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What YouTube’s Indie Label Ban Actually Means for Music Fans

What does the music industry think?

Varying degrees of outrage, ranging from ‘blown out of proportion’ to ‘grave error.’ While it certainly isn’t fair that YouTube would offer indie labels less money than the majors, the majority of indies have agreed to YouTube’s latest terms anyway, either individually or through their digital distributors. It’s just another example of how independent labels, despite releasing some of the most innovative music of our times, have been made to feel like second-class citizens in the wider music industry.

Here are few industry opinions Flavorwire solicited:

YouTube’s statement: “Our goal is to continue making YouTube an amazing music experience, both as a global platform for fans and artists to connect, and as a revenue source for the music industry. We’re adding subscription-based features for music on YouTube with this in mind — to bring our music partners new revenue streams in addition to the hundreds of millions of dollars YouTube already generates for them each year. We are excited that hundreds of major and independent labels are already partnering with us.”

Alison Wenham, CEO of WIN: “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. We appreciate that a small number of independent labels may have their own reasons for agreeing to YouTube’s terms, that is their prerogative, but they are very much in the minority. The vast majority of independent labels around the world are disappointed at the lack of respect and understanding shown by YouTube. We once again urge YouTube to come and talk to us.”

Ian Wheeler, Co-Founder of Partisan Records: “This isn’t fair… period. YouTube has long been and continues to be an extremely valuable music discovery tool — both for music fans and for artists. Hell, I know quite a few artists who have educated themselves in innumerable ways using YouTube. It’s a shame to hear that corporate greed and marketshare could be putting an end to this. Further, independent labels have long been a major ally of YouTube — we’ve used YouTube since day one and have been extremely grateful for their efforts to monetize users’ content on their site, putting money back in the hands of artists and labels. Music videos cost money to make. YouTube has been great about paying artists and labels for their content to date, so this move feels like a complete 180, and those of us on the artist/label side are scratching our heads.”

Hannah Silk Champagne, Project Manager at Captured Tracks: “As how it effects independent artists, in my opinion that sort of depends on what we’re defining as “independent.’ In the press they’ve mentioned Adele, Arctic Monkeys, and Jack White [who's signed to XL in the UK], who are all — with major technicalities — on ‘independent’ labels. Frankly I question if their digital distribution is actually done through these labels or if it’s done through their major label partners [like Adele and XL's American deal with Columbia]. However, if it is through an indie that is being blocked, it could financially affect them in a pretty big way, as their view counts probably add up to some serious streaming revenue. Exposure-wise, it is doubtful that those artists will be affected all by the YouTube ban.

“I think it’s a little harder to say when it comes to artists on the level of DIIV or Mac DeMarco, both on Captured Tracks. While Mac and DIIV do see revenue from streaming sites like YouTube, I don’t believe it’s very significant and YouTube pays one of the lowest percentages for streaming. Soundcloud, even though it doesn’t monetize, generates way more exposure for smaller artists and smaller labels, although a lot of labels — thinking of Beggars labels in particular — don’t use Soundcloud anymore.”

Leo DeLuca, Label Manager at Misra Records: “I personally don’t believe this is fair and it is not aligned with concept of net neutrality. This gives preference to the ‘haves’ and puts the ‘have-nots’ on the backburner. A free market must allow for everyone to freely bring forth their ideas, music, songs to the masses. YouTube is putting independent artists and labels at a disadvantage. In turn, I do think they will feel the backlash of this decision.”

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