YouTube is skill in music

YouTube is blocking all music videos from its service in the UK from today, due to a disagreement with the Performing Right Society (PRS). YouTube has clashed with other media owners in the past too, and there seems to be no end to the disagreements that could be had between old and new media. Having been a full member of the PRS myself since 1984, I am of course, torn between the two viewpoints, as I can see the arguments for both sides. Forget about the very small percentage of mega-stars who earn an absolute fortune when they enjoy chart success with a string of number ones. The majority of musicians struggle to make a small living from the royalties on the number of plays of their songs, administered through PRS, and sometimes this is their only income.

I remember when I was a semi-professional musician, on a low income - having spent a small fortune on amplification, instruments and lighting - trying to recoup some at least back from recording and selling my own songs (that's me pictured playing in 1983 with my trusty Gibson Les Paul). The initial outlay was alarming, with studio and production costs very steep. Travelling to gigs, marketing and upkeep of equipment and instruments was an ongoing hidden cost. It was an expensive business to be in.

On one occasion, a whole group of 'fans' came up to me after a gig and told me how much they enjoyed listening to the tracks I had released on cassette tape. This may sound strange to you but it made me quite angry. You see, I had never released cassette tapes of those tracks, only vinyl disks, so the cassette tapes were illegal copies of my music. I had certainly dug deep into my own pockets to record and produce the disks, but someone had gotten hold of one and copied it, and was distributing it. It was as if someone had stolen something from me, which in a way, they had. 'I think you probably owe me some money' I thought, but didn't say. 'Home taping is killing music' was a slogan probably originating somewhere in the bowels of the PRS. Now the mantra might be 'YouTube is killing music', but this would not be totally accurate, as there is strong evidence that playouts on YouTube and other social web sites can actually increase the sales and downloads of music. We are caught in the maelstrom of a paradigm shift, with a collision of the old and new media. The question is not whether YouTube should be able to play these music videos. The only thing we really need to decide is how to get payments from playouts, whatever the medium, into the pockets of those hard working and very deserving musicians and songwriters. Please think again YouTube.

Comments

nirvanerd said…
Which side of the fence are you coming down on here Steve?

I can see what you mean about YouTube ‘stealing’ the music, but the internet is also doing wonders for up and coming musicians, just look at the number of bands on My Space. Also YouTube can make people famous such as the Starwars boy, again this would be helpful for lesser known musicians.

I do think putting other peoples stuff on YouTube is quite different to stealing it to make yourself a profit (as you mentioned someone was doing with your music). The internet is always going to have copyright issues, some people are more willing to steal their music and videos online than others but how many times have you asked to use a photo or picture before using it? Is this not the same?
Steve Wheeler said…
Thanks for your comments Nick. Look at the very last line of my post and you will see which side I come down on.

As for using other people's photos off the web, I don't think there is a clear comparison with music. It would take me anywhere from 3-30 hours to write a 'good' song, sometimes even longer to polish it and get it right. Then there would be a further 10-30 hours rehearsing and recording it, and then the post-production time and remixing. Say nothing about the production and marketing costs on top, and you will see why musicians get so annoyed when people simply download or copy their material in a few seconds and then use it or pass it on without any reward going back to the musician.

Most images on the web have taken nothing like as much effort to produce (I know, I am also a photographer myself) but that is not the real point. My point is this: Many images on the web are now covered by creative commons licensing, which, provided you acknowledge the source an comply with the agreements, are there to use. All of my images on the web are in this category, and I don't worry about sharing them with others if they are of some use - all I ask is that they simply acknowledge me as the source.

You will note that on all my recent blog posts I have been doing just that - acknowledged the image source website, which may in turn drive my readers to the source site. In this way we help each other on the social web. I share my knowledge and images with you, you reciprocate. Music will go this way too eventually, but at the moment I fear, there are too many struggling musicians out there who would benefit from people playing fair and giving music its due.

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