19 Indie Label Organizations Speak Out Against YouTube…

  • Save


YouTube has already inked lucrative licensing deals with Warner Music Group, Universal Music Group, and Sony Music Entertainment for the upcoming YouTube Music launch.  But according to dozens of independent label groups now speaking out, YouTube has flatly refused to negotiate separate agreements with smaller rights owners, instead offering boilerplate agreements with far inferior terms.

Beyond that, YouTube has now threatened to block the content of any independent label that declines to sign their non-negotiable contracts.

The following is a statement sent to Digital Music News this morning by WIN, a global independent label organization.  The group initially threatened YouTube with a massive content boycott, but are now back at the negotiating table.



WIN Raises Concerns About New Music Streaming Agreements

“LONDON, MAY 21, 2014 – The Worldwide Independent Network (WIN), the organisation that represents the interests of the global independent music community has responded to news that YouTube intends to block the content of members who do not sign a new music streaming agreement describing it as ‘unnecessary and indefensible’

WIN was formed in 2006 to represent the global independent industry, which boasts the second largest global market share after Universal.

As reported by several news sources, YouTube is expected to launch a new music streaming service. The service has apparently negotiated separate agreements with the three major labels – Sony, Warner and Universal – but according to WIN’s trade association colleagues has yet to reach any substantive agreement.

At a time when independent music companies are increasing their global market share WIN has raised major concerns about YouTube’s recent policy of approaching independent labels directly with a template contract and an explicit threat that their content will be blocked on the platform if not signed.

According to WIN members, the contracts currently on offer to independent labels from YouTube are on highly unfavourable, and non-negotiable terms, and undervalue existing rates in the marketplace from existing music streaming partners such as Spotify, Rdio, Deezer and others.

Alison Wenham, CEO of WIN and Chairman of AIM (Association of Independent Music, UK), comments:

“Our members are small businesses who rely on a variety of income streams to invest in new talent,” says   “They are being told by one of the largest companies in the world to accept terms that are out of step with the marketplace for streaming.  This is not a fair way to do business.  WIN questions any actions by any organization that would seek to injure and punish innocent labels and musicians — and their innocent fans— in order to pursue its ambitions.  We believe, as such, that these actions are unnecessary and indefensible, not to mention commercially questionable and potentially damaging to YouTube itself, given the harm likely to result from this approach.”


The international independent music trade associations call upon YouTube on behalf of their members to work with them towards an agreement that is fair and equitable for all independent labels.  This has uncomfortable echoes of similar behaviour by MTV ten years ago, who chose initially to take a similar approach in undervaluing the independent sector, but who subsequently concluded a deal on fair terms, which lasts to this day.

It is for every company to determine their own commercial arrangements, but it is in no one’s interests to see independent artists being undervalued in the digital marketplace.”

Other organisations and WIN members from around the world also joined calls for YouTube to re-consider its position.  Statements of support have so far been received from organisations in the following countries:

  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Brazil
  • Canada
  • Denmark
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Portugal
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • South Korea
  • UK
  • USA
  • Vietnam

“The proper functioning of the digital market is essential and the EU takes trading practices like these seriously because they destroy competition and innovation. Rather than moving from the ‘disrupter’ to the ‘destroyer’, the real challenge for Google should be to use its muscle to develop a disruptive remuneration system which recognises that 80% of all new releases, which are so important in YouTube’s offer, are generated by independents.”

Helen Smith, Executive Chairman – Impala, Europe

“It is unfortunate that a service like YouTube with a worldwide scope appears not to be interested in treating all copyright owner creators equally.  This has an effect not just on A2IM’s label members but also upon their artists and the consumer fans of our artists who will lose this form of access to our music.  We hope that we can continue discussions with YouTube and ultimately restore and grow our relationship with this very important service.”

Rich Bengloff, President – American Association of Independent Music

“We are disappointed with reports of YouTube not negotiating in good faith with independent music labels. We urge YouTube to reconsider its approach, and recognize that independent labels deserve to be treated with more respect.  It is in everyone’s best interests for music service providers like YouTube to work with the independent music community to negotiate a deal that is fair, equitable and respectful for all parties involved.”

Stuart Johnston – President CIMA, Canada

“The independent sector has struggled for decades to have a fair market in which to work. There is no reason for us to, at this point, give to one player privileges that could jeopardize the market health as a whole.  This pressure over the labels is insane and will lead nowhere, but to a delay in service launch.”

Luciana Pegorer – Managing Director ABMI, Brazil

“We are extremely disappointed at YouTube’s decision to use its market power to unilaterally enforce inferior commercial terms on the independent sector.  For a company that has arranged its structure to pay minimal tax in our market, to now see YouTube’s treatment of independent Australian labels who provide so much of its Australian music content so as to further improve their profitability at the sake of local content creators is deeply concerning.”

