You may have heard about Youtube’s new music service, called Music Key. It’s essentially Youtube’s move, after being a totally free service to users for years, to make money on music uploaded to the site. And it’s not sitting well with some artists.
Zoe Keating, a rock and roll cellist, recently took to Tumblr to write about communications she’s had with her Youtube rep. The rep basically told Keating she would have to “sign on to the new Youtube music services agreement” or risk getting her Youtube channel blocked. Keating goes on to lay out five essential problems she has with the terms and conditions of Youtube’s Music Key:
1) All of my catalog must be included in both the free and premium music service. Even if I don’t deliver all my music, because I’m a music partner, anything that a 3rd party uploads with my info in the description will be automatically included in the music service too.
2) All songs will be set to “montetize” (sic), meaning there will be ads on them.
3) I will be required to release new music on Youtube at the same time I release it anywhere else. So no more releasing to my core fans first on Bandcamp and then on iTunes.
4) All my catalog must be uploaded at high resolution, according to Google’s standard which is currently 320 kbps.
5) The contract lasts for 5 years.
This poses a problem to smaller artists. Youtube is telling them to either play by the website’s rules or not participate at all, so artists that don’t want to license their music out to Youtube are stuck between a rock and a hard place. The hard truth is they don’t really have a choice at this point. Keating goes on to talk about debating some parts of the updated music agreement with Youtube, but they weren’t having it. Similar to arguments against Spotify, it seems like Youtube’s Music Key subscription service will be most beneficial to big artists with huge streaming numbers. Smaller artists will be left in the dust.
On the other hand, Youtube has to make some money. The pure advertising model doesn’t seem to be gaining enough revenue for them, so they’re dipping into artists pockets and justifying it by offering an “alternate revenue stream.” It’s a dirty little secret that Youtube payouts are even lower than Spotify or Pandora. Is Youtube being greedy? Or will enough users agree to pay a fee to avoid those annoying ads?
While it sounds like the death of Youtube, it’s too early to tell, though it does feel like a nail in the coffin. What are your thoughts on Youtube’s Music Key service? Let us know in the comments below.