84% of YouTube Videos Contain at Least 10 Seconds of Music, Study Finds

Is YouTube fair use a fairytale?

Not only that — a distressing 65% of those YouTube videos aren’t even claimed by ContentID.

A just-released study sharply contradicts multiple claims by YouTube executives regarding music content.  And it could prompt major changes in the relationship between the music industry and the video platform.

The bombshell research comes from Pex, a company that specifically searches, indexes, and analyzes video content online.  The company is already working with a number of music industry players — so this data won’t be a surprise to everyone.

For the rest, a seatbelt is advised.

Finding #1: 84% of all videos on YouTube contain at least 10 seconds of music.

YouTube itself claims that just 2.5% of its videos are music related.  But that statistic now looks extremely erroneous.  According to Pex’s finding, more than 84% of all YouTube videos contain music.

And not just a passing snippet: Pex drew the line at 10 continuous seconds of a recognizable piece of music.

So why the extreme difference?  Pex was careful to avoid the use of self-assigned categories.  The reason is that a large percentage of uploaders miscategorize their videos, or forget to designate a category at all.

Categories also have a way of obscuring the total music percentage.  For example, a video about cooking jumbalaya with New Orleans jazz in the background would not get categorized as ‘Music’.  Instead, it would probably receive a category like ‘Howto & Style,’ as cooking instruction is main focus of the video.

Accordingly, YouTube is likely overlooking a vast majority of its music content — purposefully or otherwise.

Instead of using that flawed dataset, Pex simply relied on their own findings, from their own search engine.  “We run a classifier on every single ingested video, which annotates the audio track with labels like ‘music’, ‘human speech’, and more,” the company explained.

The result?  “Based on our calculations, more than 84% of videos contain at least 10 seconds of music,” the company flatly summarized.

Finding #2: 27% of all YouTube video views are clearly categorized as ‘Music’

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But even using self-categorizations, YouTube’s claim of 2.5 percent remains highly suspect.

Pex counted up every video self-categorized as ‘Music,’ and compared them to every other category.  And they found that 27% of all videos viewed on YouTube come from the ‘Music’ category.

Those self-categorizations undoubtedly mean that core content of these videos is music.  But it doesn’t even consider the amount of videos are that aren’t categorized (and defaulted to a generic non-music category).

All of which raises the uncomfortable question: Is YouTube flat-out lying about their own data to deceive the music industry?

Finding #3: 65% of YouTube videos containing music aren’t claimed by ContentID.

Just recently, YouTube global head of music Lyor Cohen claimed that virtually all music videos on YouTube are recognized.  “As of 2016, 99.5 percent of music claims on YouTube are matched automatically by Content ID and are either removed or monetized,” Cohen stated.

But Pex’s data shows that just 35% of videos containing music are claimed.  Which of course leaves 65% with zero claims attached.  “Our data shows that almost 65% of these videos are not claimed, and thus generate no revenue,” Pex noted.

That finding also sharply contradicts data reported by Midia Research.  Back in August of 2016, Midia reported that 98% of all YouTube music video views involved properly-claimed content.  “Safe harbor-enabled UGC is no longer the threat it once was, with just 2% of music video views from unofficial uploads,” the company claimed.

That same report claims that just 12% of YouTube viewing time involves music.  Both stats now seem completely off-the-mark.

Finding #4: The percentage of unclaimed videos is rising sharply.

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This isn’t a situation that’s improving.  Quite the opposite: according to Pex, the ratio of unclaimed-to-claimed is getting dramatically worse.

Here’s another look at the differential between the two.  As you can see, this is spiking in the wrong direction.

(click to enlarge)

Finding #5: 20% of all ‘Gangnam Style’ videos are completely unclaimed.

The last one may be the most shocking of all.  Because it turns out that one of the largest music videos in the history of YouTube has approximately half-a-billion unclaimed views.  And that is absolutely not by design.

‘Gangnam Style’ was groundbreaking not only for its massive number of views.  It also spawned a massive number of variations, an explosion fueled by PSY’s label to promote virality and monetization.  Unfortunately, it now looks like YouTube has been keeping a large percentage of that money.

Pex found 891,685 total copies of ‘Gangnam Style’ on YouTube.  Of that, 182,220 were completely unclaimed.

Actually, Pex first started digging into ‘Gangnam’ to determine the reason for the massive level of unclaimed videos overall.    “Perhaps this performance is because the segments containing ‘Gangnam Style’ were under 20 seconds?” the company asked.

“With the recent boom of short-form content, this would make sense.  However, when we consulted the data, the results paint a very different picture.”

