Indie artists aren’t just bearded gentlemen with experimental guitar riffs and emotional lyrics – indie artists are (nearly) everyone who makes any kind of music without being hitched to one of the handful major labels (Universal, Sony, or Warner Brothers – or their subsidiaries). Even belting pop starlets in matching dresses are independent if they haven’t signed a deal with a major label. Why does this matter? Because the Google-owned powerhouse YouTube is making some big changes, and it’s going to affect a lot of musicians.
Indie artists use YouTube to promote themselves, reach new fans, send messages to their fan base, and get their music into the ears of people who want to hear it. And it doesn’t cost them anything. Anyone can post their music to the site and benefit from it by making themselves more well-known – and some people even get famous this way. But those days may soon be over.
Changes are Coming
YouTube wants to compete with other music streaming services and be able to turn a profit. The video sharing website’s new model, rumored to be called ‘Music Pass,’ will make users pay for a premium service to skip commercials and download music, among other perks. The current version where users watch videos for free, as long as they can sit through an advertisement, will still be available.
But labels don’t get off that easy. Record labels must strike a licensing deal with YouTube in order to be included in the ‘Music Pass’ world. Any label who doesn’t sign a licensing agreement will be left off ‘Music Pass,’ and it seems, the free version of YouTube as well. Indie labels are refusing to make this deal because they have not been offered the same deal as the ‘big three.’
Whether or not YouTube actually goes through with pulling indie label videos remains to be seen – but if the company does decide to play hardball, indie favorites will all be gone from the most popular video destination on the web.
What Does This Mean
This means indie label videos will disappear from the most popular video platform on the web.
“If YouTube takes the independent labels and independent artists for granted, it will be a huge mistake,” says Gary Alan, creator of video-driven music discovery site TalentWatch. “As far as we’re concerned, they are even more important than the major labels and the smaller pool of artists they represent. In fact, this could open up some eyes to what we’re doing at TalentWatch.”
If all goes to plan, independent music won’t be on YouTube – if you want to see and hear new singers and artists, better start searching through video sites like TalentWatch, Reverbnation or Vimeo. It is still unclear whether artists who aren’t on a label will be affected, though the YouTube backlash may be strong enough for new talent to take their videos elsewhere. These changes are supposed to happen within the next few weeks, so online video viewers won’t be in the dark for long.