YouTube is due to release a brand new streaming service, and the “big three” labels—Universal, Sony, and Warner—have already signed on. However, a large amount of independent labels are voicing their concern against YouTube, saying the deal is “highly unfavorable” and that the company “undervalue[s] existing rates in the marketplace from existing music streaming partners such as Spotify, Rdio, Deezer and others.” Basically, YouTube is seriously lowballing indie labels for the rights to stream their music for their new service.
And not only that—if they don’t agree to the non-negotiable terms, YouTube will cut them off from streaming altogether. That’s a pretty big deal. Just for the sake of scope here, consider that 50% of this year’s Grammy wins were from Independent labels.
A couple days ago, the CEO of the Worldwide Independent Network (WIN), an organization representing the interests of the global independent music community (which has the second largest global market share after Universal) eloquently stated:
“Our members are small businesses who rely on a variety of income streams to invest in new talent. They are being told by one of the largest companies in the world to accept terms that are out of step with the marketplace for streaming. This is not a fair way to do business. WIN questions any actions by any organization that would seek to injure and punish innocent labels and musicians — and their innocent fans— in order to pursue its ambitions. We believe, as such, that these actions are unnecessary and indefensible, not to mention commercially questionable and potentially damaging to YouTube itself, given the harm likely to result from this approach.”
WIN isn’t the only organization speaking out. Scott Muir, the Deputy Chair of Independent Music in New Zealand calls the standing deal “regrettable and unacceptable,” and Rich Bengloff, President of the American Association of Independent Music “urge[s] YouTube to reconsider its approach, and recognize that independent labels deserve to be treated with more respect.”
Shots fired. Your move, YouTube.