YouTube & its Indie Labels, or, A Long Slide Into Evil

I’ve been covering the deteriorating situation at the once-golden Google and its various products for quite some time.

Now this: Google is set to block Indie label content on YouTube. Over licensing terms for a new service.

Now, as an article by The Guardian points out, this might be a misunderstanding. There are a few options:

One: YouTube is indeed threatening to block the videos of indie labels: if they don’t sign up to the terms of its new paid music service, their videos will be removed from its free service too. Although Vevo-run channels seem likely to stay up.

Two: YouTube will block indie labels from monetisation of their videos on its free service. It’s possible that YouTube will leave labels’ videos up, but block them from making money from ads in and around those videos – as well as from using its Content ID system to make money from ads shown on videos uploaded by YouTube users featuring their music.

Three: This is all just a big misunderstanding. If indie labels choose not to sign up for YouTube’s new paid music service, their videos will be blocked on it, but left alone on the existing free service.

I think it’s probably a misunderstanding, too. As Chris Hubbs said on Twitter, it’s hard to imagine Google giving up its “YouTube is all the videos” platform just to squeeze some indie labels.

But it might, right?

So I expected to hear Google & YouTube put out a strongly worded statement to the contrary. But, to the contrary, this is what they said:

“Our goal is to continue making YouTube an amazing music experience, both as a global platform for fans and artists to connect, and as a revenue source for the music industry. We’re adding subscription-based features for music on YouTube with this in mind — to bring our music partners new revenue streams in addition to the hundreds of millions of dollars YouTube already generates for them each year. We are excited that hundreds of major and independent labels are already partnering with us.”

Now that, my friends, is a absolutely shitty non-response. It’s the sort of thing that makes you think… Oh. Maybe it’s true after all.

Two points. One, Google of today is not the Google of yesterday. And I’m not even talking about whether they used to have ideals but now don’t, blah blah blah. I mean they used to get good press and now they don’t.

Say what you will about Apple, they get a metric shit-tonne of good press, so much so that the bad press is pretty much drowned out. Google doesn’t get that. These days they pretty much just get bad press. This is a pretty fantastic change from a few years ago when Google was the open-source idealistic saviour of the internet.

Two, they should have been out in front of this, offering a plain, frank denial. Even if that denial was a half-truth. Instead some intern was given the task of crafting their message, which was basically “talk about something else”.

We’re not stupid, we can tell when you’re trying to “change the message” or “redirect the conversations” or as we call it, “change the subject”. Especially when done abruptly and awkwardly.

ViHart on Google+

The article is here. Quoth (any emphasis mine):

Making huge forced changes to a platform is problematic for people whose livelihood depends on certain things being a certain way. I would not recommend making YouTube or Google+ a large part of your business, and these changes should be scaring away anyone who was considering investing in the platform.

and

Google’s products used to augment humanity with beautiful tools that helped us get the information we wanted to see. That was the superiority of Google search, Google reader, gmail with its excellent spam filter, and YouTube, which allowed you to subscribe to any individual who might want to post videos.

and

Making things people want is good business. Tricking people into using things they don’t want with a bait-and-switch is not good business.

I think these changes are going to make a lot of popular YouTube videomakers looks for an alternative platform — which is to say now seems like a great time to start that service.

Can you imagine the video functionality of YouTube with a comment presentation more like, say, Reddit?

Minecraft style!

Here’s to hoping your day is brightened by this wonderful shot-by-shot recreation of Gangnam Style in Minecrafty blocky goodness.

AOL adds all its videos to YouTube

Now this is an interesting development. And AOL is definitely not the first to try to hitch its wagon to YouTube’s star. VEVO exists primarily on YouTube as well.

Deets:

According to comScore, Google sites, driven primarily by video viewing at YouTube.com, had 150,198,000 total unique viewers in August, who watched 13,772,310,000 videos for 443.4 minutes per viewer. By comparison, AOL Inc. had 45,685,000 total unique viewers that month, who watched 725,166,000 videos for 62.8 minutes per viewer.

In other words, YouTube reaches more than three times more unique viewers, who watch almost 19 times more videos for over seven times more minutes per month. If you were to represent their respective shares of the online video market, it would resemble a penny-farthing bicycle.

The problem is, of course, that these partnerships are never supposed to be permanent. You can bet that AOL wants to develop its own brand, and part of that plan means eventually leaving YouTube more and more out of the picture. Yet once you get hooked into the YouTube ecosystem, it’s really hard to get out. You can try to drive your users off YouTube to your own sites, for instance, but YouTube users don’t like being shunted into your little ghettoised faux-YouTube experience.

Or maybe we’re witnessing a birth of YouTube as a true platform, where you build your brand on top of YouTube, monetise there, and just don’t seek to move from making your money there.