Death Knell for YouTube?

08 Aug

This CNN Money article by Paul LaMonica addresses the recent class-action lawsuit against YouTube by members of the National Music Publishers Association. This joins Viacom’s billion dollar copyright infringement lawsuit against Google and YouTube.

Now I understand artists and songwriters concern over copyright infringement, but I think they are stuck in the old model. While many experts believe that “big media” clips on YouTube only account for a fraction of the actual videos, the fact that they host and provide vids of musical artists and sporting events causes those owners to claim foul.

My question is are they shooting themselves in the foot by trying to curb people’s enthusiasm? As with music files, is it more important to protect the artists involved by restricting ALL usage for pay that provides minimal exposure and/or return to the artist? Or, is it more beneficial to the artists to have people exposed to the music so that they actually spend more money on the music through concerts, merchandise and maybe even some music to support artists that they enjoy?

I know these are rhetorical questions, but I’d like others’ opinions on this issue. This isn’t going away and for some bloggers (like yours truly), it would take away the main purpose of the blog — to share music with others. So, give it to me straight….are we jeopardizing artists’ livelihoods by not paying to use their material or do we actually enhance revenue opportunities for artists by writing about them and exposing performances to others?

ETA:  Here’s an MSNBC article on super-duper technology that will at the very least, limit, some of the vids….digital fingerprint?

Beck said the video recognition technology will allow those holding copyrights on videos to provide a digital fingerprint so that if anyone tries to share a copyrighted video, the system will shut it down within a minute or so.

I’m really tech ignorant when it comes to this, so…..How do it know?  I mean, if someone tapes an HBO special on DVR, then uploads it to YouTube, will the digital fingerprint be passed from broadcast to DVR to YouTube, then gotcha?  I can sort of see TV shows but this really doesn’t address alot of music vids, right?  Damn, my head hurts….

ETA2:  Bob Lefsetz’s take from a couple of months back.


Posted by on August 8, 2007 in Music Today, YouTube


22 responses to “Death Knell for YouTube?

  1. Dingo

    August 8, 2007 at 8:05 am

    My question is are they shooting themselves in the foot by trying to curb people’s enthusiasm?

    Oh HELL yes! I cant even count the songs I have downloaded from iTunes OR liked so much that I went and bought the CD because of You Tube. Patty Griffin is just one of several that I was able to see perform on You Tube as well as Lizz Wright.

    Its a different day today. Its an electronic, instant knowledge and instant gratification age. You cant unring that bell.

    If I listen to and watch a performance by a relative unknown via You Tube and I LIKE what I hear, I will go out and buy what I like. Its that simple.

    If You Tube is crushed then I will be too.

    >> Or, is it more beneficial to the artists to have people exposed to the music so that they actually spend more money on the music through concerts, merchandise and maybe even some music to support artists that they enjoy?>>

    For me thats just a no brainer. Its clearly more beneficial for the artist. JMHO. Im rarely without one.

  2. brc

    August 8, 2007 at 8:37 am

    I agree with you and Dingo wholeheartedly. It is VERY shortsighted to think that they are protecting profits by removing their artists videos from these websites. In fact, I believe they are doing the opposite.

    When I hear about a new artist I immediately do a search to watch a few videos. Like Dingo, that often prompts an iTunes purchase. However more importantly, it prompts me to e-mail friends and family with the link so that they too can discover that artist… and presumably others will buy the music as well… and then they may pass on the links… and so on, and so on.

    How many times have you done a search for a specific song or musician then been drawn to other videos and other songs for that person/band? What other forum can allow the public to explore a musician’s work in this way? Do they really think that viewing videos on YouTube is replacing purchases? It’s absurd.

  3. huckleberryfriend

    August 8, 2007 at 8:46 am

    YouTube is a lot like MTV was 30 years ago, except about a million times more powerful. Artists, producers, and record labels thought creating music videos for MTV was a good way to sell albums, so why are they afraid of YouTube.

    I get a fair number of comments on my blog that ask “Does anyone know where I can buy …” So my observational position is the same as Dingo’s and brc’s.

