YouTube is set to enter the music streaming market, taking on the likes of Spotify, Pandora, iTunes Radio, Deezer et al. with the launch of the Google-backed YouTube Music later this year, but a coalition of 19 indie music labels worldwide – including AIR – have attacked the hugely popular video streaming website’s new venture.

Why? Because of reports that YouTube has threatened to boycott indie record labels if they refuse to accept “highly unfavourable” and “non-negotiable” licensing terms for their new music streaming service.

YouTube has reportedly already inked some pretty lucrative licensing deals with the ‘Big Three’ major labels – Warner Music Group, Universal Music Group, and Sony Music Entertainment – but when it comes to smaller independent record labels, negotiations have turned very sour, with WIN (World Independent Network) essentially accusing YouTube of muscling out indies with bad licensing deals.

Not taking it lying down WIN, which also represents the interests of the Australian Independent Record Labels Association (AIR), have issued a statement damning YouTube’s treatment of “independent labels around the world as unnecessary and indefensible” with “highly unfavourable” licensing terms.

“YouTube are attempting to low-ball independent labels with non-negotiable contracts which offer royalties and conditions so low that the very business of the labels in question would be in jeopardy,” WIN’s statement continues, pointing out that YouTube’s proposed royalties schemes of indie artists severely undervalues existing rates already offered by digital platforms such as Spotify, Rdio, and Deezer. But worse, “we have also received reports that they are threatening to block the content of labels that don’t agree to their terms.” “We are extremely disappointed at YouTube’s decision to use its market power to unilaterally enforce inferior commercial terms on the independent sector.”

Among 19 industry figureheads from the US, UK, Europe, and Asia noting their opposition, and taking a stand for Australian musicians and rights-holders, is AIR’s David Vodicka.

“We are extremely disappointed at YouTube’s decision to use its market power to unilaterally enforce inferior commercial terms on the independent sector,” Vodicka declares.

“For a company that has arranged its structure to pay minimal tax in our market, to now see YouTube’s treatment of independent Australian labels who provide so much of its Australian music content so as to further improve their profitability at the sake of local content creators is deeply concerning.”

Mr Vodicka, and his WIN associates are calling upon YouTube “on behalf of their members to work with them towards an agreement that is fair and equitable for all independent labels,” as Digital Music News reports.

While the plight of musicians criticising music streaming services for being over-used and underpaid is a movement that’s been around as long as Spotify first launched in 2008, YouTube’s entry into the streaming market, and the precedent it sets, is particularly daunting given the position of power the popular video website is already in.

The introduction of YouTube Music – touted as a two-tier subscription based service in both free and monthly paid models – would instantly capitalise on the already millions of YouTube users and viewers with just as many dollar signs – think of the hundreds of official music videos and ‘lyric’ clips that premiere on the site – but hypothetically, only if YouTube plays ball with the major labels by helping route out some of the more illegitimate, copyright-infringing uploads that fans put up on the video sharing website daily.

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