Radiohead, Billy Bragg join fray against YouTube

The Times Online reports a group of artists will gather in the U.K. on Wednesday to protest the "bad treatment" they've received from record labels and YouTube.

Update 6:30 p.m.: To include insight on from industry sources.

The fight between YouTube and a U.K. music royalties group appears to be heating up as Radiohead, Billy Bragg, and Robbie Williams have come out against YouTube.

"We absolutely agree that artists and writers should be paid from the advertising revenue earned from their content on YouTube," said YouTube in a statement. "That is precisely what we are offering the PRS."
--YouTube statement

Williams, KT Tunstall, and the members of the rock band Radiohead will meet Wednesday with other marquee music performers to protest "at how badly they are treated by record companies and music streaming Web sites like YouTube," according to a report in the Times Online, a U.K. publication. The artists will gather as part of a newly formed group called the Featured Artists Coalition.

YouTube announced Monday that the Web's largest video site and Britain's Performance Rights Society couldn't reach a deal on licensing fees and YouTube had stopped streaming music in the U.K. The PRS collects royalties on behalf of the music industry in that country. Music radio station Pandora has already fled the U.K. and MySpace reportedly may also pull out.

"Google, YouTube's owner, is a company that makes billions in profits," Bragg told the Web publication. "We think they should be paying artist royalties from the advertising revenue they make. A dispute like this illustrates the needs for the creation of the Featured Artists Coalition, so we have a voice and the public understand that sites like Google should be paying for music."

But YouTube said in a response that the artists shouldn't have a beef with the video site.

"We absolutely agree that artists and writers should be paid from the advertising revenue earned from their content on YouTube," said YouTube in a statement. "That is precisely what we are offering the PRS."

Representatives from the music acts and the FAC were not immediately available for comment.

YouTube is not the only company that Bragg and Radiohead went after. MySpace and Nokia were also called out in the Times Online story.

"The music companies did a deal with Nokia recently," said Radiohead guitarist Ed O'Brien. "They could launch phones with access to all sorts of music. We think they all received advances from Nokia, but nobody is saying who got what--and we think some of that money should go to the artists."

My sources within the music sector say that the PRS is taking a hardline stance. Some U.K. label executives are quietly hoping that the PRS will make a deal.

One of the issues that may be facing YouTube, MySpace, Pandora and other services that stream songs over the Web is that recent studies have shown streaming is cannibalizing music sales, industry sources say. The labels have partnered with streaming services hoping that they would generate big advertising bucks and also promote sales.

That's not the way it has worked out and you can learn more in this story from Douglas MacMillan at BusinessWeek.

MacMillan wrote: "Researchers and industry consultants say online music sites are being used by a growing number of listeners as a substitute for purchasing music rather than serving as a catalyst for more purchases."

 

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