Google's upcoming paid streaming service

Zoe Keating made a blog post about what Google told her about the upcoming Youtube music streaming service. Her post is a little confusing, so I'll try to summarize.

How it worked before:

  • She's her own label, and owns the copyright / publishing rights on her own songs.
  • She registered her songs with Youtube, saying "these are mine". (That's different than posting the songs publicly.)
  • Because of that, when someone else uploads a Youtube video that uses her music as the soundtrack, she's the one who receives the Content-ID notification.
  • She then gets the choice to block that video, or to run ads on it.
  • She generally chooses the latter, which means she gets 1/3 of the revenue generated by the ads on the video that has her music in it, and gets her name on the page.

So now Youtube is about to launch a new paid streaming service. If I'm understanding her post correctly, it goes like this:

  • 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.

This means that, for all of those people who were making a little money off of their music by letting Google run ads on it, the options now on the table are:

  1. Agree to all the terms of the new service, including publishing your entire catalog on it, and continue making money on ads;
  2. Block all the videos using your music (and have your channel deleted);
  3. Allow those videos to use your music for free (and have your channel deleted).

It's another bait-and-switch: "We had been paying you for your work for years, under these terms. But now we have altered the agreement. Pray we do not alter it further."

This sounds like Google using 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. Except in this case the people being strong-armed are the copyright holders instead of the end users. (So far, that is! Wait for it.)

I think you can expect to see a lot of old videos on Youtube getting blocked in the near future because of this.

"The music terms are outdated and the content that you uploaded will be blocked. But anything that we can scan and match from other users will be matched in content ID and you can track it but won't be able to participate in revenue sharing."

"All music content has to be licensed under this new agreement. We can't have music in the free version that is not in the paid version"

I had them explain it again to be sure.

"Wow, that's a bit harsh," I said.

"Yeah, I know," they said.

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11 Responses:

  1. Sean Barrett says:

    Minor point: in the old case, she had the option not to run ads at all:

    Once Content ID finds a video with my music in it I can decide if I want to just track the video, or “monetize” it, i.e. put Dorito ads on it. That doesn’t always seem appropriate but if I do decide to monetize a video, or if the uploader already had ads on it, Google gives the majority of the ad revenue to them and about a third to me for the soundtrack.

    Saying "no, that's ok, I don't want to run ads on it" of course makes no sense to companies like Google, though.

  2. Louis says:

    She should pull her content, tell the owners of those 10K videos Google's unreasonable terms left her no choice, lead the exodus out of YouTube.

  3. nooj says:

    I guess this means I should re-download all my good 720p videos in 1080 soon.

  4. jwb says:

    I guess I don't even begin to understand how the complete catalog clause is supposed to work in an industry that's shell companies all the way down. Sure, this new song isn't on Youtube, but it was released by Specific Song Releases LLC, and _that_ contract is between Google and Other Stuff Enterprises, Inc. It would never work.

    • otis says:

      Sure, people with lawyers will set up shell companies (good business for the lawyers), and won't have any problems. But Google still get to strongarm the rest of their uploaders.

  5. Enarc Kram says:

    This post was quoted by Tech Crunch.

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