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YouTube Threatens To Block Independent Labels In Contract Dispute

23 May 2014 | 12:57 pm | Scott Fitzsimons

YouTube behaviour "unacceptable"

A feud between YouTube and independent music labels around the world is heating up amid claims that the Google-owned company have threatened to block independent content from their streaming platform if they don't sign non-negotiable contracts.

YouTube, who many recognise as the world's biggest streaming service through their video streaming platform, are believed to be developing a new music streaming offering. Today the Worldwide Independent Network [WIN] have claimed that despite striking separate deals with the three major labels – Universal, Sony and Warner – the internet giant has been unwilling to negotiate with the independent sector.


- YouTube streaming service “imminent”
- Indie labels allegedly offered non-negotiable contracts below what Spotify, Rdio and others pay
- Extensive talks in past 24 hours provide no resolution
- YouTube 'won't comment' on ongoing negotiations

Describing their actions as “Unnecessary and indefensible”, YouTube has allegedly emailed WIN's label members with non-negotiable contracts and threats of content blocking if they're not agreed to.

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UK based CEO of WIN Alison Wenham said that independent labels “are being told by one of the largest companies in the world to accept terms that are out of step with the marketplace for streaming. This is not a fair way to do business.”

According to those label members, which include Australian and New Zealand companies, the fees being offered by YouTube are considerably below current market rates – including those of fellow streaming services, Spotify, Rdio and Deezer, who offer artists between $0.008 and $0.005 per stream.

“Extensive” talks between YouTube and WIN over the last 24 hours have resulted in no resolution.

Wenham said her organisation “questions any actions by any organisation that would seek to injure and punish innocent labels and musicians – and their innocent fans – in order to pursue its ambitions.

“We believe, as such, that these actions are unnecessary and indefensible, not to mention commercially questionable and potentially damaging to YouTube itself, given the harm likely to result from this approach.”

A YouTube spokesperson has told today, “YouTube provides a global platform for artists to connect with fans and generate revenue for their music. We have successful deals in place with hundreds of independent and major labels around the world, however we don't comment on ongoing negotiations.”

Eighteen countries around the world have expressed support, with the Australian Independent Record Labels Association [AIR]'s Chairman David Vodicka, also a board member of ARIA and PPCA, saying, “It seems obvious that a streaming/subscription service from YouTube is imminent and if the offering does not house the indie sector YouTube is plainly making the claim that this sector holds no value for them.

“In an age where New Zealand artists spring from the very independent ethos to achieve worldwide acclaim it makes no sense for YouTube to pursue this tactic of exclusion.”