The following open letter comes from Nikki Sixx and his fellow bandmates in Sixx:A.M (pictured). The group claims that YouTube music/licensing boss Robert Kyncl recently met with independent music reps in the US to try and stop an ongoing public protest by artists against the Google platform’s royalty payments. But, Sixx:A.M argues, they haven’t seen enough action since…
The sound of musicians knocking on YouTube’s door demanding change is growing ever louder.
Recently, as a result of action and statements made by artists as diverse as Sixx:A.M., Debbie Harry, Nelly Furtado, Jay Z, Garth Brooks, Katy Perry, Stephen Tyler and Billy Joel, YouTube’s CBO Robert Kyncl met with independent artist representatives and asked them to help pause this protest in return for action.
No action has been taken, meetings have been postponed, emails remain unanswered.
The lack of action has hit a sour note with musicians, so we will be RENEWING OUR PROTESTS and taking the issue into our own hands.
So we are now appealing to you Mr. Page, as a saxophone player who ironically credits his love of music as the inspiration behind the success of the world’s most valuable company, to step up. As the man who coined the slogans, ‘Don’t Be Evil’ and ‘Do The Right Thing,’ we want you take your own advice before irreparable damage is done to the future of artists around the world.
Artists from every genre are finding it impossible to pursue their art in a world dominated by YouTube.
Without changes, young musicians will no longer be able to make music for a living and the next generation of fans will be robbed of great artists. Dreams of breaking into the music industry will effectively be unattainable.
In case you have not heard, here is a summary of complaints:
- YouTube unfairly pays artists and labels an estimated 1/6 of what its competitors, Spotify and Apple pay
- Recent data revealed that vinyl sales contribute more to the music industry than advert funded streaming services, a market which YouTube dominates
- YouTube claims to have paid $3 billion to the music industry to date. Spotify contributed $1 billion alone in 2015 according to the IFPI and while Spotify pays $18 per user per year, YouTube pays less than $1
- Even these funds are released only if the artist has a deal with YouTube, but unlike other services, the artist cannot choose whether they are on YouTube or not. Much of their material has already been illegally uploaded.
- Artists are faced with a choice: Either license content to YouTube for a fraction of what should be paid and enjoy limited protection from YouTube’s content ID systems or be forced to issue take down notices for every single infringement on the system. Many including 5 time Grammy Award winning composer Maria Sneider, argue that this amounts to racketeering (https://musictechpolicy.com/2016/05/15/guest-post-by-schneidermaria-open-letter-to-youtube-pushers-of-piracy/)
- This disproportionately affects independent and new artists who have their copyrights illegally exploited for free and cannot make a living from the music they create
- YouTube make a big show of offering to pay legal fees for users wrongly hit with ‘take down’ orders, while offering no protection to the vast majority of artists whose material is illegally uploaded (http://www.theverge.com/2015/11/19/9760370/youtube-copyright-legal-fees). They name and shame copyright holders who ask for their illegally uploaded material to be taken down. This actively encourages illegal uploads
- The antiquated Safe Harbor provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) allows YouTube to operate in this way, protected from prosecution for illegal uploads while basing its business model on them
- The total 2015 revenue of Google was $75 billion. The total annual revenue of the global music business, in comparison, is less than $15 billion. And yet music is the biggest driver of YouTube’s business – 82% of users are on YouTube to access music (IFPI). Google makes money from selling its users’ data to advertisers including those consuming music on YouTube
Mr. Page, in Fortune magazine you stated that you felt that your ‘music training lead to the high speed legacy of Google’.
Plenty of musicians are hoping for a high speed resolution to this dispute and to this unfair system.
Please act before it is too late.
Sixx:A.M. – James Michael, Nikki Sixx, DJ Ashba and artists worldwide
UPDATE: YouTube Responds
YouTube, which is believed to be in active discussions with label representatives who have direct deals with YouTube, has issued the following response to Sixx:A.M’s letter:
“The voices of the artists are being heard, and we’re working through details with the labels and independent music organisations who directly manage the deals with us.
“Having said that, YouTube has paid out over $3 billion to the music industry, despite being a platform that caters to largely light music listeners who spend an average of one hour per month consuming music – far less than an average Spotify or Apple Music user.
“Any comparisons of revenue from these platforms are apples and oranges.”Music Business Worldwide