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Universal and Sony sign new deals with YouTube

By | Published on Wednesday 20 December 2017


Could YouTube start 2018 without its ‘enemy number one’ status in the music community? Maybe. The Google company has inked a new long-term agreement with both Universal Music and Sony Music, according to Bloomberg.

Universal has confirmed its new deal, which it’s thought includes new commitments from YouTube to further enhance the Content ID rights management system and a basic agreement for the video site to launch its previously reported new subscription music service.

YouTube’s latest commitment to paid-for streaming is likely key to placating the record companies – in the short term at least – they being long annoyed that the video site pays much less into the music industry than Spotify and Apple. The labels generally like paid-for streaming much more than free streaming, seeing the latter as – at best – an upsell platform, and at worst a necessary evil that has to exist to try and stop people using piracy sites.

The video platform’s original plan to move into paid-for music streaming in 2015 was abandoned in favour of the video site’s wider subscription product, the somewhat lacklustre YouTube Red. But it’s rumoured YouTube will now launch a standalone music subscription service in the spring, somehow integrated with the Google Play Music streaming set-up, which operates more in line with the Spotifys of this world.

Either way, Universal Music boss Lucian Grainge said of the new deal yesterday: “This important step forward provides our recording artists and songwriters improved content flexibility and growing compensation from YouTube’s ad-supported and paid-subscription tiers, while also furthering YouTube’s commitment to manage music rights on its platform. I look forward to collaborating with Susan and her team at YouTube on the important work ahead to advance artists’ interests and sustain the music industry’s recent growth”.

The there mentioned Susan is YouTube chief Susan Wojcicki, who is THRILLED about her new deal with the biggest of all the record companies. “We’re THRILLED to strengthen our partnership with Universal Music Group”, said she. “This agreement means we can drive more value to the industry, break and support more artists, and deliver an incredible music experience to fans around the world”.

Yeah, we’ll see about that. Warner Music signed a new deal with YouTube back in May, which is presumably why it was the label said to be already on board for the new standalone music service when that was first mooted earlier this month. Though back in May, Warner Music boss Stephen Cooper was somewhat reserved about the new deal, telling staff in a memo: “We secured the best possible deals under very difficult circumstances. Our new deals are also shorter than usual, giving us more options in the future”.

Various sources, including those talking to Bloomberg, reckon Sony Music has also signed up to a new contract with YouTube, presumably on similar terms to Warner and Universal, although it is yet to formally comment. Deals will also need to be done with the indies, and on the publishing side with the collecting societies, which still control many of the rights YouTube needs to exploit, even though the majors have tended to include the Anglo-American repertoires of their publishing divisions in these talks.

Whether any of this will bring to an end the frequent YouTube dissing in the music community remains to be seen, and likely depends on whether the Google site can actually sign anyone up to its higher-royalty-paying paid-for service.

The music industry’s lobbyists in Europe still hope that the final draft of the European Copyright Directive will limit the extent to which YouTube can use so called safe harbour protection to strengthen its negotiating hand. That could still take some time to be properly worked out. But it might be that – if YouTube’s move into subscription music streaming falters or fails – next time the majors come to renew their deals with the Google company, they’ll feel they are newly empowered by European copyright law to demand more.

Though, if in the short term YouTube’s enemy number one status is put on hold by the powers that be in the music business, perhaps that will allow them to focus their energies on fucking Facebook. That sounds like fun. Plus “fucking Facebook” alliterates. Result!