David Vodicka – AIR, Australia

“It seems obvious that a streaming/subscription service from YouTube is imminent and if the offering does not house the indie sector YouTube is plainly making the claim that this sector holds no value for them.  In an age where New Zealand artists spring from the very independent ethos to achieve worldwide acclaim it makes no sense for YouTube to pursue the tactic of exclusion.”

Scott Muir – Deputy Chair of Independent Music, New Zealand

“It is regrettable and unacceptable that YouTube tends to abuse its dominant position as a digital channel to impose unfair conditions on independent labels. Further, the threat of blocking or removing their content would have the negative effect of preventing consumers from enjoying a substantial part of the whole music catalogue.”

Jérome Roger – General Manager of UPFI , France

“We are regretful to hear of pressure being put by YouTube on suppliers who have so far chosen not to sign up to their current contract offer.  We may adore new, disruptive business models, but even more we love appropriate, fair, social and artist-valuing remuneration.  So dear YouTube – we’d appeal for a move towards a more co-operative understanding and negotiation, working together, not against each other.”

Joerg Heidemann – VUT, Germany

“It is deeply disturbing that YouTube so far has not even tried to negotiate deals for their upcoming streaming service with independent labels from Austria. We vehemently protest against YouTube’s policy that is trying to squeeze small labels into deals that are discriminatory.  YouTube as one of the world’s leading online services with a significant market power is obliged to offer deals to all interested labels around the world on equal terms and conditions.”

Alexander Hirschenhauser – VTMOE, Austria

“The AMAEI, the Portuguese Independent Music Association, hereby asserts its position that any service that utilizes music that takes a differentiated approach between major label vs. independent content is not only on the wrong ethical path – a file is a file, a song is a song – but also on the wrong side of technological progress and development.  It is the vibrant independent music community that drives creativity and growth, and any service that leaves out the independents will ultimately lose out on appealing to an ever-increasing audience.  Independent music is the life-blood of the internet.  Don’t spill it.”

Nuno Saraiva – Vice President of AMAEI, Portugal

“We want YouTube to reconsider its position in this matter and to work with the independent music sector to agree a fair resolution to this issue. We value and respect what YouTube has to offer to the digital music marketplace and would like that appreciation reciprocated by them so that we can all move forward towards a mutually beneficial solution.”

Kees van Weijen – STOMP, Netherlands

“DUP represents the Danish independent record labels and we’re appalled that YouTube has issued these individual ultimatums.  YouTube’s self-proclaimed role as a ‘a distribution platform for original content creators and advertisers large and small’ is little more than hollow branding of a company that in reality is losing touch with the very creators and audience that have bloated the size of the platform into the stratosphere over the years. For a global mastodon like YouTube to further undermine the value of music to a level well below existing streaming services can spread like a virus and destroy the independent recording industry, labels and artists alike.”

Kristoffer Rom – Co-Chairman of DUP, Denmark

“The Safe Harbour provision of the DMCA dates from 1998.  It’s being used to deprive culture workers and creators of their right to withdraw their labour and when you can’t do that – you’re a slave.  Spain’s parliament is considering a law which begins to adapt copyright for creators to the new landscape.  We couldn’t hope for a better illustration of the problems that need solving than Google’s behaviour at this negotiating table.  It’s a reminder that they need to be shown how not to be evil.”

Mark Kitkatt – UFI, Spain

“We find it very odd that YouTube has not contacted Finnish independent labels to negotiate deals for its streaming service, and we object to any proposal by a dominant platform such as Youtube which excludes or unfairly discriminates against independent right holders in Finland.”

Tapio Korjus, Chairman IndieCo, Finland

“Independent labels, organizations and even artists themselves are incubators for the new talent of the world that drive creativity and what’s ‘next’ in music. It is through social media platforms such as YouTube that these creatives have the ability to not only survive as artists, but to thrive beyond areas that major labels do not support.  By hindering the opportunities for independent artists to be discovered and making unexplored areas of creativity unsearchable, YouTube will contradict its own rule of ethics if it executes its intended plans.”

Mimi Nguyen – Lang Van, Vietnam

“We, LIAK (Record label industry association of Korea) fully support WIN’s position on YouTube’s recent policy of discrimination against the independent music sector. Independent music needs to receive fair treatment from major global platforms for healthy diversity of music in the world.”

Chan Kim – Chairman, LIAK South Korea


28 Responses

  1. TuneHunter

    YouTube created the biggest music prostitution house.

    Incubator of new talent: Yes
    Self service LabelOne: Yes

    Cloud player with certificate of ownership: STRONG NO.

