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YouTube Vs Music Industry – Does YouTube Damage Musician’s Chances Of Success?

In this day and age, we are all used to platforms like YouTube which have the power to make us internet superstars overnight, whether this is due to our musical prowess or perhaps slightly less talented displays.Youtube vs music industry does it really damage the musician's success ? Many music artists, such as Justin Bieber have found fame through YouTube. It cannot be denied that it does offer success for some artists. But Justin Bieber is one very specific example. What about smaller-time music artists? Below we talk further about whether or not YouTube damages musician’s chances of success.

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Is YouTube a bad platform to use for music artists?

Unfortunately, the issue isn’t quite so black and white, and where one artist finds complaint with the system, others find some measure of success. However, it is clear that things aren’t perfect. With huge stars like Taylor Swift publicly taking on YouTube, something is obviously amiss with the system. And Swift is by no means alone; she’s joined by at least 180 other artists such as Paul McCartney, Lady Gaga, and Elton John.

Articles, such as this by the Guardian, highlight the fact that the issue is somewhat paradoxical as it is the artists who make the most money who are the ones complaining about not getting enough royalties in. But this, of course, misses the point, as the ones who make the most money have the biggest voice for smaller artists, and they have been clear they are the ones that they are fighting for.

Opinion pieces aside, the main problem, that will be cited by the majority of artists worldwide, is the lack of royalty payments that they receive for their music. This is not a YouTube-only problem, it is something that the streaming services as a whole seem to be struggling to get right, with platforms like Spotify revealing it pays artists less than a penny per play.

The problem with YouTube is that the amount that a music artist has been getting paid has not grown in line proportionally with the amount of plays that have been received. In 2015, YouTube paid $740 million in revenues to music artists and rights-holders, which is an increase of 11% from 2014. Great, so things are moving forward, right? Not if you put this next to the fact that the total views on music videos from 2014 to 2015 saw an increase of 132%.

You can also see from this infographic here that a music artist would need 4,200,000 monthly YouTube plays of a song just to make the US minimum wage of $1,260. This leads to a system where internet stars and YouTube sensations are having to get jobs sarkari naukri or sarkari blog on the side for their actual income.

Plenty of people have second jobs, and need to do so in order to support their family or pay their mortgage, but if an artist is dedicated to their music but doesn’t receive a return off it, how long will it be before that artist gives up all together?

The main problem is that YouTube is an advertising based service, and as this is where the revenues come in this is why music artists notice a disproportionate amount of revenue being returned to them. Their videos are much shorter than others, and so the adverts appear much less. This means that although music videos make up 30% of YouTube views, they have only 9% of ad revenue returned to them.

Copyright infringement

The other issue that was cited by Taylor Swift and the other music stars was with copyright infringement. There is not enough protection available against random users posting up songs by music artists and gaining views on it, with no payment to the artists.

One user noticed a song of his that had been posted by another user with 3.5 million views (still not enough to make the monthly minimum wage). He complained to YouTube, the account was taken down but with no money given to him. He then posted the song up separately himself, gained 151,781 views, and was then paid a whopping $10 in return from YouTube. Crazy, right?

As it stands, YouTube cannot be held directly responsible for issues of copyright, as cited by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Artists want to do away with these “safe harbour” rules, making YouTube take a much greater interest in stopping copyright, and therefore returning more in revenues back to the music artist. Over 1000 artists were involved in writing a letter to the European Commission on this issue, and it was very much needed. In 2015, 68 million music subscribers to streaming services contributed over $2 billion in record label revenues, which is equal to just under $30 per user. However, 900 million users of ad-based services, such as YouTube, contributed only $634 million to record label revenues, which is equal to just under $0.70 per user.

This, of course, leads on to the issue of how little music artists are paid from music label revenues, but that is a whole other kettle of fish. Talking about YouTube specifically, it can clearly be seen that the amount that artists receive in revenues compared to how many views they are pulling in is highly disproportionate.

It must, however, be noted that research from MIDiA Research, found that the impact of these safe harbour rules was quite small, with only 2% of music video views coming from users who don’t have the rights to said video.

How is YouTube good for music artists?

Freestock / Via pexels.com

This is not to say that YouTube is an-all bad platform that destroys musician’s chances of success at every opportunity. Indeed, as touched upon earlier with Justin Bieber, it is the sole reason that some artists have found fame. For most, YouTube is a platform to allow artists to serve videos that they then go on to embed on their own site. The question then is, who is helping who?

If you remove YouTube from the music world, then the easiest video platform for musical marketing has evaporated. It makes for a great marketing strategy and can help musicians to find new fans, debut new videos and collect valuable, yet limited, insights on viewing data and figures.

Aside from this, it is simply an easy way for new artists to break themselves onto the music scene. It is free, which is perhaps the most crucial benefit, and it is extremely easy to access and use. It may not be the greatest system for those artists who have started to establish themselves, and it may or may not provide a platform for artist discovery for most, but it does provide a valuable way to serve video to the masses.

Music artists also need to be completely aware of what they are getting into when they use YouTube. As we have already touched on, YouTube is an ad-based service; there is no discrepancy with this. If a music artist is only posting a three-minute music video once a month, then they aren’t going to be able to capitalise on ads, it’s as simple as that. Posting more and engaging more often with fans is just one way that an artist can try and boost revenues through YouTube.

YouTube allows fans to connect with their favourite music artists at the push of a button

Could newer platforms offer a solution to the problem?

It has to be made clear that the music industry needs YouTube much more than YouTube needs the music industry. But that should not give YouTube free reign to damage musician’s chances of success and take away from their livelihood. We’re all too familiar with companies and institutions charging a great deal of money, because they’re the only one on the scene until a new, disruptive player comes along and tips the whole world on its head.

Think Uber with taxis, Airbnb with hotels and Transferwise with banks. We’re not saying YouTube is about to be dethroned, but until they strike the right balance for music artists, there will always be tension and debate about how well they operate. Over the past few years, newer platforms have emerged such as GigRev, Bkstg and Disciple Media. Platforms such as these tout themselves as social platforms that do more for the artist than other systems such as YouTube or Spotify. They put music artists first, giving them much greater control over their own data and, ultimately, their revenues.

The aim of platforms like these is to bring fans and music artists closer together. This way music artists can know exactly what fans want, whether it is with new songs, merchandise or exclusive access, and then music artists can help to bring in more revenues themselves to continue posting what the fans love.

There have been attempts at this in the past with first generation platforms such as Mobile Roadie, but second generation platforms are more powerful and aim to give more back to the artists. It is clear that things aren’t perfect at the moment in the music industry, and YouTube is certainly not the all-ending solution for music artists. It is a fantastic platform that can really help to get a music artist’s name out there, but until it balances out the revenues paid back to artists, it is not a viable platform for the music industry.

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