YouTube Finally Responds To Artists Demanding Fair Pay

YouTube Finally Responds To Artists Demanding Fair Pay
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Is YouTube finally paying attention to demands for fair pay?

YouTube has been under fire for some time over low royalty payments and not fairly paying artists, amongst other things.  As that complaint chorus intensifies, YouTube has found it necessary to respond to the public complaints over fair pay.

YouTube’s response…

“The voices of the artists are being heard, and we’re working through details with the labels and independent music organizations who directly manage the deals with us.  Having said that, YouTube has paid out over $3 billion to the music industry, despite being a platform that caters to largely light music listeners who spend an average of one hour per month consuming music – far less than an average Spotify or Apple Music user. 

Any comparisons of revenue from these platforms are apples and oranges.”

Here are a few complaints YouTube has had the past year over fair pay…

This month, Nikki Sixx sent Google founder an open letter demanding a change to the current royalty rates on YouTube.

In May, Canadian singer-songwriter Nelly Furtado, slammed the streaming service and its owner — Google — in a blog post for The Guardian, for having ”a lack of transparency and a lot of spin going on.”

In April, an EU official tells YouTube to stop exploiting artists. EU digital chief Andrus Ansip, demanded changes to the way that YouTube compensates artists.  Ansip says the streaming platforms’ contribution to the music industry is just a fraction of rival plays like Spotify.  Ansip also brought up the valid point that the streaming service has roughly one billion users, which is significantly more than Spotify’s 30 million paying users. So why is YouTube paying so much less?

In December last year, Thom Yorke compared the low-paying video platform to Nazi Germany in the 1940s.  In a statement, Yorke has previously said ”they’ve seized control of it – it’s like what the Nazis did during the Second World War. Actually, it’s like what everyone was doing during the war, even the English – stealing the art of other countries. What difference is there?”

In November last year, Adele didn’t release her ’25’ album on YouTube based on low royalty payouts.

In October last year, Jimmy Iovine shared some information during an interview at Vanity Fair’s New Establishment Summit in San Francisco. “Here’s a little statistic … [YouTube] are 40% of consumption of music and 4% of the revenue. That’s a problem! … They know that doesn’t work. But do they care? I have no idea.”

In March last year, producer Rodney Jerkins asked Robert Kyncyl, YouTube’s Head of Content why Ryan Tedder of the band One Republic only received $900 for writing a song that had over 600 million views on YouTube.  To which Kyncyl responded ”We don’t pay him directly, we’re paying a publisher.  And, whatever happens between the publisher and the artist… we don’t know, we don’t get to see that.”

40 Responses

  1. Anonymous

    “YouTube has paid out over $3 billion to the music industry”

    Let me ask again:

    Could anybody please explain how this can be true when YouTube and similar services combined paid less than £25m to the industry in 2015?

    At that rate, it would take YouTube a hundred years to pay $3bn…

  2. Anonymous

    “a platform that caters to largely light music listeners”

    Huh? 82% of users are on YouTube to access music, according to IFPI…

    • Troglite

      Even if the way users CHOOSE to use the services are significantly different.. the CONTENT is the same. Classic example of misdirection/strawman.

    • io

      Huh? 82% of users are on YouTube to access music, according to IFPI…

      yeah an industry lobbyist group.

      give me a break.

      • Anonymous

        And your numbers, if any, come from where exactly?


        • observer

          ifpi are the dolts that said 95% of music downloads were illegal back in 08.

          or as techdirt put it

          It’s hard to give much credence to the IFPI report, given the way it plays with statistics. For instance, in the press release for the report, the IFPI tries to pin the blame on piracy for a downturn in the “local music sectors” of France and Spain. It backs this up by saying that new French and Spanish artists accounted for a smaller percentage of album releases in 2008 than they had before. What about established French and Spanish artists? And does a lack of new local artists have more to do with downloading, or problems with labels in how they do business, and find and promote new talent? Furthermore, when the album is declining in popularity compared to singles, and new artists more likely to take advantage of this by targeting the singles market, is this even a legitimate metric for this purpose? These IFPI stats should be taken with a large grain of salt, and their intended purpose — to further the group’s goal to get governments and ISPs to prop up record labels’ outmoded business models — should be considered.

          i guess by your logic i should ask the nra to do stats on gun violence and not expect it to come back low

          • io

            techdirts a part of google.

            ~future post from anonymous

  3. DavidB

    Apples and oranges? I thought Google and YouTube were staffed by bright people, so why do they trot out this stupid cliche? There is nothing wrong with comparing apples and oranges. Which tastes better? Which is more nutritious? Which is better value? These are all reasonable questions to ask. Apples and oranges are, as economists would say, substitute goods. Ditto for YouTube and other streaming services, where music is concerned.

