For the past several weeks, artists and labels have been making pointed statements about YouTube and the video platform’s financial obligations to the music industry. On Thursday, YouTube took a public stance against the charges, with a blog post penned by Christophe Muller, head of YouTube international music partnerships.
The three main critiques of YouTube are that the video service hosts unlicensed music, that it underpays artists and songwriters compared with subscription streaming, and that the total money YouTube puts into the industry is disproportionate to the large volume of content consumed.
Muller gave his defense against each. He said that the Content ID program handles 99.5% of rights management issues with 99.7% accuracy; only 0.5% of the claims are reported manually. He also noted that having a song in a popular video with lots of views can mean good things for that tune’s sales and streams.
His argument takes an interesting turn when addressing the comparisons with Spotify and other subscription streaming services. Muller said that comparing YouTube with radio made more sense because of the ad-based business model. “Like radio, YouTube generates the vast majority of our revenue from advertising,” he wrote. “Unlike radio, however, we pay the majority of the ad revenue that music earns to the industry.”
Given YouTube’s debut of the YouTube Red subscription service, and the large percentage of Spotify listeners who do only use the free tier, his comparison to radio doesn’t feel quite accurate. Plus the on-demand nature of YouTube is another big dissimilarity from radio, and licensing rates for on-demand and lean-back services online are different.
Finally, he countered that despite appearances, the average YouTube user only spends one hour a month watching music on the platform.