Due primarily to its low royalty payments and safe-harbor protection, YouTube has been the whipping boy of the music industry for several years now. So when the first installment of a study the company commissioned from RBB Economics was issued earlier this month — and which claimed, among other things, that piracy would actually increase without YouTube, and that 85 percent of the time currently spent watching music videos on YouTube would be spent on similar or lower-value channels — the reaction was strong.
And possibly the strongest on-the-record reaction came, not surprisingly, from veteran artist manager Irving Azoff, a longtime YouTube critic who wrote an open letter directed at the platform a year ago.
“My report about the ‘Value of YouTube to the Music Industry’ would be really brief because I can summarize the benefit of YouTube to artists in a word: none,” he told Hits. “They say without YouTube, users would look for sites that paid even less for music — I say good luck finding services that benefit so greatly from music and pay so little.
“Google’s Alphabet has a market cap of $660 billion, and YouTube itself is worth somewhere north of $90 billion—a value it acquired, in large part, on the backs of music artists,” he continued. “But they’d rather spend their money on dishonest studies to justify their measly payments than offer creators what they deserve for the use of their work.”
And another thing — “The truth is that, despite having to compete with services like YouTube who hide behind outdated, safe harbor protections, legitimate services like Spotify and Apple Music are attracting more subscribers than ever,” he continued. “If YouTube had the same level of commitment, their subscription service would be more than a head fake—and they’d be working hard, like Spotify does, to convert users to the paid tier for unlimited music. Maybe Google should do a study on that.”