    • Troglite


      Feels like the setup for a one-two punch that ends with “Don’t kill free music on youtube!! Wouldn’t you rather have a LITTLE revenue from YouTube instead of NONE?”

      We’ve certainly heard that one before.

      In case its not obvious to everyone who reads this…. this would be another example of how silicon valley uses misdirection and strawmen to create FUD amongst musicians and songwriters.

      The loss of revenue is the symptom not the disease.

      The core issue is that the ability to control the distribution of our works… to choose whether they appear on free sites like YouTube… has been effectively circumvented by a combination of loopholes in the DMCA and backroom revenue sharing agreements with the majors which sever the correlation between what is consumed and how much the owner of the copyrighted work is compensated.

      The only true remedy is to restore that control which will give artists the right to choose the optimal way to distribute and monetize their own works. Any remedy that leaves that loss of control unaddressed is just more bullshit in disguise.

    • io

      There is nothing wrong with comparing apples and oranges

      said no one ever.

  4. Versus

    “YouTube has paid out over $3 billion to the music industry, despite being a platform that caters to largely light music listeners who spend an average of one hour per month consuming music – far less than an average Spotify or Apple Music user.”

    These absolute numbers are meaningless.
    What is the payout per song stream on YouTube?
    And include full album streams as well, divided properly by the number of songs on the album.
    Also include all the illegal uploads, and intentionally distorted or modified audio files designed to bypass ContentID.

    Then we’ll begin to see what YouTube really pays. Or rather, doesn’t.

    • Versus

      P.S. And why are Spotify and Apple Music referenced as points of comparison, as if that is a fair baseline? They don’t pay enough per stream either.

      • Charlotte Hassan

        What would be enough? I haven’t heard many artists complain about royalty rates they have received from Apple. In fact, a lot of artists are choosing to exclusively release their content on apple music. Spotify’s free ad-supported tier have had major complaints over royalties, but per-stream royalty rates on the premium tier are higher. Is this still enough for right holders? That’s a question that artists need to answer.

        • Anonymous

          “What would be enough?”

          That’s not relevant in this thread.

          Here’s why:

          We’re not FORCED to use Spotify and Apple Music!

          But with YouTube and the Pirate Bay, we don’t have a choice.

          • Anonymous

            I know, my apologies for interrupting.

            But neither his/her nor your comment is relevant here: Again, the reason everybody is freaking out over YouTube is the fact that we can’t leave.

            With Spotify and Apple, we have a choice. We can say no.

            YouTube is rape.

        • Versus

          “What would be enough?”

          Good question. That requires a balanced analysis, with the goal of being able to reasonably support at least a “middle class” of musician careers, as was possible not too long ago.

          I would recommend:
          – determining a fixed or minimum payout per stream
          – setting subscription rates accordingly (including tiers of subscription which entitle subscribers to more total streams per month)

          Obviously, piracy has to be brought under control, and that includes YouTube. That means not only a way to bring down pirates and everyone who profits from piracy, but penalizing them financially and compensating creators for their losses thereby.

  5. rikki

    GET OVER IT……just try and sell your used almost mint cd collection on ebay…you get practically nothing for it, its a hard lesson to learn people dont want your psychical cd’s anymore unless they are rare or you offer your live ticket buyers something special.

    • Anonymous

      wtf are you even talking about. Nobody gives a sh!t about CDs.

      The internet is awesome. Apple & Tidal pay artists.

      But YouTube is a piracy site and needs to be shut down asap.

      • io

        But YouTube is a piracy site and needs to be shut down asap

        that does not sound like an emotional industry shill at all. and in dark black letters for emotional effect on how serious it is too.

        i don’t even know why youtube waste time on music really. the only thing i use it for is to look up video game game walkthroughs when i get stuck.

        • Anonymous

          “i don’t even know why youtube waste time on music”

          Because 82% of users are on YouTube to access music, according to IFPI.

          • io

            yeah an industry lobbyist group that throws bogus takedowns like hotcakes. goes after 12 year old creative commons songs and makes statistics my 4 year old would not believe.

          • Anonymous

            “yeah an industry lobbyist group”

            And your numbers — if any — come from where exactly?


        • Charlotte Hassan

          Not shut down. It’s a great advertising and marketing vehicle for artists. Though, more control of the infringing content on the service and an increase in royalty rates for artists would be a great move.

          • Anonymous

            “It’s a great advertising and marketing vehicle for artists”

            Why don’t we discuss it in those terms then, instead of pretending it pays for content.

            I wouldn’t care about YouTube at all if I were allowed to remove my property from the site.

            But that’s 100% impossible. And that’s why I think it should be shut down asap.

      • Charlotte Hassan

        Again, I don’t think YouTube should be shut down, but it should be controlled more in terms of the way they deal with infringing content, and most definitely more artist-friendly in terms of the way they compensate rights holders.

