Will YouTube Block Indie Labels?



Reports saying that YouTube will block videos from indie labels that have not signed up for their upcoming music subscription services have sparked an online debate.

There’s a very heated discussion on Reddit over whether it has been accurately reported by The Guardian and other media.

YouTube isn’t going to take ANY videos down, as the article implies. Why would they do that? It makes no sense. YouTube just won’t include those artists in whatever new music service they’re building,” said the top-rated comment.

Why wouldn’t they block you from the service, if you didn’t want to be in it?” asked another.

Basically YouTube is saying ‘If you don’t agree to be on our music service, you won’t be on our music service’,” said another.

And, “If this is true, then this is incredibly poor journalism from the Guardian. So poor it’s magical.

So what’s the truth in this dispute?

What is YouTube’s new music service?

YouTube was said to be working on its own subscription streaming music service for some time. It would be a direct rival for Spotify, Deezer, Beats Music and others, including parent company Google’s own Google Play Music All Access.

YouTube exec Robert Kyncl said in an interview with the Financial Times that a premium YouTube music service is on the way. It will start internal tests very soon, before launching later in the year.

The new premium YouTube tier will allow users who pay a monthly fee to watch videos or listen to music without adverts on any of their devices, even when they are not connected to the internet,” stated the article.

Why are indie labels angry?

WIN is a global trade body representing independent music labels.

Here’s what its initial press release alleged, “WIN has raised major concerns about YouTube’s recent policy of approaching independent labels directly with a template contract and an explicit threat that their content will be blocked on the platform if it is not signed.

According to WIN members, the contracts currently on offer to independent labels from YouTube are on highly unfavourable, and non-negotiable terms, and undervalue existing rates in the marketplace from existing music streaming partners such as Spotify, Rdio, Deezer and others.

WIN had a press conference on June 4. Its chairman, Alison Wenham, explained, “We understand that YouTube are still, despite our intervention and despite some very trenchant conversations between YouTube and myself, still threatening to block independent content from the YouTube platform if those independent labels do not sign the contract.

Wenham has written to Vince Cable MP, the UK’s secretary of state for business, innovation and skills. The relevant section of that letter, “YouTube is expected to launch a new audio music streaming service to compete with established services such as Spotify, and is attempting to force contract terms upon the independent sector which we understand are significantly inferior to those offered to the international ‘major’ record companies (Sony, Warner and Universal). If independent companies do not sign up to these revised terms, YouTube has summarily threatened to remove (block) their repertoire from the YouTube service.

So, if labels don’t sign up for YouTube’s new paid music service at the terms, their catalogues will be blocked on all of YouTube, not just the new premium accounts.

Long story short, there are three possibilities.


  1.           YouTube is threatening to block the videos of indie labels. If they don’t sign up to the terms of its new paid music service, their videos will be removed from the free service too. Although Vevo-run channels will probably stay up.
  2.          YouTube will block indie labels from monetization of their videos on its free service. It’s possible that they will leave labels’ videos up, but will block them from making money from ads, as well as from using its Content ID system to earn from ads shown on videos uploaded by YouTube users.
  3.          If indie labels choose not to sign up for YouTube’s new paid music service, their videos will be blocked on it, but left alone on the free service.


We still don’t know what will is likely to happen. You should stay tuned.

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