Elton John protests YouTube’s copyright protections, then teams up with… YouTube

31 shares

If you wanted an example of the modern music business’s schizophrenic relationship with YouTube, you won’t do much better than this.

Google’s platform, with its billion-plus monthly user base, is a hugely effective promotional platform – and one which inarguable embraces the power of music.

However, it’s also a service which clearly draws music consumption away from the likes of Spotify and Apple Music – and pays much less for the privilege.

As the IFPI put it last week: “YouTube, the world’s largest on-demand music service, is not paying artists and producers anything like a fair rate for music.”

Within labels, this tension regularly results in a stand-off between marketing/promotion and business affairs departments.

It also means artists aren’t always sure how they feel about it, either.


This summer, Sir Elton John signed two prominent pro-artist petitions.

The first, inked by 186 top artists, was addressed to the US Congress.

It essentially called on lawmakers to abolish ‘safe harbor’ protections which mean YouTube cannot be held legally responsible for copyright infringement on its platform.

“[The] substantial ‘value gap’ caused by user-upload services such as Google’s YouTube… are unfairly siphoning value away from the music community and its artists and songwriters.”

Letter undersigned by Sir Elton John to European Commission

A week later, a very similar letter – once again signed by Sir Elton in addition to more than 1,000 artists – was addressed and sent to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and other key EU Commissioners

It attacked the “substantial ‘value gap’ caused by user-upload services such as Google’s YouTube that are unfairly siphoning value away from the music community and its artists and songwriters”.

Sir Elton John has just announced a new joint project with YouTube – in celebration of the 50th anniversary of his celebrated songwriting relationship with Bernie Taupin.

The venture is officially backed by the corporate group which manages the artist’s back catalogue, Universal Music Group – one of the strongest opponents of YouTube’s payouts to artists and labels in recent years.

‘Elton John: The Cut’ is a public competition, ‘supported by YouTube’, which asks people to create original music videos for three hits from the British artist – ‘Rocket Man’, ‘Tiny Dancer’ and ‘Bennie and the Jets’.

Music video entries for each of the songs will feature different artistic elements – submissions for ‘Rocket Man’ will feature animation, ‘Tiny Dancer’ will be live-action, and ‘Bennie and the Jets’ will feature choreography.


‘Elton John: The Cut’ will launch at YouTube’s end-of-year show Brandcast, hosted by James Corden today (December 12), with entries officially opening to the public on January 9, 2017.

Elton John said: “We’re excited to partner with YouTube to bring together generations of artists and music lovers around a shared passion for storytelling.

“YouTube is a rich tapestry of creativity, and I can’t wait to see how the breadth of talent from the dance, live-action and animation communities apply their vision to these cherished songs.”

“We’re excited to partner with YouTube to bring together generations of artists and music lovers around a shared passion for storytelling… YouTube is a rich tapestry of creativity.”

Sir Elton John

Together with a panel of YouTube creators plus music and industry judges, Elton John and Bernie Taupin will select three winners, and those winning entries will premiere on YouTube in the summer of 2017.

YouTube’s support provides applicants with funding and use to of the YouTube Space production facilities.


The production of the final music videos will be supported by Pulse Films – makers of Beyonce’s Emmy-nominated “Lemonade” film.

YouTube will also award the prize fund of ten thousand U.S. dollars to the winning creators to support future video-based creative projects.

Vivien Lewit, YouTube’s Global Head Artist Content & Services says: “This is a dream project that puts iconic music from a legendary artist in the hands of new creative talent, to reinvent these classic hits.

“We’re beyond thrilled to partner with Elton John and Universal.”

Vivien Lewit, YouTube

“We’re beyond thrilled to partner with Elton John and Universal to enable this program and bring to life a new way for the passionate fan community on YouTube to experience these songs that have inspired generations.”

Kurt Hugo Schneider, a filmmaker and musician with over 7.8M subscribers on YouTube, said: “I’ve been sharing my interpretation of popular songs with the world for nearly a decade on YouTube.

“I am so humbled to be part of this initiative and I can’t wait to see how Tiny Dancer is brought to life by filmmakers and music lovers alike.”

The competition closes on January 23rd.Music Business Worldwide

Related Posts

  • Why not Saturday Night’s Alright? That would have produced some crazy videos.