  6. Anonymous

    We don’t need to shutdown YouTube. We just need to add Staydown to the DMCA. Copyright owners must have control of whether or not their content is on YouTube, and at what price (this is a synch use, which doesn’t fall within the scope of compulsory, so this should be negotiable). Staydown will work, despite what the tech companies are saying. They won’t do it on their own, so their hand must be forced.

      • lol

        why dont you just stop pretending to be a digital music site? the only time we even hear about it when you a bitching about youtube or spotify. you sound more like your just bitter no one’s buying cds anymore.

        • Charlotte Hassan

          It’s not about personal feelings towards any service, platform or format, it’s about what artists are saying, what’s happening in the music industry. We simply discuss industry-related topics.

  7. Djam

    YouTube is the new Pirate Bay. PERIOD!
    As an artist manager, I am deeply concerned and have been for a while. It’s Napster in a clean wrapper.

  8. Truth

    I think to this day no one, including the many artists who comment on DMN, have looked closer at where the money is going that is being paid to SoundExchange, ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC. Pandora pays out billions also, whether YouTube really has or not. But here’s the logic, if someone owes me money and I approach them for it, but they say they have to pay X because they can’t pay me directly, then I will go to X and demand to see some more details about where my money went. One way or another, the money is out there so if its not in your pocket, stop wasting time attacking the same services who are paying out billions collectively. Maybe there’s another problem we could identify, that’s all I’m suggesting. If not, then at the least we’d know for sure where the problem is.

    • Versus

      Fair enough to seek out the money from other sources, but that does not obviate the necessity of YouTube cleaning up its act, because a lot of money is being lost, or going to the wrong people (like advertisers on and hosts of pirate sites). All the illicit content on YouTube is not making money for its creators; it is surely making money for YouTube, Google, ISPs, computer and phone and accessory hardware sales.

  9. Lynn

    You can’t shut down a business simply because its USERS choose to ignore other users copyrights. I’m sure most of you have at least one MP3 you obtained freely from the Internet and I bet you did’t bother forwarding any compensation to the artist! That said, YouTube does need to have tougher controls; and once an artist issues a take down request, it should remain in force for any future uploads from anyone.

    I am both a musician and an independent label owner, so I see both sides of the coin. YouTube is now a major tool for the promotion of new artists. I for one, am perfectly happy to let YouTube pay for the bandwidth required to allow new music lovers to hear my artists new releases and showcase their talents with videos of live concerts etc. In the old days we had to PAY a considerable amount of money for that amount of advertising! The issue here is that once someone is established or famous, they are looking to monetise all uses of their music. That is a reasonable request and they should get the same rates from ALL streaming services across the board. Currently this varies from 0.002p to 0.008p per stream depending on the site. However, I can honestly say that my artists have earned more money in the last 3 years from the streaming services, than they have in the past 12 years from PPL. Despite a large percentage of them getting airplay on various radio stations. It is clearly a case of one rule for the famous and another for the struggling unknown artist who simply wants to earn a living wage doing what they love and do best.

  10. Lynn

    I will also add that in an ideal world, if all the people who infringe the copyright of another by uploading their material to YouTube (or any other P2P platform) were charged just 1p for each person who played more than 30 seconds of said material, you would see a lot less pirated uploads on the Internet. All those 1p sums could then be forwarded directly to the rightful copyright owners or their agents.

    • Troglite

      Interesting thought. Lends itself to “what if”:

      The terms of service required uploaders to affirm that they are the sole copyright holder and/or any required licenses have been acquired.

      The terms of service required uploaders to provide a valid credit card.

      The terms of service established a financial penalty if the affirmation provided by the uploader is later proven false… and empowered the service provider to debit the user’s credit card. There are lots of ways this penalty could be structured.. I won’t get into that here.

      The terms of service establish a minimum number of plays/streams before the financial penalty is triggered in order to keep the enforcement system cost-effective and focused on the instances that represent the largest violations.

      The terms of service requires the service provider to pay the valid license holder(s) by paying them an amount that is equal to the penalty. Perhaps a specific percentage is reserved to cover the Service Provider’s expenses.

      The terms of service allowed the penalty to be waived, but only at the right holder(s)’ discretion.

      Specific things that seem attractive about this model:
      * Doesn’t inconvenience or punish the users who are consuming these works
      * Attempts to protect the service providers interests by isolating any disputes to the uploader and the rights holder(s)
      * Creates a direct financial cost for those who upload infringing material
      * Provides an explicit avenue for uploaders and right holder(s) to compromise (e.g. honest mistake).

    • Versus

      Absolute: we should monetize the pirates. They should essentially be fined for each infraction, and then the proceeds distributed to rights holders.

  11. Lest it be overlooked...

    Reading these comments, you would think that the publishers, record labels and others held a patent for the material.