Are Expiring Music Label Deals Going To Wreck YouTube?

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YouTube has a lot to worry about as it slides ever closer to becoming a pop culture mainstay. For one thing, its stars still see it as a jumping off point rather than a destination. Also, everybody wants to be them. And then, there is the whole problem with the record labels.

Big music companies seemingly hate YouTube. They feel like the giant music video platform doesn’t pay them what it ought to, and they’ve been threatening to pull their videos for some time now. Of course, then there would be a lawsuit and potentially a whole “breach of contract” thing. But if the labels can wait a few months, then they can yank the videos with no issues, screwing over everyone who likes to watch their music online (instead of just listening to it).

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See, many of the major record labels’ deals with YouTube are all set to expire in 2016, meaning that YouTube could be a very different place going forward — if the record labels (which includes the three companies that comprise Vevo) decide to yank their content. Further still, this might alter the way that licensing deals are handled with the MCNs — your favorite YouTube recording artists might not be allowed to post videos utilizing popular (and copyrighted) music. Those are separate deals to be fair, but this article is all about bringing the worst possible scenarios under one umbrella. Long story short, imagine a YouTube where there is only original music.

For some people this doesn’t seem like a bad deal — Kurt Hugo Schneider and friends are making some of the best music around. But YouTube is allegedly in a panic. The question by industry insiders is: Is it enough of a panic?

Google’s current plan for its video platform is allegedly to create a paywall “opt-out” service. Meaning, going forward, you don’t have to pay for content, you have to pay for no advertisements (goodbye “Skip Now” option). But even that might just be a temporary fix — The Verge has noted that far more dire operations might be considered to keep the music labels happy: “One option being floated is keeping the music free for a certain amount of time before pulling it behind the paywall — like after an album release — but sources were quick to caution that it’s still early and nothing has been decided as of yet.”

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There’s a lot of fear from all sides here as YouTube, music labels and fans all want something from these forthcoming partnerships. Of course, no one can get everything they want and the fans, who mostly want their free access to the videos and songs they love, have the most to lose.

But fear not, gentle readers, there is a lot of money being made for both YouTube and record labels from all the views you put in. Neither side REALLY wants to lose your business or the mutually beneficial partnership that currently exists. Like the cable providers going to war with the channels, this stuff always gets worked out in some capacity.

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I just hope they don’t isolate the fans too much in the process. We’ll only take some much inconveniencing before we look for a new place to point our eyes.


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