Yesterday the Worldwide Independent Network (WIN), which acts as a representative for indie musicians, released a new statement regarding YouTube's poor faith bargaining and threats to pull indie videos from artists who haven't agreed to the no-discussion licensing terms of YouTube's upcoming subscription streaming service. But despite strong words from WIN as well as others in the industry, YouTube and Google have a lot of power and it's going to take some serious involvement from artists across the board to fight for what's fair.
YouTube/Google and Amazon Are Using Their Power Against Creatives
If you've been watching the last 15 years or so of web development, you've seen a relatively wide open field of entrepreneurial potential gradually get taken over by major corporations in a manner similar to what occurred in industrial societies beginning in the late 1800s. They may be dropping fewer bodies than did the industrial giants but close-to-monopoly digital land grabs by companies like Google and Amazon have put them in a situation where they seem to feel that any terms they name are acceptable if they have the power to force compliance.
Amazon's current battle with Hachette is but one example of how they've used their dominating position in book and ebook retail on the web to have their way with companies that are often struggling to survive.
YouTube's dominance of the web video space sets up a similar near-monopoly situation in which they're willing to use their position to behave in monopolistic fashion and force non-compliant entities into line.
Groups Like WIN Are Responding
"Put simply, by refusing to engage with and listen to the concerns of the independent music sector YouTube is making a grave error of commercial judgment in misreading the market. We have tried and will continue to try to help YouTube understand just how important independent music is to any streaming service and why it should be valued accordingly."
"Music fans want a service that offers the complete range of music available. This is something that companies such as Spotify and Deezer do, both of whom have excellent relationships with the independent music sector. By not giving their subscribers access to independent music YouTube is setting itself up for failure."
Reasonable statements have their place but indie musicians need to recognize that a system is being put in place that will set the stage for years to come.
That's true across the board with streaming services but especially so for YouTube which has become such a vital part of the indie music ecosystem.
Musicians Need To Get Noisily Involved ASAP
Musicians who have not fallen into the no-nothing trap of "nothing can be done" should be stepping up, gathering their fans and making as much noise as possible about the situation.
At the moment I don't see that happening. In fact, this seems to be much bigger news on tech and business sites than on music sites even though musicians and indie labels are the ones in the process of getting reamed.
This is not a smart time to be a spectator. If YouTube has their way, that ground will never be regained.
Act now for a stronger indie music community!
[Thumbnail image courtesy tangi berton.]
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