    • vistor

      This video is not available because GOOGLE chose not to compensate the creators fairly. Sorry about that ;-(

      • TuneHunter

        Conversion to iTune style purchase after 100K or 500K of free runs would be more productive for both sides.
        Artist posting the goods should have the right to choose own level of FREE.

  2. tippysdemise

    The free listening (ad running) side of YouTube should be nothing but no-skip, pre-rolls, which should bring per-stream earnings closer to the level of Spotify. The subscription side of YouTube, for a fee of something between $5 – $10 / month, would be ad-free and unlimited. Problem closer to being solved.

    • TuneHunter

      It will not matter if they reach Spotify LEVEL – all big and certified by labels players are digital colonizers keeping musicians hungry in the fields!

      YouTube, Pandora and Spotify contributed to music industry approximately $2.5 billion dollars in 2013!!!

      THEY HAVE ERASED FROM iTunes, Amazon and terrestrial Radio AT LEAST $5 BILLION!!!

      Real loss for last year is in 20 to 30 billion range. Common sense would bring last year actual 15B and at least 20B = $45B.

      Turbo-Napster style streaming and ads around FREE prevent logical monetization of $100 billion dollars of music goodwill obvious to many (AN IDIOT) except the labels and their fashionable saviors.

  3. David

    I don’t know about the position under US antitrust law, but under EU law YouTube’s policy, as described, looks like a clear case of abuse of a dominant market position.

    • Anonymous

      “under EU law YouTube’s policy, as described, looks like a clear case of abuse of a dominant market position”

      Very good point.

      And Google should keep in mind that each of its constant violations of EU laws now can cost up to 2% of its annual worldwide turnover.

  4. Willis

    I wonder how many members of the staff at these labels use YouTube regularly for streaming their favorite artists. Just like Napster, Limewire and other p2p networks, the RIAA, labels and publishers were up in arms over piracy, but they all used the services (and not just for “research purposes”).

  5. FarePlay

    Encouraging to see organized push back from the indie community. It will be even more interesting to see what happens next.

  6. g

    YouTube has suppressed competition for years by running YouTube at a loss. Because of this, they have no competition and are able to dictate terms.

    It’s time for the EU to bust Google for their anticompetive activities, since the US wont .

  7. Paul Resnikoff

    Wow, Merlin wants nothing to do with this. Here’s a letter we got from them this morning:

    Hi Guys ,

    Thanks so much for your coverage of the WIN/YouTube dispute , it really is appreciated .

    One small thing – would you mind removing the Merlin logo from the visuals representing the trade associations please ? The reason is that this release is not concerned with Merlin at all, since this is a statement made on behalf of associations and companies, regardless of any relationship with Merlin. Merlin is effectively nothing to do with this, and it’s misleading to have them included.

    I hope that’s ok …

    Many thanks


    Andy Saunders
    Velocity Communications
    Tel: 020 7 060 9111
    Mob: 07939 133050

    • Andy Saunders

      Just to clarify my request to Paul Resnikoff to take Merlin’s logo off of his article – the only reason I asked him to do so is that it is factually incorrect . I do not represent Merlin, my client is WIN. Merlin is not a trade association , it is not represented by WIN and is therefore not part of this dispute. It is not a case of them wanting “nothing to do with this, ” it is simply not their dispute.

      By having Merlin’s logo on his article he is misleading his readers – unintentionally I’m sure – something I was trying to help him avoid.

      • Paul Resnikoff

        Andy, if you don’t represent Merlin, how can you possibly claim to speak for them? They might be completely supportive of this initiative. I’d stick to the people who are actually hiring you, and whose interests you know (and that’s the end of my free advice).

        Actually, I’m going to call Charles Caldas, the CEO of Merlin. Now that’s someone that can speak for Merlin.

      • andys gay father

        andy you are gay and homosexual. come out of the closet and stop sucking youtube cock

    • Anonymous

      I wouldn’t publicize personal information like this.

      I’d also remove material uploaded by mistake, especially when asked politely…

      • hippydog

        Quote “I wouldn’t publicize personal information like this. I’d also remove material uploaded by mistake, especially when asked politely…”

        Paul just went toe-to-toe against grooveshark and won,
        He’s probably feeling a little uppity right now 😉 (joking)

  8. Sam Projekt

    Remember in 1911 when the Supreme Court ruled that under anti-trust & anti-monopoly rules Standard Oil had to be broken into 34 companies? I think it’s time to do the same with Google. And Amazon.

  9. Carl Spackler

    Wait a minute….

    For years, we’ve been hearing from every self-styled “artist/artist representative” that YouTube is a pariah from which they wish they could simply wrest free. Guilty of paying no royalties, too little royalties, hiding behind the DMCA, not willing to permanently take material off of their service, requiring multiple DMCA notices, etc., etc.

