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'Knocking Off YouTube's Populist Halo'

Alexander Reed Kelly
Associate Editor
In December 2010, Alex was arrested for civil disobedience outside the White House alongside Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges, Pentagon whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg, healthcare activist Margaret Flowers and…
Alexander Reed Kelly

With the launch of its streaming music service, Google-owned YouTube is revealing itself as the kind of “troublesome, exploitative” intermediary it promised it would never be, Jacob Silverman writes at The Baffler.

As a place where young people go “to make their own playlists, check out music videos, weird covers, and mashups, and share their tastes with friends,” writes Silverman, it “makes sense … that YouTube would try to better monetize this audience by enticing them to enter mom and dad’s credit card number.” The company is attempting to bolster its hold on the emerging streaming industry. The royalties it pays out are pitiful. The members of one band using a streaming service found that a full spin of their album yielded them 4 cents. Silverman writes: “Even with growing numbers of paid subscribers and ad revenue, streaming services have failed to provide meaningful income for most musicians. The tech industry’s counter-argument tends to be that musicians should seek out a wider variety of revenue streams—like merchandise, live shows, commercials, and soundtracks. That is certainly a prudent strategy, but doesn’t make up for the fact that streaming services have destroyed the value of what should matter most: the music.”

With this suicidal tactic streaming services push on, like parasites sucking blood for as long as their hosts last.

“This development from YouTube, and its parent company Google, is yet another reason to think that today’s new media behemoths mostly resemble the old Hollywood studio system, when performers were beholden to whatever terms their employers offered them,” Silverman writes.”This time, musicians find themselves on the same side as their labels, who, perhaps in some karmic retribution for years of gouging talent and customers alike, find themselves desiccated, left with little bargaining power.”

Silverman concludes by asking, “Who then will stick up for the talent, whose artistic product (sorry, content) this whole system is built upon?”

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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