Business News Digital

YouTube’s new talent Foundry fuels speculation on its music ambitions beyond safe harbour lobbying

By | Published on Monday 18 April 2016


As the major record companies do an interesting dance with YouTube – renegotiating their licensing agreements with the video site while concurrently lobbying hard in Brussels and Washington to deprive the Google business of the safe harbour protection on which it relies – there was much chatter this weekend about efforts at YouTube HQ to court new artists directly, likely via their management, with the promise of assistance with content production and promotion, and possibly some of that lovely cash too.

The chatter was partly based on a Bloomberg report about a newish YouTube initiative called the Music Foundry, via which new artists are given access to production facilities and expertise at the Google company’s London, LA and New York offices. The programme seems to be mainly educational – along the lines of ‘how to make great content and get more out of YouTube’ – with sessions recorded as part of the proceedings, which will then appear on the Google site first.

Although the Foundry brand may be new, YouTube supporting content creators isn’t, but the specific focus on music makers this time is perhaps interesting. And it comes alongside reports that the video site has been courting some music industry execs about wider partnerships with artists, in which it would support acts seemingly in return for some exclusive content.

Despite some talk of sizable budgets being set aside for such initiatives, it’s not yet clear exactly what YouTube is planning, nor how much of this is actually brand new and how much is a continuation of past ventures. YouTube has financially backed some music channels before, and more recently has been working with certain top YouTubers to create unique content as a USP for Red, the subscription service it launched last year.

Of course, even if the marketers at the majors are attracted to the idea of YouTube helping with promo, label bosses will be nervous of giving the video site too much support while officially in conflict over the service’s wider licensing model. Some might also question why, if YouTube has millions available for specific artist partnerships, it can’t pump that money into providing guarantees for music played across its platform.

YouTube HQ will likely get in touch with managers direct to circumvent the tetchy labels. And – while many managers are as pissed off as the labels over YouTube royalties and the whole safe harbours thing – others see the video site as a key fan-building tool for new talent. With record companies often investing in new artists later than they used to, managers desperately seeking alternative sources of financial support for early-career artists may decide that working with YouTube is no more dancing with the devil than signing an act to a major.