‘YouTube are under-paying and exploiting creators – and getting away with it’

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The following blog comes from Canadian singer/songwriter Nelly Furtado, who has sold more than 40m records worldwide. The Grammy Award-winner discusses the recent wave of artists standing up to YouTube over royalty payouts – and adds her name to the cause. She also directly addresses an op/ed from YouTube’s Christophe Muller which appeared on The Guardian last week.


I am a Canadian singer-songwriter and independent artist. This week I have been following the news about Google/YouTube’s debate with Sixx: A.M. (Nikki Sixx’s band) and Debbie Harry.

I applaud Katy Perry and the rest of the artists who have begun their petition on the issues. I am educating myself to understand the arguments and have found that there is certainly a lack of transparency and a lot of spinning going on. I want to outline a handful of issues because I have realized that this stuff matters, and if creators don’t fight for what’s right, who will?

“I was lucky enough to open for prince… he stood for honouring music with proper reverence.”

I was lucky enough to meet and open for Prince and see him live several times over the years.

He stood for pure music and honouring music with proper reverence. Prince’s death reminds all of us artists to wake up and smell the creative coffee and go to bat for it.

As I sit here writing this, I am listening to Zayn Malik’s new album, absolutely transported by the freedom, beauty and universality in it; certain of the work and labour put into making it great.

I am putting finishing touches on my new album right now, and I won’t stop working on it until it feels complete, much like a cabinet maker or a window cleaner would do.

We are all “working” class! This work is valid and has value! I love YouTube, but they are under-paying and exploiting creators and getting away with it.

‎I know the truth hurts, but someone’s got to tell it.

  1. YouTube needs to decide to use their Content ID system in a more productive way. It is interesting to note that they are ultra-efficient at removing anything pornographic or beyond certain limits of taste. They simply CHOOSE NOT TO for the artists’ music, publishers, and labels. Let’s hope that the new ID system doesn’t create profits for YouTube while we figure out who owns what. Let’s not forget that Google/YouTube are a TECHNOLOGY COMPANY and unquestionably have the ability and resources to solve the problem right now!
  2. With nearly double the plays of on-demand subscription services, Google/YouTube pays 1/3 the revenue to artists and labels. On a payment per user basis, it’s even worse. The average music subscription generates $62 dollars per year for artists and labels, while at YouTube it generates less than $3.50 per user.* That is 18 times lower than the average revenue per user to artists and labels than subscription music services. Saying that YouTube is used for video only is a fib, as so many people “listen” to music on You Tube sometimes-myself included! Let’s do the proper payouts! People can still have fun uploading and sharing! Just pay the creators of all this intellectual property properly, Google/YouTube-we all know you can afford to! We also know that you love music and deep down, you know this is wrong, and you WANT TO.
  3. It is ludicrous to compare Google/YouTube to radio. Radio is programmed analog streaming. You can’t turn on the radio and choose any song in the world and instantly hear it. You can’t share a video with friends, subscribe to an artist, or comment on a video. Radio in most of the rest of the world has paid artists handsomely. U.S. radio is in the company of countries such as North Korea, China, and Iran in not paying artists for their use of music, and considering how much money music generates for the U.S. radio mega-corporations, that’s a disgrace too. And while it is true that Google/YouTube pays more than nothing that DOES NOT MAKE IT FAIR.
  4. Even Pandora, a service that programs music like radio (not on-demand music like YouTube), and is also largely ad-supported, pays around TWICE AS MUCH to artists and labels as YouTube does. Statutory government licenses, that include, Pandora, are also audio-only. They offer so much less than YouTube yet pay double what YouTube pays.

Music is the greatest single contributor to happiness. It’s time music creators got the revenue they deserve from Google’s YouTube.

Let’s stop the spinning and let’s focus on fairness from both sides. Stop confusing the fans and consumers by putting creators like Debby Harry and Nikki Sixx on blast for questioning your practices. Let’s dispense the details and numbers, which can be confusing.

The independent community is asking for a minimum per-view guarantee at least as great as existing services that have a free tier, if not greater, because video has a higher value than just audio.

“It is ludicrous to compare Google/YouTube to radio.”

Finally, the independent artists and labels are only asking parity with the major music labels. Our music is as valuable as theirs.

We are all artists. We are all songwriters. We all have a voice.

From one independent artist to every artist, let’s fight for the future of what Prince helped to create: The Holy Church Of Music.

My message to You Tube/Google is— put a little more in the collection basket when you come pray here please. Amen.Music Business Worldwide

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  • Akshay chandra

    Dont they know that YouTube runs on Ad words, not record sales. Many You Tubers earn millions through views and monitization. Consider Lindsay Sterling – She earned millions through YouTube.
    The thing is, Nikki Sixx, Nelly, Katy Perry are earning through live shows, record sales, and promotion. The amount they earn from YouTube is only for their viewership. Artist who are not as great as Nelly furtado have literally million more views than her.
    All they want is – IF ANYONE LISTENS TO THEIR SONG ON YOU TUBE, THEY MUST EARN $0.99/song. Commons,,say this straight forward. Dont go into Content ID and all shit just to promote your new album @nikkiSixx. Poor PR gimmick you guys make even after earning millions. YOU WANT MORE
    what about music artists who dont have a platform, dont have a record deal, dont have a stage? – These guys make money though YouTube monitizations. They are proud representative for it. They get gigs in music festivals all due to their music videos getting viral. What about all those indie singers who are making music in their garage?
    Fuck you you termites of music industry. You should have raised your voice when you were nothing – when you had no deals.
    Think about it – will you.
    Tweeting is easy, thinking twice is hard – especially for you multi millionaires.

    • PJ Wassermann

      What a stupid bullshit! Are you a paid Google troll?

      • Nick White

        Yeah, you can tell who’s got the more substantive argumentation: the person who automatically yells “troll” at a comment he/she doesn’t like. Please do better. If you didn’t catch my sarcasm, I don’t know what to tell you.

        • PJ Wassermann

          Sarcasm is a matter of luck. Most of the time it’s misunderstood. Better say directly what you think.