Is YouTube Killing the Radio Star?

It’s no secret that record labels have been fighting with YouTube for months now, over revenue disputes and piracy. Some fans may think that they are still financing their favorite artists through streaming services like YouTube channels, Spotify, or Pandora. However, the labels would disagree, citing that ad-supported streaming has only raked in around $380M, a meager 16% of the revenue made on all streaming services. It's a small piece of the pie, when compared to other revenue streams like vinyl records or downloads.

It all stems back to Digital Millennium Copyright Act, also known as the DMCA, and artists have recently signed a petition to enact change in the rules and regulations.

So, What’s the Deal with DMCA?

DMCA details that streaming services, such as YouTube, cannot be sued for copyright infringement as long as they comply with takedown notices from the rights-holders. In addition, YouTube has not been very successful in getting a large subscription fan base through their new service, YouTube Red (which offers some exclusive content for a low monthly payment), as they rarely restrict videos from non-subscribers. It’s hard to ask fans to start paying for a service that they have long perceived as free .

Given the enormity and cultural impact of the website today, artists have no choice but to market their music on this platform. However, as more and more artists are feeling some empty wallets, musicians like Taylor Swift, Paul McCartney, and Kings of Leon are fighting to reform that DMCA rule. They decry that DMCA has provided a loophole for streaming giants like YouTube to create an easy-to-consume product, that offers little investment value to labels and artists. Essentially, artists are feeling chained to these choices of platforms (like YouTube or Spotify), and the tech companies themselves aren’t doing their part to crack down on pirates and free streamers.

What This Means for Fans

This petition is only the latest news in the ongoing negotiations and arguments between YouTube, the record labels, and Congress. However, fans should keep in mind that changes may be coming to their streaming services. Spotify has already made adjustments to their free services, such as not letting streamers skip songs or modify playlists from the app, so fans should expect that YouTube may be forced to enact something similar. Here at Lion Bold, we doubt that YouTube will stop it’s free streaming cold-turkey, but one idea that may be explored is fans having access to exclusive videos from artists if they’re subscribed to YouTube Red (the paid service). It’s a step in the right direction, and will benefit both artists and passionate fans who want to help finance new music.