YouTube is threatening to block content from certain independent labels, citing the lack of agreements between said labels and Google, the company that owns YouTube, over the company’s new YouTube Music Pass service. The battle between indies and Google has been ongoing for some time, with the indies arguing that they account for 35 percent of all music traffic on YouTube, and therefore they should receive a payment cut from Music Pass—which will charge subscribers for ad-free music videos and allows for direct downloads of songs—equivalent to what larger groups like Warner and Universal obtained in their own agreements.
Some of these smaller labels say they are being forced to accept “highly unfavorable terms,” while some independent artists have openly blasted YouTube’s push to force them into licensing deals with such disproportionate terms. “I don’t know why they’ve opened this hornet’s nest right now, apart from corporate hubris,” Billy Bragg said. “I don’t think they realize what a stupid thing they’ve done.”
It’s a convoluted struggle, but the most immediate effect is that videos from acts like Radiohead, Adele, and Jack White could shortly be removed from the site. Some of the smaller labels, like Bloodshot Records, have already been lumped into the deal through their associations with the Warner-owned Alternative Distribution Alliance. But while some videos will also still be available on YouTube via the Vevo channel (where most “major” indie artists have clips), live performances or acoustic sets that have been exclusively licensed to indie labels would also have to come down. It’s also not clear how these new terms would affect unsigned bands.
In an interview with the Financial Times, YouTube’s head of content Robert Kyncl said videos from independent labels could be blocked “in a matter of days,” should they and YouTube not come to some sort of agreement.