Battling Against The Stream

The rise of Spotify has taken music streaming subscriptions to a new level, but as we’ve seen, there’s plenty of debate about the benefit of this model for musicians. Now, YouTube are adding their own dash of controversy to the mix…

Spot The Difference

DSCF9314BW - Busker, Outside Costa Coffee Shop, Market Street, Manchester Piccadilly, Manchester.
Creative Commons License photo credit: Style: Raw

Last week, Amazon launched a streaming service within its Prime subscription bundle, and this week we have Google announcing that the new YouTube music subscription service will begin extensive internal user testing over the next few days, with a view to general release sometime over the Summer.

However, as agreement on the details of licensing terms has not been reached with a number of independent labels, artists on these labels are being removed from the service – including such notables as Adele and the Arctic Monkeys.

This is a significant move for a number of reasons; YouTube itself has long been a sort of informal party playlist generator, where almost any song you might want to listen to could be found quickly and easily. Moving to a paid model may force people to change their behaviour in this regard, and if they do choose a paid platform, YouTube would have to offer a compelling service to win them over.

The Business Of Music

The ability to access video as well as audio may be a sweetener, but the proposed ability to access content from multiple devices – even when offline – is actually an essential feature for any competitor in this nascent marketplace.

However, the exclusion of key independent music – even if it’s only 10% of the total inventory – is worrying from a musician’s perspective. While the digital democratisation of distribution was a boon for young artists, the loss of revenue in some areas was a concern. Even though the digital age created a need to develop new and more creative ways of monetising music, we probably don’t want to return to a music industry where large corporations (whether record companies or streaming service providers) dictate the terms by which we can consume music, siphoning the majority of profits into corporate coffers, rather than to the actual creators of the ‘product’.

Music will always be created, because that’s what people do. The question is – how do we value it?


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