YouTube blocks indie musicians who don’t play ball (Wired UK)


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YouTube will launch its music subscription service soon, with or
without the indie label holdouts that it will begin blocking in
days.

Speaking with the Financial Times, head of content and
business operations Robert Kyncl confirmed that the company is
about to begin in-house tests of the new service, which has caused
a few key players in the industry great concern.

Richard Bengloff, President of the American Association of
Independent Music has even penned a letter to the US Bureau of
Competition urging for “government intervention”.

The letter, dated 4 June, states that YouTube “is attempting to
force contract terms upon the independent sector which we
understand from our members are significantly inferior to those
offered to the international non-US owned ‘major’ record
companies”.

The letter paints a picture of the indie sector being
strong-armed by an internet giant into accepting unfair and
“non-negotiable” terms. It’s pretty undisputed that YouTube has a
monopoly on free access to content — take that away, and the indie
sector argues artists will have overnight lost promotion-related
revenue as well as money made from user-generated content videos.
“Our members will then be forced to engage in the ‘whack-a-mole’
process of getting these non-monetised videos off of YouTube, so as
not to detract attention from services that are paying our
Independent members.”

“We would argue that a dominant player such as YouTube forcing
SMEs to accept lower rates than non-SMEs constitutes abuse of a
dominant position, with regard to the digital music and video
streaming market.”

This is all despite Kyncl telling the FT: “We’re paying them fairly and
consistently with the industry.”

Beggars Group, Domino and XL Recordings, which counts Adele and
The xx as clients, have voiced concerns and their artists will be
blocked from YouTube’s free service if they do not sign up to the
terms of the subscription system.

Impala, the European independents association, is taking these
concerns to the European Commission, appealing for the blocks to be
held off in order to “safeguard against abusive conduct and to
promote real competition and diversity in the digital music
market”.

Its Executive Chair Helen Smith said: “YouTube is behaving like
a dinosaur, attempting to censor what it doesn’t like. This is
completely out of sync in Europe where the European Commission has
systematically insisted that European citizens should be able to
access the cultural diversity and choice they demand. Europe has
already had to take a tough line with Google on issues such as
search and privacy. Prompt intervention with YouTube must be the
next step.”

Some rather stronger words came from Mark Chung, a board member
of German independent music trade association Verband unabhängiger
Musikunternehmen (VUT): “If there ever was a need for further
evidence of Google’s willingness and ability to abuse its market
dominance, this is a particularly blatant and despicable case.
Coming from a corporation whose armies of lobbyists, PR agents and
paid bloggers tirelessly spin their corporate interests as
supporting ‘free speech’ and opposing ‘censorship’, the removal of
legal music videos with the objective of extending the
corporation’s dominance to a further young, fledging market is
beyond cynical beyond cynical. We look to Joaquin Almunia to move
to resolve this. Of course the wider Google issue will also require
adequate new regulatory legislation and serious consideration of a
break-up of this spying, lying and out-of-control monopoly.”

YouTube obviously has the financial backing to create a service
that could stand to one day outstrip the popularity of competitors’
including Spotify and Amazon’s recently launched service for its Prime members.

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Unmoved, Kyncl told the FT: “While we wish that we had
a 100 per cent success rate, we understand that is not likely an
achievable goal and therefore it is our responsibility to our users
and the industry to launch the enhanced music experience.”

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18 June 2014 | 10:32 am – Source: wired.co.uk
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