It’s funny. Following the YouTube vs PRS spat last week, where the former blocked UK users from watching most music videos, many commenters erupted into anti-major-label vitriol, completely ignoring the fact that the labels aren’t involved in this argument at all.
Instead the debate centres around PRS for Music, which pays something called songwriter royalties, based on ‘public performances’ – YouTube, music in shops, nightclubs, radio, etc. These royalties exist completely seperately from the major label ecosystem, so blaming the ‘big four’ is a little unfair here.
Google’s short-term PR win might be placed in jeopardy, however, after Pete Waterman – who co-write “Never Gonna Give You Up” – revealed that he’s earnt just £11 from the 40 million+ views on the song on YouTube. YouTube wants to halve the fees that it’s paying to the PRS.
UK Music, an umbrella body of umbrella bodies in the British music industry, has labelled YouTube and Google ‘cyncial and exploitative’. It certainly seems to fly in the face of the corportations ‘Do No Evil’ mantra.
What’s your feeling on the matter? Is this a music industry failing to adapt to new technology and consumer behaviour? Or is Google taking advantage of consumer distrust of the music industry to desperately try to make YouTube profitable? Drop us an email, or a tweet, with your opinion and we’ll publish the best.
In our discussion yesterday about the barney that’s erupted between YouTube and the Performing Rights Society(which collects cash for songwriters), I mentioned Pandora’s exit from the UK market due to hefty PRS fees.
Well, now Last.fm has weighed into the debate with its own take on things. Founder Martin Stiksel says that both sides need to find a resolution – and quick – before less-than-legal alternatives take hold. Stiksel wants cheaper and “less complicated” licenses as a result:
“It is a fundamental problem that we have been facing in that online music licensing is getting more complicated and more expensive. We pay each time one users listens to a song or watches a clip and, while that is more accurate because it makes sure the more popular songs get paid more, it is also very expensive. Terrestial radio pays a fixed minimum and that works out a lot cheaper – we have to find commercially workable rates otherwise illegal services will win and take over.”
Last.fm currently relies heavily on YouTube for its video content, so it has a vested interest in keeping the service going. The service has Last.tv in the works for the future, though, as a way of serving personalized music television to people. That could be interesting when it happens.
PRS and Google are due to meet over the next few days to see if they can find a resolution to the crisis.
YouTube, the fantastically popular video streaming service owned by Google, is in the midst of payment renegotiations with the Performing Rights Society, an agency formerly known as the MCPS PRS Alliance that collects royalties for songwriters across both digital and traditional media.
That renegotiation isn’t going too well. Talks have completely broken down, and YouTube has vowed to block British viewers from watching all “Premium” (i.e. major label) music videos from next Monday.
It’ll be possible to get round the block with a proxy server, I suspect, but the vast majority of people will suddenly wonder why their favourite band’s videos have suddenly been removed from the service.
It’s almost certainly just a strongarmed negotiating tactic from Google, and for PRS’ part they’ve asked the site to reinstate the videos until an agreement can be reached. But at the same time, Google’s trying to use its clout to bring down rates that have caused the exit of Pandora from Britain, as well as the despair of many other streaming services.
YouTube claims that PRS are responsible, saying that they’re asking for “many, many factors” more money than their previous agreement. PRS, on the other hand, say Google is trying to drive down payments despite its traffic having grown further.
It’ll be interesting to see what happens here – whether PRS will balk and cave in to a hail of bad publicity that will arise next Monday. The organisation is notoriously tenacious, though, and the whole situation could devolve into a staring match. In that case, consumers will just vote with their feet and go elsewhere – to competitors like Vimeo and MySpace video.