Independent labels will confirm at a press conference in London today that they are seeking emergency assistance from the European Commission (EC) in their battle with YouTube over a licence for the video giant’s new audio streaming service.
The ongoing dispute between The Worldwide Independent Network, (WIN), which represents the global independent music community, and YouTube has further escalated, with the Google-owned company refusing to withdraw its threats to labels unwilling to sign up to its new music streaming service on what WIN has previously called “highly unfavourable terms.”
YouTube continues to approach individual independent labels directly with a non-negotiable template contract and an explicit threat that their content will be blocked on the platform if it is not signed.
The Featured Artists Coalition, representing numerous high profile musicians as well as emerging artists, has also joined WIN in calling for measures to stop YouTube abusing its market power over independent music companies and artists.
IMPALA, the European independents association, will be spearheading a complaint with the European Commission, a decision taken this weekend by the IMPALA board in Barcelona at Primavera, the leading music festival where over 90% of the artists are independent.
The complaint will include a request for urgent intervention to stop YouTube carrying out any blocking measures or issuing new threats. Regulatory action is seen as an essential safeguard against abusive conduct and to promote real competition and diversity in the digital music market.
Helen Smith, Executive Chair of IMPALA, said "YouTube is behaving like a dinosaur, attempting to censor what it doesn’t like. This is completely out of synch in Europe where the EC has systematically insisted that European citizens should be able to access the cultural diversity and choice they demand. Europe has already had to take a tough line with Google on issues such as search and privacy. Prompt intervention with YouTube must be the next step."
Musician Billy Bragg added, “YouTube are shooting themselves in the foot with their attempt to strong-arm independent labels into signing up to such low rates. They're in danger of launching a streaming service that lacks the innovative and cutting edge sounds that independent artists bring. Would music fans be willing to pay for such an inferior product? I don’t think so.”
FAC Co-Chair, Ed O’Brien from Radiohead said, "Indie artists and labels are at the cutting edge of the future of music. To restrict them in this way is to risk creating an internet just for the superstars and big businesses. Without the innovation and risk-taking of the Indie Sector we lose a vital ingredient in pushing us all forward."
Alison Wenham, CEO of WIN and Chairman of AIM (Association of Independent Music, UK), said “We will start this process in Europe with IMPALA referring YouTube to the EC for urgent regulatory action, which will be the first step in a global campaign. Our fellow trade associations around the world, representing tens of thousands of independent companies, also take issue with the actions of YouTube towards the most creative sector in the music industry. We must therefore do everything we can to protect the independent sector from the actions of one very powerful company, which seeks to railroad content owners, and by association their artists, into unfair and unjust contracts while threatening to block access to their platform. “
Mark Chung, a board member of German independent music trade association Verband unabhängiger Musikunternehmen (VUT) added, “If there ever was a need for further evidence of Google’s willingness and ability to abuse its market dominance, this is a particularly blatant and despicable case. Coming from a corporation whose armies of lobbyists, PR agents and paid bloggers tirelessly spin their corporate interests as supporting “free speech” and opposing “censorship”, the removal of legal music videos with the objective of extending the corporation’s dominance to a further young, fledging market is beyond cynical. We look to Joaquin Almunia to move to resolve this. Of course the wider Google issue will also require adequate new regulatory legislation and serious consideration of a break-up of this spying, lying and out-of-control monopoly.”