YouTube, Partners Needs to Work Harder to Pay Songwriters, Publishers Fairly

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(from Billboard March 19, 2013) Everyday millions of people are watching and uploading videos featuring covers of songs on YouTube. Since Billboard made the groundbreaking decision to factor YouTube views in the charts, YouTube is becoming the mainstream music business. While YouTube provides easy access to viewers, it’s hard to overlook the fact that there are currently billions of songs being streamed by millions of people daily, for which songwriters and music publishers are receiving no money.

Whenever an acoustic cover of a song goes viral on YouTube, the video will be picked up by a MCN, Multi-Channel Network. The MCN pays little or nothing to the songwriter and publishers. The MCN acquires content and then sells tens of millions of dollars of advertising, and almost none of it goes to the songwriters and publishers. The MCNs have a lot of content and they acquire it so quickly that nearly any YouTube video with an audience is now distributed by one of them. The feeling within the industry is that this practice is unfair and the practice needs to be changed.

These MCNs have been referred to as the next Cable Television. This could be a problem because Cable Television pays millions of dollars to songwriters and music publishers each year, while the MCNs pay virtually nothing.

Another concerning and unfair practice is that the rights holder of the video is unaware when they have been acquired by an MCN. There is no notification process. It is also difficult to find out if a video is being streamed by an MCN without their knowledge. YouTube does not flag MCN content. An individual search can be done to try and find a specific video, but the process is arduous given the amount of videos on YouTube, and the search can only be successful if the song name is in the video title.

Multi-Channel Networks have raised millions of dollars and millions of views, however the industry is ready for them to clean up their work and pay a fair price to songwriters and publishers for the songs they claim.