will.i.am on VEVO: “They’re Forcing Artists to Support Brands They Don’t Like”

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will.i.am  had no problem being a spokesperson for Megaupload, but then again, that’s probably because they paid him a ton of money, very simply and very directly.  And, when all was said and done, will.i.am chose to be associated with them.

The same can’t be said for VEVO, which is not only making money off of content it didn’t create, but is forcing artists to accept advertisements from brands they don’t like. That was a major complaint among artists recently at Virgin Disruptors in London, where  artists Imogen Heap and Zoe Keating also complained about being force-associated with brands they absolutely don’t support.  “I’m morally opposed to Doritos,” Keating stated, while pointing to endless junk food pre-rolls on her videos on YouTube yet little ability to control those ads.

will.i.am outlined a far more exploitative game, one that builds on earlier content reinvestment complaints from Amanda Palmer.

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So say for example, I was on CSI, right, I was the main actor on CSI.  And CSI was distributed on HBO.  The actors at CSI are not paying for CSI to exist.  So when you think of VEVO and a billion views a month of independent artists or artists that’s signed to a label, we have to pay for our videos to be on that platform.

And so while we’re paying for our videos to be on that platform, to Amanda’s point, at what point in time does VEVO pay for content, that  gives them the ability to put commercials that we don’t want before our content?  And do we get to choose what commercials come before and after our content, when I’m the one paying for the video?

Certain people, Zoe [Keating] or Amanda [Palmer], there are certain things that they buy and want in their home.  Shouldn’t the artist [be able to] say, ‘you know what, I actually like this product, and I don’t mind it being in front of my content’ if an artists chooses to.  And that’s the way that they monetize it by actually sanctioning ‘these are the things I want around my content’ when you search it on Google or YouTube or VEVO.

That’s a very, very, very touchy, touchy, touchy subject that no one’s talking about, as far as technology killing the music industry.  Actually, the music industry has been redefined, utilizing the technology, leaving the artist out of the equation.

So the power has to go back to the artist, and that’s what we’re experiencing here.  Somebody’s monetizing it, you can’t just say a billion views and be like ‘yup, you’re free just like the artists are free’.

Somebody’s getting paid a lot of f*&ing money.

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23 Responses

  1. jw

    Really? Zoe thinks people are going out & buying Doritos because they saw a pre-roll ad on YouTube & inferred that she supports the brand? lol. Really? Were artists this picky when mtv was airing videos?

    “Yeah, play my video. And pay me. But if you could, don’t play it directly after a Doritos commercial because I don’t want people thinking that I support junk food.”

    These ideas… “Yes, I want YouTube to host my videos & to run ads & pay me, but I want a huge advance on ad revenue & all advertisements need to fit within my narrow worldview.” lol.

    All of these artists are perfectly brilliant in their own ways, but this whole “let’s let artists soap box on how they think tech companies should be run!” thing needs to get nipped in the bud ASAP. These conversations, without input from reputable technologists, only confuse the matter more.

    What’s really missing from the picture is someone brilliant like David Geffen who could act as a liaison between the artists, the right holders, & the technologists. Someone with the unique ability to understand both sides. Plainly & simply there is no one putting the pieces together & people are just allowed to say fuck all & nothing productive is happening.

  2. GGG

    He (they) certainly have a point, though I think most people are desensitized to associating ads with the content by now. I really don’t know how dumb a person has to be to think some ad before a music video was chose/approved/even seen by the artist. I would certainly be all for being able to pick packages of ads or something, but this is kind of a silly war to wage with all the other shit going on.

  3. Anonymous

    If you want to get revenue from YouTube, the largest streaming service in the world you have to accept whatever ads are there. Or, you can turn off monetizing and make nothing, or you can submit a dmca and have your takedown mocked on the Internet. Those are not choices.

    • Anonymous

      To summarize the comment above: Uh oh, the artists are getting uppity. Better put them in their place quick!

      • Anonymous

        Putting some artists in their place can be a full time job you know.

