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YouTube to Block Indie Labels That Don’t Sign Up for Its New Service


Independent artists could disappear from YouTube “in a matter of days” after the Google video service confirmed it was dropping content from independent labels that have not signed up for its upcoming subscription music service.

YouTube is about to begin testing the new service – which will charge people to watch and listen to music without ads, and download songs to their mobile devices – within the next few days, initially within Google.

The company’s head of content and business operations, Robert Kyncl, told the Financial Times that the service – previously rumored to be called YouTube Music Pass – will launch more widely later in the year.

His confirmation that YouTube will block videos from labels that do not sign licensing deals for the new premium tier will be hugely controversial among indie labels, with trade body WIN already filing a complaint to the European Commission about its negotiating strategy.

“While we wish that we had 100 percent success rate, we understand that is not likely an achievable goal and, therefore, it is our responsibility to our users and the industry to launch the enhanced music experience,” said Kyncl, claiming that YouTube has signed up labels representing 90 percent of the music industry.

Independent labels are likely to disagree. Their licensing agency Merlin estimates that indies collectively account for a 32.6 percent market share of the recorded music industry’s sales and streams.

YouTube attracts more than 1 billion monthly viewers, with music one of its biggest categories. Its upcoming premium music subscription tier will compete with Spotify, Deezer and Napster among other services, including Apple-owned Beats Music and Google’s own Google Play Music All Access.

The move comes as Amazon also has begun to flex its muscles in ways that limit the content its customers can receive. Amazon is delaying shipments and refused pre-orders for some titles from Hachette, publisher of Harry Potter author JK Rowling, and home to David Baldacci, Stephen Colbert, David Foster Wallace and others.

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