Tuesday, July 19, 2016

YouTube: Wrecking the Music Industry – Or Putting New Artists in the Spotlight?

As artists, record labels, music publishers and managers line up to lobby the US Congress and the European Union, it might seem as if YouTube is the worst thing to happen to the music business since Napster in 1999. The streaming service, the aggrieved parties claim, is causing a massive “value gap” that is unsustainable. In brief, millions of users watching billions of videos are contributing peanuts towards ad revenue. The video service is also, they feel, building a huge business around their copyrights by gaming the safe harbour exemptions in the law, which mean it is absolved of guilt if its users upload music without a licence and only has to comply if told to take it down.

According to those who oppose the service, YouTube is slowly killing the music industry, one tiny cut at a time. It is anti-artist and anti-copyright, they claim. Meanwhile, every major artist has a channel on YouTube and wouldn’t dream of releasing a new record without YouTube involved in its launch.

Although many have a conflicted relationship with YouTube, there is a generational conflict dividing the field. Those in the “old” music industry want to keep things the way they always were, nailing down copyright in every way possible. Yet around them a “new” business is emerging – prescient and whip-smart artists, managers, labels and media organisations – who see YouTube as a facilitator of a creative renaissance rather than a death sentence.

Leeds-based singer-songwriter Hannah Trigwell describes discovering YouTube’s promotional potential as “like finding treasure”. Six years ago, she started uploading videos of her own songs, all without using her real name, to avoid her classmates finding out what she was doing. It was a stark contrast to the busking she had been doing.

“I didn’t have a fanbase at the time and it was difficult to get gigs with promoters because no one knew who I was,” she says. “It was obvious to me that unless I was very lucky with the right person coming along at the right time, I was going to have to forge my own journey.”

She praises the immediacy of the YouTube platform, whereby she can get instant feedback on songs or works in progress, as well as its global reach. A cover of Tracy Chapman’s Fast Car was a success on her channel and the data tools YouTube supplies to all users revealed an unexpected detail: her fastest growing audience was in south-east Asia.

Although Trigwell knows she cannot survive on YouTube income alone, she believes it provides opportunities for profit to be made. “YouTube is definitely my main focus, but it is primarily a promotional tool,” she says. “The things that come indirectly from YouTube – the touring and selling merchandise online – would be impossible without it.”

Having recently signed a partnership deal with Absolute Label Services – a music marketing and distribution company – she does not see YouTube as a fast track to a traditional record contract. “If the right one came along I would consider it, but I’m not desperate for a record deal as I am a full-time musician right now,” she says. “YouTube has made it possible to be like that.”(...)

Traditionally it has been the label that has sat between the artist and the audience, and their business model has revolved around the acquisition and exploitation of sound recording rights: insisting on being paid for every use and refusing to loosen their stranglehold on copyrights.

NoCopyrightSounds (the clue is in the name) was set up in 2011 by Billy Woodford to address a problem for his video games review channel on YouTube. He wanted to use music in those videos, but the only copyright-free music online – on sites such as Creative Commons was – to his taste, not very good. There was also a risk of having a copyright strike against his channel if he used music from a label without paying for it.

His idea was to scour SoundCloud for good copyright-free music and make it available to gamers, and others on YouTube, for free. All they had to do was list the name of the artist and song so any viewers, if they liked the music, could investigate further. “I was just promoting free music,” Woodford says of the early days of NCS. “I saw a pretty good business opportunity as no one else was doing it. Still to this day, record labels haven’t seen the potential in this.”

The business model behind NCS is to use YouTube and YouTubers to build interest in music and for that to be monetised elsewhere. It regards YouTube as the starting point to make money through other channels – primarily via links to Spotify and Apple Music. “The way I have always seen it is people using our music are showcasing it in their videos to potentially hundreds of thousands of people,” Woodford explains. “If you get 10% of those people who like the song [to play it elsewhere], it keeps growing like that.”

by Eamonn Forde, The Guardian | Read more:
Image: Asia Pracz Photography