YouTube is one of the biggest user-generated content sites on the web, but in recent memory there has been a tension between smaller independent creators and larger media companies. YouTube’s music service, currently in Beta, has been a big source of the tension. Some independent creators say YouTube is forcing them into detrimental contracts, which could ultimately stifle the user-generated content on the platform.
Independent musician and composer Zoë Keating wrote a post about some of the egregious contract terms she was presented with by a representative of YouTube. Notable terms with which she took exception to include:
- All of my catalog must be included in both the free and premium music service
- All songs will be set to “monetize”, meaning there will be ads on them.
- I will be required to release new music on YouTube at the same time I release it anywhere else.
- The contract lasts for 5 years.
For an independent musician, especially one as committed to self-distribution as Keating, these terms are unacceptable. Indeed, these terms drastically limit the the ability of musicians partnered with YouTube to distribute content in the any way they choose. And some of these independent artists are concerned they will be forced into weaker contracts than artists who distribute via YouTube’s Vevo deals.
David Holmes, East Coast editor for Pando Daily, notes:
Unless she signs, not only will Keating lose the free promotion and analytics that she currently receives as a YouTube partner, but she won’t be able to monetize through ContentID at all.
He added that Keating, like other artists, might paid nothing if she is refuses to sign the agreement.
Revenue sharing on YouTube has been both a major draw for content creators to use the platform, but it’s also been a problem for some time. While YouTube has provided support for some of its top tier content creators in the past, creators still struggle as YouTube takes 45 percent of the revenue generated by advertising.
Social media often operates in a way that provides users a non-concrete reward for using the service; for instance, Facebook allows users to connect with friends and family. However, YouTube is in the business of concrete rewards via revenue sharing and its users who create content almost exclusively generate the true value of a website. Unfortunately, the rewards for doing so are becoming slimmer and slimmer.
With [these contracts], YouTube has gone from the most artist-friendly major music platform on the planet to the least.