    I think they will be very sorry if they kill all this free publicity they are getting from YouTube and blogs that repost these videos. I am not in CD buying mode right now, but my wishlist on Amazon is getting pretty long from all the discoveries I have made on YouTube.

  4. music maven

    August 8, 2007 at 8:51 am

    Ok, I hear what you all are saying, but what about those old videos of like, Stevie Wonder, where he’s not getting paid for you to view that performance. Stevie is an icon, but does seeing those vids for free, help or hurt Stevie in the end?

    While it’s great for unknown and new artists what about the established artist?

    And, is it different for live, bootlegged videos like all the Taylor stuff? If so, why?

    (Just being a little Beelzeebub’s lawyer.)

  5. brc

    August 8, 2007 at 9:22 am

    “….does seeing those vids for free help or hurt Stevie in the end?”
    “While it’s great for unknown and new artists, what about the established artist?”

    Can’t imagine how it could hurt an established artist like Stevie Wonder or anyone else. I mean is anyone out there trying to sell DVDs of old Stevie Wonder performances? IMHO, established artists need to keep their names out there to stay current and top-of-mind. I mean certain artists like Justin Timberlake and John Mayer are SO popular right now that they probably don’t need it, but I don’t see how it could hurt other artists that aren’t in that league.

    “Is it different for live, bootlegged videos like all the Taylor stuff?”

    Well IMHO the live bootlegged stuff is what keeps Taylor’s career (and that of others like him) afloat. It keeps people interested. It gives bloggers like MM an opportunity to promote his music. It gives people like me the chance to share what I love about Taylor with others (who haven’t seen him live). Imagine that Taylor’s team pulled down every bootlegged video (and audio for that matter) that was made of his performances. How would he get his name and his work out there? It would depend on the delivery of his message and his music through his official media vehicles (the fact that his official sites are worthless is beside the point). This would likely diminish the size of the audience substantially.

    Word-of-mouth is proven to be one of the most highly effective marketing tools. YouTube enables word-of-mouth (for good and bad) in an exponential fashion.

    Fighting this fight is “shooting themselves in the foot” in its finest form.

  6. Little Deb

    August 8, 2007 at 9:24 am

    Morning. I’ll chime in for the “older artists”. As most of you know, I’m technologically old fashioned and don’t have an ipod, etc. So, I still buy cd’s. In the past six months I’ve purchased Sam Moore “Overnight Sensational”, Jerry Lee Lewis “Last Man Standing” and JJ Cale and Eric Clapton “Road to Escondido”. I would have never known any of these cd’s existed if not for sites like yours and youtube. I did not even realize who JJ Cale or Sam Moore were. I’m also a big fan of “greatest hit” cd’s. Over the past year or so, I’ve purchased quite a few of these by “older” artists specifically because someone posted a youtube of an old song and I then listened to/watched it and was led to other songs by that artist, etc. It would bring back a cool music memory and I’d be off to the “record store” (I miss Tower Records) to purchase “greatest hit” cd’s. Once at the record store, I would spend even more time looking for other older artists that I had not heard in a long time and purchase their cd’s.

    I certainly don’t hear a lot of the music I like most on the radio since I listen to classic rock mostly and while I like the stuff, I already have a lot of what and who they play.

    Another thing about the youtube stuff that gets me to purchase new cd’s is that the sound quality of a lot of the videos is not great and since I don’t have the ipod, mp3 or port to hook them up to my stereo, I would much rather buy a cd so I can listen to the song(s)on my very good stereo.

    I was at a camping party this past weekend with a lot (about 75 people) of other 45 to 70 year old music lovers and was surprised to learn that a majority of these people did not download music either, but were thankful for youtube and music sites because that is where they found new music or forgotten old music which led them to go to a concert or purchase a cd. As a matter of fact a lot of us exchanged e-mail addresses so that we could send each other youtube videos or links to sites like this one to share some music.

  7. Dingo

    August 8, 2007 at 10:05 am

    While it’s great for unknown and new artists what about the established artist?

