Zoë Keating on YouTubes terms for its subscription service:
This new music service agreement covers my Content ID account and it includes mandatory participation in Youtube’s new subscription streaming service, called Music Key, along with all that participation entails. Here are some of the terms I have problems with:
1) All of my catalog must be included in both the free and premium music service. Even if I don’t deliver all my music, because I’m a music partner, anything that a 3rd party uploads with my info in the description will be automatically included in the music service too.
2) All songs will be set to “montetize”, meaning there will be ads on them.
3) I will be required to release new music on Youtube at the same time I release it anywhere else. So no more releasing to my core fans first on Bandcamp and then on iTunes.
4) All my catalog must be uploaded at high resolution, according to Google’s standard which is currently 320 kbps.
5) The contract lasts for 5 years.
Ben Thompson wrote a piece analysing Keatings position and YouTubes terms, coming to a rather simplistic conclusion:
In fact, while Keating may be a radical, I think she’s also entirely rational: I’m increasingly of the opinion that all-you-can-eat subscription services like YouTube Music Key or Spotify are a downright bad idea for niche artists.
I can see where he is coming from but I think he is missing a rather large part of the picture. Namingly how people consume music once they are on one of these streaming services.
While it might be a a bad deal for Keating it doesn’t necessarily mean she can stay off streaming services and make her fans pay for downloads forever. With on demand streaming services the shop (you get access, you pay per flatrate) is simultaneously your record collection (‘saved’ music, playlists etc.).
This means for musicians being on a streaming service or not has more implications then just deciding where and how to charge. It directly affects where and how your music can be listened to.
Here is a thought experiment. Why is exponent.fm, Bens podcast, free? It is high quality niche content. According to Bens original point in the article he shouldn’t put it out for free. At least not all of it, but instead charge the few who are interested in it. Why isn’t he doing that?
Play it through in your mind. The podcast only works with a private feed after you paid for it. How are you going to listen to it? In the browser, like an animal?
The best of the best podcast clients on iOS and Android can not be used for this.I don’t think that this is acceptable friction for most of the paying users. Hardly any one would use an inferior player to listen to content they had to pay for when at the same time everything else comes with a better and unified user experience right over there, a finger tap away.
The whole eco system and its network effects matter. They are putting constraints on what musicians like Keating can sensibly do.
Friction matters. And in this instance it increases with every new user of one of those streaming services. It’s another persons music collection an artist like Keating doesn’t want to be in. And now we haven’t even talked about discoverability on these services. (which becomes more and more important.)
I feel for Keating. Because I also think the people at YouTube know this. Hence their terms and ‘negotiation tactic’.
[Broadly speaking, all this (how you organize your consumption) is why flatrate subscription services differ across industries (movies, music, books, etc.)]