Initially by accident, and perhaps later by design, YouTube became the number one destination site on the planet for music listening, discovery and sharing. It now has more music listeners than every other streaming music service combined.
With this accomplishment under its belt, it is now making a concerted effort to become an even bigger deal in digital music with the launch of its new YouTube Music Key service.
With this launch come several notable changes to YouTube:
If you follow this blog, you know that FMC spends a lot of time thinking about metadata, a shorthand term that can mean a lot of things including the information about who wrote a song, or who played on a recording. We’ve looked at the problems from different angles, examined the wide range of possible solutions, and attended metadata conferences. This month’s Future of Music Policy Summit will have some special sessions that tackle metadata, so we asked FMC’s director of programs Jean Cook six questions about the topic.
In some ways, I’m the perfect target for U2’s big new release partnership with Apple. U2 was my favorite band all through junior high and high school. I dutifully collected all their singles, and I still have my ticket stub and sweatshirt from the 1998 Popmart tour. Yet my interests drifted elsewhere as I got older; I’m part of the reason their last record sold relatively poorly, as I still haven’t heard it. Theoretically, a free copy of Songs of Innocence might rekindle my fandom.
But: it’s complicated. U2’s avowed commitments to social justice were a big part of what got me interested in activism and policy at a young age. It feels a bit jarring now to see the band whose liner notes got thirteen-year old me to join Amnesty International so closely associated with a company that’s facing protests both for inhumane factory conditions abroad and low contractor wages domestically.
The ambivalence doesn’t stop there. The Apple/U2/Universal Music Group partnership has also prompted some unexpected backlash. Still, that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been successful on the most basic levels; the band was reportedly well paid (over $100 million in marketing, plus a flat royalty fee), at least 36 million people have accessed the music, the new iPhone has set new sales records and everyone’s still talking about U2 and Apple two weeks later. Including our own Casey Rae, who joined Chris Richards of the Washington Post and Catherine Mayer of TIME Magazine—both of whom have recently written about U2—on the Kojo Nnamdi Show on Sept. 23. (Listen to the archived broadcast).
You may be feeling some U2 fatigue, but we think there’s still a need to ask deeper questions about what this deal means, and what it doesn’t.
It used to be that big companies were able to define the parameters for debate about music industry issues, and make all the big decisions. What was good for corporate media and big money, we were told, was good for the artists, and for the music industry as a whole.
The desire to tell a more complete and accurate story centered on the needs and experiences of musicians was a big part of why Future of Music Coalition got started 14 years ago. By now, more people understand that the agendas of a handful of giant music companies may sometimes align with artists, but not always. In fact, these companies are very capable of misdirection when it benefits their bottom line. And tech companies don’t have a lot of experience working directly with artists, in part because the existing structures so often compel big-money negotiations with the major rightsholders. Today, we’re thrilled to see more and more artists speaking openly about the issues that impact their livelihoods. Independent labels are getting bolder too, in demanding fair treatment and respect for their different way of doing business.
There’s a reason FMC is so often aligned with independent labels: this community, representing a diverse array of genres and business models, typically does right by artists. Today’s news that more than 700 indies are backing fair treatment of musicians is further proof that indies have a different way of doing business than major labels.
Independent imprints including Domino, Cooking Vinyl, Epitaph, Glassnote, Nettwerk, Ninja Tune, Secretly Canadian, Saddle Creek, Sub Pop, Tommy Boy, XL Recordings and the Beggars Group (which includes indie powerhouses 4AD, Matador and Rough Trade) and many more signed on to the “Fair Digital Deals Declaration,” a commitment by the labels to treat artists fairly and equitably on today’s digital distribution platforms.
Post by Policy Intern Juan Carlos Melendez-Torres and Casey Rae
T-Mobile markets itself as a great liberator within the mobile phone industry through its “UnCarrier” initiatives. But is the company really all that different from other powerful carriers and Internet Service Providers?
On June 18, T-Mobile announced UnCarrier 6.0, which includes new “partnerships” with streaming services such as Pandora, Spotify, iTunes Radio, iHeartRadio, Slacker, Rhapsody and Milk Music. Under the UnCarrier 6.0 provisions, T-Mobile will not count music streamed on the aforementioned services against their subscribers’ data caps. Using any other online music service—say, Bandcamp or Noisetrade—will result in slowed speeds and potentially, overages.
Future of Music Coalition submitted the following comments to the United States Copyright Office in its Notice of Inquiry on the Music Licensing Study. We examine the state of music licensing in America, and how the current regime impacts musicians, songwriters and independent labels.