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“YouTube is the devil”, says Metallica manager

By | Published on Tuesday 19 April 2016


I don’t know if you’ve heard, but YouTube is the root of all evil. Well, just in case you forgot, Metallica’s manager Peter Mensch is here to remind you. “YouTube, they’re the devil”, he says in a new Radio 4 documentary. “We don’t get paid at all”.

YouTube is, of course, the target of ever increasing anger in the music industry, thanks to its use of safe harbour laws to protect itself when users upload copyright content that they don’t own. By exploiting the safe harbours – labels and music publishers argue – YouTube has been able to negotiate unfairly generous terms from the music rights sector, enabling it to run a free-to-access on-demand service with fewer liabilities than Spotify and Deezer.

As premium streaming services become an ever more important revenue source for the record industry, the fact that YouTube doesn’t play by the same licensing rules is seen as a growing problem. So much so that global trade group the IFPI – when publishing its annual report on global revenues for recordings in 2015 last week – all but ignored the industry’s return to growth and complained about the so called ‘value gap’ instead.

Adding a further voice to those complaints, Mensch tells Matt Everitt on ‘The Business Of Music’: “If someone doesn’t do something about YouTube, we’re screwed. It’s over. Someone turn off the lights. It’s hard to make people pay for what they’ve been getting for free. That’s Consumer Behaviour 101”.

YouTube CEO Robert Kynci didn’t directly answer concerns over safe harbours, but countered that his site pays out loads of money and if Mensch isn’t seeing that, then it’s all the fault of the bloody middlemen.

“It really depends on what is the flow of the money from us to you”, says Kynci. “The artists who are signed up directly with YouTube are seeing great returns. Not everybody, but if you’re generating a lot of viewership, you’re making a lot of money … There are middlemen – whether it’s collection societies, publishers or labels – and what they do is they give advances and they want those recouped. So it’s really hard when there’s no transparency for the artist. The people who don’t have visibility are generally the ones who tend to be less happy. If you don’t have full visibility, you’re somehow more susceptible to negative thinking”.

Collecting societies aren’t giving out many advances, so that’s not quite right, though it is true that many record and publishing deals do muddy the waters. And the societies as well as the labels and publishers could be a whole load more transparent to artists about monies and strategies. Though, then again, so could YouTube. Basically everyone is to blame.

Anyway, if you fancy listening to some people having a good old moan, listen to part one of ‘The Business Of Music’ here.