    I think this is a win/win situ. If your already an established artist, you want to cement that success in the minds of future generations I would think. Stevie isnt exactly what young kids buy today and it would behoove him and all other well established musicians to remain in the public eye via any means possible. Watching a Video of someone I think makes great music will never replace seeing them in person or having their music on my iPod.

    And while Mayer and Timberlake may be enormously popular right now, that popularity will ebb and flow as the years go by and I should think they would be greatful for You Tube then.

    As for one of my favorite subjects, Taylor, are you kidding me? Three quarters of the people I talk to either dont know who he is or have never heard him perofrm except on Idol. I sit them down in front of my computer, I get You Tube up or some other video I captured and I sit back while they enjoy the wonder of this unknown musician. Unknown at least to them before I introduced them to my obsession.

    Its a win/win all the way around IMO.

  8. brc

    August 8, 2007 at 10:10 am

    Well said Dingo!

  9. Dingo

    August 8, 2007 at 10:14 am

    Smiles at brc…”tanks”.

  10. colette

    August 8, 2007 at 10:28 am

    Well, you’ve certainly struck a nerve with everyone!

    Yes, I’m heartily agreeing too with Dingo, Hucklberry et al, that youtube and other video sites (which would probably just take over from youtube until they got busted also) are a very positive development for most musicians.

    If the site were mainly allowing you to download the songs themselves free, in mint studio condition to your Ipod or a CD, ok I see the point of rigorous artistic property protection. I thought the action against Napster, for instance, was justified.

    But the music stuff on youtube ranges from fuzzy old clips of very old TV shows, to sophisticated videos made for promoting acts, to snippets of hand-held cell phone-mad films at concerts.

    The mainstream music industry is in the dumpster lately. And unless they let people , younger and older, have the opportunity to enjoy what we now rarely see on TV or hear on the radio, and many can’t afford to see live, then it’s going to plunge further.

    With all the consolidation, and the severe limiting of genres, labels and artists on the airwaves (tell it, Shemekeia: “Who stole my radio?”), the music industry has to blame itself for a lot of the erosion of CD and concert ticket sales. Instead, they are trying to eke out some additional royalties on things like old copies of the “Ed Sullivan Show” and “David Letterman.” And people ain’t gonna pay for that.

    I’ve not only bought numerous albums thanks to youtube, dailymotion, etc., like Little Deb, but I’ve also attended concerts because of exposure to indy artists on the web. There is literally no other way many very talented folks can create some groundswell for their music. Sure, they can put up their own sites with videos. But youtube is the grand bazaar where one can cruise and stumble across many gems.

    There are two sides to this, for sure. Like actors who legitimately demand royalties when their shows are in reruns, musicians should be renmumerated fairly for their work. But I consider youtube to be in the “promotions” category, and for many artists it’s advertising they couldn’t buy.

    One additional thing: youtube is a political platform too, where the next day or next hour you can hear a political speech, debate, whatever. Given the current sad state of the newspaper business due to media deregulation in the Clinton Administration (don’t get me started on that one), and the trivial nature of most of what’s on TV, net video sites have become an important forum for our democracy. Shutting them down is really throwing out the baby & the bathwater & the basinette…..

  11. music maven

    August 8, 2007 at 10:31 am

    So, if these vids are so good for the artist, why would some be so vehemently opposed from the aspect of copyright infringement?

    Also, isn’t it a bit disingenious to use YouTube as a promotional vehicle by uploading legal music vids for promotion, but then scream injustice when other performance vids are hosted on this kind of medium?

    Or is it simply the labels and music industry in general that are pushing the cause under the guise of “protecting the artist”?

  12. morewines

    August 8, 2007 at 10:50 am

    What I’m not hearing is from the artist. I would be curious to know how they feel about this. After all, it is their music.

  13. leejolem

    August 8, 2007 at 12:25 pm

    Morewines, that was my thought exactly! Who/what exactly is the NMPA, and do they really represent what the artists want? I agree with Colette that this is “advertising they couldn’t buy”.

  14. music maven

    August 8, 2007 at 12:37 pm

    click here—> NMPA

    So, is it really an issue of songwriters’ royalties than actual performers? Do they really expect to get royalties every time that song is sung or performed? What if I whistle it at home?

