YouTube Music Key Not Done Drawing Criticism from Indies

Marc Hogan

By Marc Hogan

Lead News Writer
on 01.23.15 in News

Last fall, Google rolled out a new music streaming service, YouTube Music Key, a spinoff from the tech giant’s familiar video platform. The Spotify-like offering arrived only after a forceful pushback from indie labels, which used their Adele- and Arctic Monkeys-sized clout to keep deal talks open until days before the launch. That means YouTube has agreements with the major labels and indies alike — but not necessarily musicians who are 100 percent independent. And at least one prominent do-it-yourselfer has now aired fresh criticisms of the company’s approach.

Google is pressuring cellist Zoë Keating to agree to its terms for Music Key or else have her YouTube channel blocked, she claims in a blog post. That means she would also lose control over her “Content ID,” which musicians can use to earn money when other people use their music in YouTube videos. According to her blog post, the YouTube music services agreement lasts for five years, and it would require her to include all of her catalogue in both the free and paid tiers and release her music on YouTube no later than she posts it on Bandcamp or other sites, among other conditions.

“I can’t think of another streaming service that makes such demands.” Keating writes. “It’s one thing for individuals to upload all my music for free listening (it doesn’t bother me). It’s another thing entirely for a major corporation to force me to. I was encouraged to participate and now, after I’m invested, I’m being pressured into something I don’t want to do.”

Keating drew national media attention a couple of years ago when she disclosed how much streaming services were paying her in royalties for her music. On Pandora, more than 1.5 million plays in a six-month span added up to less than $1,700. On Spotify, 131,000 plays totaled less than $550.

That level of detail has carried over to Keating’s discussion of the YouTube deal terms. Her channel has 19 videos with almost 520,000 total views since she joined the service in 2007. According to her blog post, though, Content ID shows almost 10K third-party videos using her music, generating 250K views last month alone. She says she also has roughly 250K monthly plays on Pandora, which result in payments of roughly $324, including royalties for both songwriting and the recording. Keating says she can’t reveal how much YouTube pays her for a comparable number of plays without violating her agreement with the service.

Read Keating’s full post here.