And that picture is this:

“The average length of a segment containing the Gangnam Style’s music is 46.6 seconds for all content that was not claimed.”

Any questions?

13 Responses

  1. Markus Mac

    I havent heard of a YT video that is without Sound yet in all of my YT browsing carrier.. just LOL..

  2. Guy Who Works In Music Rights Management

    Checking the sources here – it is probably worth pointing out that Warner Music Group and Universal Music Group are both major investors in Pex; parties whom have both had major beef with YouTube in recent history and who have an absolutely awful history of actually properly managing their content through the tools provided on YouTube.

    Source: https://blog.pex.com/pex-secures-7m-in-series-seed-financing-22dff30f8392

    The study may also not have differentiated professional or licensed content from catalogs like Epidemic Sound in their study.

    I would take this study with a grain of salt. The reality is the amount of unclaimed content is definitely higher than what YouTube is claiming, but also probably significantly lower than what these guys are claiming as well.

    • Pex Founder

      Hi Guy Who Works In Music Rights Management, I wrote the original article.

      Our findings are not based on any particular catalogue nor are they based on some small dataset. As I pointed out, we run a classifier on ALL content ingested by Pex which identifies what is music in every single video (doesn’t matter if we have the music work or not). Also how much content is claimed is not based on any catalogue itself but rather on the information provided directly by Content ID.

    • Vail, CO

      Your theory doesn’t really make any sense. If Warner Music Group wants to take action against YouTube, then they just do that, they don’t need some complicated investment deal with some research company to give them data they like to then take action. Once you think about it, it becomes pretty patently ridiculous what you’re saying.

      • SF

        I’m in the midst of issuing takedowns on a few thousand YouTube uploads. All illegal uploads of around a few tracks. That’s the ratio I’ve discovered. A few legit to 1000s of illegal uploads. And none of those uploaders know how to package content. Rev share can’t hold a candle to controlling discovery and chanelling traffic to where it serves the artist.

  3. Another Guy

    A video that contains music DOES NOT mean unlicensed. The music could be YouTube Audio Library music (which is ignored by CID) public domain content (also ignore by CID) or music that was never registered to CID by a music partner.

    Also, CID is not tuned to catch every snippet of music. It is tuned to capture what it believes is significant use of music in a video. If CID caught every second of music in every single video – no one would be happy, including the labels and publishers.

    • Pex Founder

      I think you made a good point regarding public domain and YouTube Audio Library music. I never said that the videos contain unlicensed music, just stated the fact, that majority of videos containing music are not caught by CID.

      However I don’t think your assumption regarding CID’s capabilities is correct. The current situation is not good and it has less to do with technical capabilities than with product decisions on YouTube’s part.

  4. Versus

    YouTube is a disgrace.
    What are the repercussions if indeed they are willfully deceiving through false statistics?
    Would this give more power to potential anti-monopolistic practice punishments, even possibly breaking up Google and YouTube (as with the phone companies)?

    • Esquire

      YouTube a disgrace? More or less a disgrace than AM/FM radio, which pay nothing for the use of sound recordings upon which they built their business over five decades?

      YouTube has safe harbor but chooses to pay for music for which the law does not require payment. Meanwhile, YT contributes significantly to the body of knowledge and expression available to the public.

      Would you prefer YT simply bans licensed music, like podcasting does, depriving creators of payment and music of an audience?

      • Versus

        I agree AM/FM radio (in the USA) is also a disgrace, and it should either pay all creators like radio worldwide does, or go the way of the dodo bird.

        Unless YouTube can really control the illicit upload of copyrighted music, and pay a reasonable rate for legitimate upload plays, then yes, I would rather there be no music on YouTube. At the very least, it should be an “opt-in” system, where an artist, label, or publisher can permit their music to be used on YouTube; rather than an ineffective “opt-out” system (DMCA, takedown, etc).

        “Would you prefer YT simply bans licensed music, like podcasting does, depriving creators of payment and music of an audience?”

        The payment is laughably small; the audience would not be “deprived” of music, as they have no divinely granted right to get all music in the world for free. We musicians are not all disembodied ethereal spirits, or independently wealthy, or in the miniscule upper echelon of (ostensibly) rich pop stars. The rest of us are just trying to make ends meet, support our families, and put food on the table, and keep doing our work. If there is indeed substantial demand for a musician’s work, then he or she should be able to make a living wage from it.

      • Versus

        AM/FM made some sense to artists and labels, even with its pathetic payment policy, when it functioned as a promotion to bring listeners to buy music.

        YouTube is a very different story, as it is the endpoint itself; listeners just listen there for free and never pay for the music. So a different system and standard applies, if the creation of recorded music is to be fairly compensated.