Billy Bragg is among those backing efforts to strengthen deals between independent labels and YouTube

Billy Bragg is among those backing efforts to strengthen deals between independent labels and YouTube

YouTube has announced plans to block independent record labels if an agreement is not reached over a dispute on the terms and conditions and royalties.

Google, which owns YouTube, has been renegotiating contracts with record labels, but some of the more independent companies say that they have been pressured into accepting “highly unfavourable terms”.

The most controversial clause concerns the ability of major labels to influence the rate of royalties paid to independents:

“To the extent that any major label agrees to any rates for the Google Services that are lower than the rates set forth in Exhibits C or D, including with respect to bundling, Google will have the right to reduce Provider’s analogous rates accordingly, following thirty (30) days written notice (via email will be sufficient) to Provider.”

Independent labels are concerned that this will result in a siutuation where major record labels can accept lower royalty rates for streams of songs, in exchange for advances and upfront payments, but it also suggests that indies could then be forced down to the lower per-stream rates without getting the advances that the bigger conglomerates are entitled to.

Alison Wenham, who runs the Worldwide Independent Network, which represents the independent music community said that YouTube is making a grave error of commercial judgment.

It has also been reported that if blocks do go ahead, content from artists signed to independent labels will still be available on YouTube via channels such as Vevo.

However, videos which are exclusively licensed by independent record labels, such as acoustic sets or live performances, may be taken down.

Campaigners say that this is just another way of forcing smaller and alternative music artists out of the public eye.

Geoff Taylor, chief executive of BPI, the organisation which represents British record companies, said: “We think it is wrong for YouTube/Google to threaten to ostracise certain independents – denying fans the opportunity to hear their music, and labels and artists the chance to earn a living from it – because they are unwilling to surrender to a take it or leave it ultimatum. As the dominant online video platform, YouTube/Google should negotiate fully and fairly with independents and not misuse its power.”
Despite being in dispute with some of the smaller record companies, YouTube has reached agreements with some of the bigger corporate giants such as Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, and Warner Music Group.

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