[This post is based on an insightful keynote that Jim McDermott gave at the A2IM Annual Meeting aka Indie Week. Full disclosure: Jim worked at PolyGram when I worked at A&M Records and I’m a fan. That doesn’t color my appreciation–there are a lot of people who worked at PolyGram whom I never was and am not now a fan of.]
….The folks at YouTube probably show up to work thinking they’re good guys too, although Irving Azoff and others are making that a little harder lately. YouTube seem to have a “gated community” mentality about artists — they get that artists provide needed services (content), but they don’t want to see them too much, and rarely want to hear their complaints. YouTube uses the DMCA as a shield and an excuse to behave like internet companies did in the Napster and Limewire days, when iffy behavior about copyright was still getting hashed out. The fact that consumers can listen to pretty much anything on YouTube for free certainly impedes the value proposition of streaming services that charge listeners fees. YouTube enables large scale theft in plain sight and benefits from it to the tune of billions of dollars. To hide behind the DMCA, to pay artists little or nothing in their legitimate deals they do offer and then have “Do The Right Thing” as a corporate motto is the ultimate irony. Vinyl revenue is bigger than YouTube revenue in the U.S. and U.K. — come on….
….The truth is, the music industry needs YouTube as much as YouTube needs music; nobody wants it shut down.
But we must speak truth to power. It is an obligation. Google has been called out on so called “revolving door hiring” in both the U.S. and EU governments, where employees in key government policy making positions are hired by Google and then go back to government. The Google Transparency Project said that in the EU, these hires “dramatically stepped up” just after the European Commission launched its first investigation into alleged anti-trust violations by Google. As big a threat as Napster once was to the survival of our industry, Google is a much greater existential threat, now and in the years to come. Napster didn’t have the ambition or the deep pockets required to influence governments. It’s going to be an incredibly difficult battle, and our industry is outgunned. We’re going to need consumers on our side, which means the artists are going to have to get a lot more vocal.