How does YouTube intend to mend its historically rocky relationship with the music industry? Simple. Give selected artists buckets of cash and force them to sign an agreement where they promise not to criticize the platform.
Are you ready to become a top star on YouTube? Would you like the popular video platform to feature your music videos to more than 1.2 billion around the world? Did you also want to earn a ton of cash upfront? Fantastic!
There’s just one tiny catch, though. You’ll just have to sign a non-disparagement clause.
Sources speaking with Bloomberg confirmed that YouTube has given several musicians hundreds of thousands of dollars to promote their work. Yet, before receiving the cash, the artists had to vow that they wouldn’t say anything negative about the company.
According to Bloomberg, YouTube’s campaign aims to improve the company’s turbulent relationship with the music industry. Trent Reznor had previously accused the video platform of building its vast catalog “on the back of stolen content.” In addition, 180 artists signed a petition asking lawmakers in the US to close copyright loopholes last year.
The musicians blasted the company for taking advantage of DMCA safe harbor protections. In a not-so-veiled swipe at YouTube, the letter asked for “sensible reform that balances the interests of creators with the interests of the companies who exploit music for their financial enrichment.” Artists that signed the petition included Sir Paul McCartney, U2, Pearl Jam, Taylor Swift, and Lady Gaga, among others.
The letter reportedly infuriated YouTube’s senior executives. They privately pushed for artists and managers to support the company. Ahead of its paid streaming music service launch in March (codenamed ‘YouTube Remix’), company executives have signed long-term licensing deals with all three major record labels.
Non-disparagement agreements remain fairly common in the music industry. Yet, sources added that YouTube’s biggest direct competitors don’t use them. In fact, the company has reportedly forced the agreements on creators who produce original series for YouTube Red. Partners must also sign the non-disparagement clauses.
Should YouTube Remix fail to attract enough users, though, musicians, managers, and record labels will likely not remain silent.
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