Youtube: The future of music distribution?
YouTube has secured an agreement with the UK societies that collect royalties for 50,000 composers, songwriters and publishers to legitimise the use of recorded music on Google’s popular video-sharing website. From FT, via PaidContent.
This is a fairly significant bit of news that was missed by most outlets. It is no great secret that along with print publications, the music industry is the next big player who is undergoing major existential pains because of the online revolution and till date they have reacted to it by going the ‘profits-by-means-of-litigation’ route. The move by the UK societies is the first major indication of a wake up call that has been heeded by the industry.
Till about a year and a half ago, when any of my friends wanted me to listen to a song they liked that I was unaware of, they would send me the MP3 file via email or some other means so that I could take a swipe at it. In the past year or so, almost nobody has been doing that. Instead, they send me links to Youtube. Now, I am not your typical music consumer (I am listening to Karnatic classical set to a jazz arrangement in massive rotation right now), and for people to be sending me links of Youtube pretty consistently (from obscure Japanese pop to more mainstream stuff) would mean that there is a fair volume of music in the sytem there.
Now, if Youtube were to give the record companies a fixed amount of money (they had set apart $500 million for copyright litigation-related costs in escrow), for legally playing out music/music videos and if that fixed amount of money is higher by even a cent, compared to what the industry might make legally a few years down the line, who can honestly complain about it? They get to offload the price of distribution to the Youtubes and unlike a standard distribution deal, this is in all probability a non-exclusive deal; meaning that they can reap multiples of the same deal, depending on how good their negotiation skills are.
I do not think this is the final word in the saga called music distribution, but this certainly is the first step towards recognizing ground realities and let us wait and watch to see to where the story will progress eventually.