  15. brc

    August 8, 2007 at 12:58 pm

    Curious about how the artists feel, I was just reading a few articles about this and it appears that it goes beyond royalties. It seems some of the artists want in on Google/YouTube’s ad revenues. As an example… Dave Grisman (former member of the Grateful Dead) is suing YouTube (see clip from an Associated Press article below). Maybe there’s more to it than we realize?

    From the Associated Press: “A mandolin player who recorded with The Grateful Dead is suing YouTube for posting his videos illegally. David Grisman, nicknamed “Dawg” by former Dead guitarist and singer Jerry Garcia, filed the copyright infringement lawsuit May 10 in federal court in San Francisco.

    Grisman and business partner Craig Miller, who run the San Rafael-based studio Acoustic Disc, said the case is about helping independent musicians whose music is distributed without their authorization by YouTube’s owner Google, Inc.

    They say they deserve an unspecified amount of money from the hits — and advertising revenue — that that Google gets from their clips.
    “We are looking out for ourselves and all the other people like us — musicians and independent publishers,” Miller told The Associated Press on Tuesday.”

  16. colette

    August 8, 2007 at 1:05 pm

    Maybe, then, the answer is for youtube to pay a modest royalty to artists, as radio stations do everytime they play a recording. But guess what? There’s a price for everything, and nobody wants their profit margin to shrink. So instead we have a youtube that features an ad before every video, the way more commercial sites now do. you have to listen/watch some crap for 30 seconds before the song comes on. It’s an annoyance, but maybe a solution?

  17. huckleberryfriend

    August 8, 2007 at 1:17 pm

    The argument can certainly be made that it is not fair (or probably legal) for Google/YouTube to profit from copyrighted material without the permission of the copyright owner. YouTube will probably end up paying so much a hit to copyright holders who request it.

    But like most things, this comes down to power and money. What will happen to the music industry when musicians figure out how to promote their music, book engagements, post videos, promote tours, etc. with just a couple of Internet savvy people instead of a whole stable of overpaid music executives?

    The music industry is just trying to protect their jobs, but the Internet is going to drastically change this industry just like it has changed most others.

    I have seen several articles recently about independent music companies being started on the basis of being musician friendly. I wonder how many musicians would choose a musician friendly company and lower revenues over the current structure.

  18. music maven

    August 8, 2007 at 2:38 pm

    But isn’t the crux of the suit that YouTube has complied with all requests to take down any copyrighted material? Is it encumbent upon them to police their site to be proactive in permitting people to upload certain things? Does all the fun then go away?

    Also, huck, I think that there isn’t lower revenue TO THE ARTIST in an indie situation. On the contrary, I think they get more of a cut per record. The labels argue, however, that indie can’t get them widespread acclaim and distribution. They bring quantity while indie brings quality. If indie can bridge the quantity gap — as many seem to be doing with alternative promotion — then, the business course is forever altered.

    See Elliott Yamin.

  19. huckleberryfriend

    August 8, 2007 at 3:17 pm

    MM – Did you see this?

    Silverman also said that it was worth noting that despite the NMPA’s decision to sue Google and YouTube, the four major record labels — Sony BMG, which is co-owned by Sony (SNE) and German media firm Bertelsmann, Vivendi-owned Universal Music, EMI Group (EMIPY) and Warner Music Group (WMG) all have licensing agreements with YouTube.

  20. Colette

    August 8, 2007 at 5:16 pm

    my head is spinning. it’s said, in my ole hippy brain, that music is coming to this….

  21. Colette

    August 8, 2007 at 5:16 pm

    I meant “SAD.” You know — as in saddddd…..

  22. shrewspeaks

    August 8, 2007 at 10:04 pm

    Awe I am sooooo late to this party. What a great discussion!!!

    From a purely selfish point…I don’t want to miss out on clips from Dick Cavett or Midnight Special or Shindig…the way I have been using it is more of an educations/reconnection with musical greats. These clips, some club pieces of the very rare kind, are the only digital archives available to the public. I would hate to see that zapped away by some pinstripe.


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