Google strong-arms indie musicians into accepting brutal, crowdfunding-killing deal for streaming service


Google is launching a new, Youtube-branded streaming music service, with the cooperation of the Big Four labels, who got to negotiate the terms of their participation -- unlike the indie musicians, who have been told that they will be exiled from Youtube altogether unless they make it their most-favored-nation distribution service, without the possibility of holding back tracks for backers on services like Kickstarter or Patreon.

Zoe Keating, who runs her own microlabel, has summarized the conversation she had with her Google rep. As JWZ says, it's "the same strategy they used with Google Plus: instead of creating a new service and letting it compete on its own merits, they're going to artificially prop it up by giving people no choice but to sign up for it."

For what it's worth, I predicted this in my book Information Doesn't Want to Be Free: as copyright laws have tightened, requiring new Youtube competitors to set up multi-hundred-million-dollar infrastructure like Content ID, the competition for Youtube has all but vanished, meaning that they are now essential to any indie artist's promotion strategy. And now that Youtube doesn't have to compete with other services for access to artists' materials, they have stopped offering attractive terms to indies -- instead, they've become an arm of the big labels, who get to dictate the terms on which their indie competitors will have to do business.

* Participation in the new service requires that your entire catalog be available for streaming, at high resolution.

* Participation requires that you not release your music elsewhere earlier, e.g., no early releases for fans or backers.

* You no longer get a choice of whether to do nothing, block a video, or run ads. Ads are mandatory.

* Five year contract.

* If you don't participate in the new service, then the option to obtain Content-ID ad revenue from the free version of Youtube no longer exists.

* If you had previously been getting Content-ID ad revenue and choose not to participate in the new service, your channel will be deleted and all videos using your music will be blocked.

Google's upcoming paid streaming service [JWZ]

What should I do about Youtube? [Zoe Keating]

(Image: Wood screw big, Rfc1394/Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA)

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