  4. Tune Hunter

    Time start simple simple sale of music and show big finger to YouTube!

    Current arrangement looks like this:

    Gangsters like Tube and Spotify took over the MUSIC TOWN. iRadios are smaller gangs in the suburbs!
    VEEVOO is just bunch of traitors attempting to get some breadcrumbs from gangsters above.

    Gentlemen, we are lost – BIG TIME!

    With over billion users of well established discovery engines we do not need the crap above!

    Musicians and label shareholders we have to switch to Discovery Moment Monetization and we will double the business in 36 months. It will also open new opportunities and will deliver 100 billion dollar industry by 2020.

    YouTube with minor changes can take 1/4 of this 100 billion and become the biggest label and profit center for musicians … and it will not and cannot come from advertising or streaming subscriptions – we have to start sales!

  5. News Reader

    Technically, aren’t these brands supporting the artists buy paying chunks of money to run ads on the service so that VEVO/YouTube can then pay something back to the rights holders of the music?

  6. hippydog

    quote “”I’m morally opposed to Doritos,” Keating stated”
    She realizes terrestrial radio plays commercials all the time right?
    Does she also complain about the doritos commercials played there?

    • Paul Resnikoff

      Last time I checked, Zoe Keating wasn’t getting heavy rotation between Taylor Swift and Imagine Dragons on your local Clear Channel station.

      • hippydog

        sure.. but I wonder if it happened if she would complain about it then..

        • Paul Resnikoff

          It’s a really good point, what’s the difference? I won’t speak for Zoe, but… I’m guessing she’d have a lot less of a problem with terrestrial radio. Actually, Imogen Heap has gotten tons of airplay, and she was also expressing lots of issues at Virgin Disrupt with VEVO pre-rolls and ad units. But the newness of online music videos (and yes, it’s really, really new compared to the ol’ terrestrial radio) may be seriously altering the perception of ads and what they mean.

  7. hippydog

    quote ” So when you think of VEVO and a billion views a month of independent artists or artists that’s signed to a label, we have to pay for our videos to be on that platform.”

    holy crap.. what drugs is he doing?
    VEVO pays out per view just like youtube.. If he is paying to have is videos shown, someone should also quickly sell him a bridge..

    • Paul Resnikoff

      I’m pretty sure he’s referring to the payments for the creation of the video. Independent artists definitely pay for their own vids; major label artists often pay via recoupment of royalties (industry lawyers, please let me know if I’m out of date here).

      • hippydog

        sure, i was even thinking that as I wrote it 🙂
        but that doesnt make sense either.. its like saying you made a song for “itunes”.. no.. you made the song and decided to release it on itunes..
        same goes for the video .. if anything, most videos never recouped anything as they were (and still are?) considered a way to promote the music..

        brings up a good question, does MTV pay out when ever they play a music video?

  8. Me

    How is this any difference than having your video shown on MTV? (Other than somebody actually having the opportunity to watch a video).

    • Tune Hunter

      You get exactly what you want – right now! …and this is the main difference – you are an owner without ownership!!!!!

  9. Anonymous

    If artists got what they’re asking for there would not enough ad revenue to fund these services. Uh oh, the whole ad supported content model might break. Bummer.

  10. Anonymous

    If you want to get your music video out their right the door is narrow with rules of the game which we have to play.


    If you give your music video to someone to do your footwork you have play by their rules in order to get your views.

    • Versus

      Why? That is not the way contracts necessarily work. Both partners should be able to negotiate the terms.
      It’s exactly the “take it or leave it” model that is being challenged here.

  12. DragonGod

    The music business is setup to exploit the Artist.
    It’s always been this way.
    That’s why so many popular pop, jazz, R&B, and blues musicians in the 20th century were poor blacks.

    The Artist is the LAST to get paid in a long line of mouths to feed.
    If anything is left after the lawyers, managers, agents, and record labels take their percentage, the musician gets to keep.

    Pay-To-Play is still alive and well.
    Popular artists are getting the plays because they (or their label) pay for it.

    I worked at a major record label in L.A. for 6 years.