.

Now Richard James Burgess of the American Association Of Independent Music has also responded. Nodding toward the RIAA and BPI responses, he basically shouts, “yeah, everything they said”.

Addressing Cohen directly, the A2IM boss writes: “Many of us hope that you will be able to change the culture at YouTube to become more artist friendly and transparent. We understand that it takes time to shift corporate culture, especially one as established as Google’s. [But] unfortunately, there are some entrenched alternative facts that are repeatedly regurgitated by YouTube and need to be corrected”.

Those alternative facts, says Burgess, include YouTube comparing itself to Spotify’s free streams. But Spotify only streams music provided by the labels – Burgess writes – and pays royalties on every single play. YouTube allows anyone to upload tracks – labels must login and remove them if they don’t want them to be there – plus the Google platform usually only pays rights owners when advertising rolls alongside their content.

Joining the RIAA and BPI in questioning Cohen’s claims that YouTube pays $3 per 1000 streams in the US, Burgess says that – while it is possible “some carefully selected YouTube streams” have paid out that amount – “no information we have seen indicates a rate even close to that”. And, anyway, information from A2IM’s members suggests that two out of three music video streams on YouTube worldwide are entirely unmonetised.

Dealing with YouTube’s claims that its Content ID system means labels can easily manage their recordings on the video platform, Burgess writes: “Content ID may be technologically capable of tracking unauthorised usage but, if so, it is not being applied adequately. We have brought this to YouTube’s attention repeatedly and the response is always a robotic, ‘Content ID is 99.5% effective'”. The indie labels, it seems, do not concur.

Elsewhere Burgess deals with Cohen’s optimism about YouTube’s shift to subscriptions via its Red service, questioning how compelling that paid-for option really is when so much free content is so readily available on the video site.

And, as for the promo benefit for artists on being on the YouTubes, Burgess says: “The attraction of fame is exactly how many artists get enticed into unsustainable situations. For some, fame may be a stepping stone to fortune. Nevertheless, artists, whose music is used, deserve to make a living commensurate with the level of usage. They should not need to become household names to do so”

Concluding, Burgess writes: “In closing, and reflecting on your closing comments about ‘bringing artists and fans together to make magic happen’, this is undeniably something you have done many times. What we also need to ensure is that – along with the magic – artists, songwriters, and the businesses that support them can get their fair share of monies generated by their creativity. And it is ultimately our responsibility to do everything we can to generate the most money possible for those creators”.