Sources: YouTube, not Warner Music, pulled videos
In contract negotiations, Warner made "11th-hour" demand and received its answer from YouTube when the company began yanking the label's videos.
Warner Music Group has been saying since Saturday that it was the one who asked that the label's videos be removed from YouTube after talks to renegotiate its licensing deal with Google's video site stalled.
That's not what happened, say two high-level sources with knowledge of the negotiations.
YouTube began removing videos from its site after Warner came to YouTube with an "11th-hour demand" for better financial terms, according to the sources. All four of the top recording companies are renegotiating their contracts with YouTube for music and music videos.
Managers at the Web's largest video site considered Warner's demand. The label received its answer when YouTube began pulling videos. YouTube also beat Warner to the punch by firing the first public relations volley when it notified the public of the split by posting a note to the company's blog. Ever since, Warner's PR people have been busy trying to get their side of the story out.
Perhaps that's why headlines have resurfaced about how all four of the top labels are interested in building their own YouTube competitor, and how YouTube isn't driving much money to the record companies, and how Warner's departure may be a bad signal for YouTube.
None of that is accurate. Here's what my music industry sources said: the labels have not made any serious plans to build their own music-video site, at least not those that have tallied big returns from video streaming and YouTube. I reported earlier this year that Universal had considered a video site, but the plan hasn't gone anywhere since.
As for the kind of revenue YouTube is delivering to the labels, Silicon Alley Insider reported that Universal Music Group is making as little as $25,000 a month on ad revenue fees. That is flat out wrong, my sources said.
An executive with Universal Music Group told me on the record last week that YouTube has made the No. 1 music company "tens of millions" of dollars this year. I reported, as did Peter Kafka at All Things Digital, that Universal is on track to book nearly $100 million in video-streaming revenue this year. Some of that money comes from other services, but the source said 80 percent is from YouTube.
By all indications, Warner overplayed its hand. YouTube can afford to let Warner walk. The vast majority of music listened to at YouTube comes from the two largest recording companies: Universal and Sony BMG. Universal, the label that represents U2, Kanye West, and The Rolling Stones, is the most-viewed YouTube channel all time with more than 3 billion views. Sony BMG is a distant second with 491 million views.
Warner isn't even in the top 10. The record company's 278 million views is good enough only for 11th place.
So it appears that some labels are happy with YouTube money and Warner is not. According to my sources, some of Warner's problems with the Web's No. 1 video site are of its own making.