    “Just take my stuff down and keep it down!!!” Is all we’ve heard.

    Now, YouTube says they will agree to pay, and if you don’t want it, they will take your stuff down for you, and….

    “LONDON, MAY 21, 2014 – The Worldwide Independent Network (WIN), the organisation that represents the interests of the global independent music community has responded to news that YouTube intends to block the content of members who do not sign a new music streaming agreement describing it as ‘unnecessary and indefensible’”


    “YouTube issues content blocking ‘threats’ to independent labels”????


    And before you all jump in, I get it, YouTube is “threatening” to take stuff down if folks don’t accept their too low royalty payments.

    Yeah. It’s not that all those folks meant to say they wanted to be able to take their stuff down if they didn’t get paid what they want/think they deserve….


    Now, it’s a big bully keeping their stuff OFF of the service, because the owner of the service has a lot of bargaining power and can offer low royalties.

    Way to complain yourself right into a corner, copyright owners!!!!

    • An Indie

      @Carl, don’t confuse this issue. YouTube is only threatening to take down premium, owner delivered content. UGC , which has been the object of complaint & DMCA whack a mole frustration will remain up.

      The option YouTube is leaving indies with direct YouTube relatioships is one of, “sign this deal even if you hate it and even if it undercuts every other digital service that has treated you better than we have or get lost”. Many of us are choosing to get lost but not before telling the world via our trade organizations that we don’t appreciate the lack of respect and appreciation.

  10. the voice of reawson

    Auntie Em I want to go home to music before the digital age now…

  11. ricky schultz

    Is there a class action lawsuit being put together in the United States? Given the market share Independent labels and artists represent, there appears to be a clear, unwarranted and unfair abuse of this sector. Also, given the rather pathetic rates the Spotify’s of the world currently pay, reading that YouTube is looking to re-write that chapter at even less favorable rates is both insulting and frightening.

  12. Anonymous

    Here’s an interesting detail:

    According to New York Times, indie labels would also be unable to collect advertising revenue from user-generated content.

  13. FarePlay

    “We love YouTube downloaders because they make it so easy to grab and save video from YouTube’s inexhaustible, ever-expanding supply. Whatever you like, if it’s on video, it’s probably on YouTube in one form or another. HOW’s Free YouTube Downloader is one of the easiest tools for that job we’ve found. It not only downloads videos from YouTube but also converts them and files from your hard drive into formats you can play on your iPad, iPhone, and similar devices. It offers several quality levels, including HD quality, and plays your converted file when the job is done, if you want it to.”

    Read more: Free YouTube Downloader – Free download and software reviews – CNET Download.com http://download.cnet.com/Free-YouTube-Downloader/3000-2071_4-75219434.html#ixzz333AbtO5K

    • Anonymous

      You’re pro-Spotify, right?

      Don’t forget you can steal a Spotify stream just as easy as you can steal a YouTube video.

      The solution is to make YouTube Music easily available on all platforms — audio and/or video — while convincing fans that they don’t have to steal content anymore because everything is licensed which means it’s here to stay.

      What’s way worse than the service you mention however, is that YouTube may launch a ‘free YouTube downloader’ of its own instead in order to make content available off-line. I think Paul mentioned that at some point.

      That could obviously be a YouTube killer…

      • FarePlay

        Anonymous. The answer to your first question is NO.

        But you bring up a good point and I’d like to clarify my post. Yes, software is available to download files from almost everywhere. The problem is Google Search. You type in “Free download software for YouTube” and this is the first entry you see. The fact that a link takes you directly to CNET for their glowing review is really evil.

        We’re not fools here, we can’t totally stop piracy, but to promote it so others can sell advertising is really messed up. To promote it so it reinforces it’s okay is really messed up. To have major US Advertisers slathered all over pirate sites is really messed up. For Google to own it and promote it see freely is really, really messed up.

        That’s what I wanted to say. So thank you for pointing that out.

        • Anonymous

          “The answer to your first question is NO”

          Sorry, my bad!

          And yes, it’s absolutely baffling to watch Google Search’s war against YouTube…

  14. terry

    if youtube does this then it will open a massive hole in the market for independent music companies to set up there own website which allows people to watch truly independent music for free… this new site would be an instant hit it would take very little to develop and is completely feasible. So my advice is regardless of what youtube does do this anyway, if you want to be very clever about it do it with minimal or no advertising, it would also be a great outlet for new comers to music to submit their music to the world for free. Personally I think that if Youtube is stupid enough to take this approach its a massive opportunity for the rest of the market to gain independence from youtube