Indies Face No-Win Situation

The Worldwide Independent Network has raised major concerns about YouTube’s recent policy to block the content of members who do not sign a new music streaming agreement.

WIN says YouTube’s approach is “unnecessary and indefensible.” WIN says its member labels collectively represent the second-largest global market share after Universal. YouTube – which is soon expected to launch a new music streaming service – has apparently negotiated separate agreements with major labels Sony, Warner and Universal.

However, it’s yet to reach any substantive agreement with WIN members.

WIN and IMPALA, the European indies association that shares its views, are worried YouTube will continue its 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.

“Our members are small businesses who rely on a variety of income streams to invest in new talent. They 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,” said WIN chief exec Alison Wenham, who also chairs the UK’s Association of Independent Music. YouTube’s non-negotiable offered rate is said to be under that available from WIN’s existing music streaming partners such as Spotify, Rdio, Deezer, and others.

“This is not a fair way to do business,” Wenham said. “WIN questions any actions by any organization that would seek to injure and punish innocent labels and musicians – and their innocent fans – in order to pursue its ambitions.”

Wenham says the issue has “uncomfortable echoes” of similar behaviour by MTV 10 years ago, which chose initially to take a similar approach in undervaluing the independent sector, but who subsequently concluded a deal on fair terms, which lasts to this day.

So far nearly two dozen of WIN’s national organizations have backed its stance of calling for YouTube to reconsider its position or presumably toughing it out.