No Tube for you, UK


I don’t watch a lot of music videos on YouTube. But I know that a lot of people do. So the dispute between the UK Performing Rights Society and YouTube is an interesting one.

In short, YouTube are blocking premium music videos in the UK, because the PRS is demanding a hefty increase in royalty payments. In other words, PRS have scored what must be the ultimate music revenue own goal.

By taking an aggressive stance and trying to squeeze everything they can out of an online service in the interests of its rights-holding members, they’ve managed to trigger a response that means that songwriters will get nothing from this important source because nobody here can watch their clips.

It’s really about data
And now, of course, they’re in a far weaker position than they were to start with. Which is a real shame. YouTube has the ability to track and promote individual plays and provide a potentially important stream of revenues via the PRS to smaller members. Rather than aggregated or sampled data – a service like YouTube can offer specific stats on every single play.

It’s all very well that both sides are asking for access to the other’s data (and if both parties were sensible they’d share that stuff). The important thing for musicians is what is done with that data in the interests of revenue splits. The important thing for their record labels is the sheer value of that detail of direct market research.

And I think that’s the lesson that PRS need to learn. In order to assure their ongoing relevance and even stake a claim on an increasingly important role for musicians, they’re going to have to learn how to accurately distribute the moneys received to all of their members based on specific and minute play data. Moreover, they’re going to have to demand the same sort of data specificity from every source – and find a meaningful and accessible way to present that data to their members.

Radio has the technical capacity to give full and complete playlist data to PRS, 24/7 all year round. But they don’t. And so payment information is extrapolated based on sampling and estimates. And so the most famous people get the most money – and most smaller members tend to fall through the cracks.

And it’s a tricky ladder to get on too. Three proven airplays’ll do it.

This is the perfect opportunity to rejig the system and seek as close to 100% accuracy for public performances as is possible. Near enough is no longer good enough.

8 thoughts on “No Tube for you, UK

  1. Thank you Andrew for this article about what is in my eyes quite a spectacle.

    The “money BECAUSE OF music” idea you’ve mentioned in the past does not seem to have sunk in yet with the PRS as they want money for music.

    A play is not a copy and business on the network is not the same as off the network.

    How will they understand the insight and value the consumer data offers when all they want is money for the videos being watched?

    I wish they would read this site more often!

  2. Rob says:

    Without taking sides:

    I was under the impression that Google was offering half what they paid the previous year, which is why PRS had not agreed the deal. This is according PRS.

    Regardless of what is a fair price or what the going rate should be I think it is fair to make the point that if the above is true, your point about PRS rising their price demands and squeezing more money out of Google/Youtube is inaccurate.

  3. Even if it that was the case of Google trying to offer half of what they paid last year, it’s probably due to the fact that they’re trying to adjust to actual market as opposed to just giving them whatever is asked for.

    Ad supported music is just not working right now because these companies want a high percentage and a ton of upfront money and the market is just not supporting it. The advertisers are not paying the high cost of

  4. Craig McGill says:

    The bit I can’t work out is that if people are going to drop covering bands, why don’t the bands just add a disclaimer to promo videos saying “released free from PRS royalties” to avoid the lack of exposure. In fact why not set up a new model and base it around a creative commons license?

    In fact, that’s given me an idea for a blog post…

  5. Rob says:

    That’s quite possible Universal Indie, but this is Google we are talking about, who do quite often seem to act like they own the internet and can dictate their own terms for everything.

    It sounds like people are putting PRS into the same “evil” category as the old school corporate record companies.

    I agree though, either way it is a spectacle. I think if this was affecting more independent “struggling” bands and artists there would be more support here for PRS.

    Just saying

  6. TonsoTunez says:

    Re Data: Here in the US, ASCAP is a co owner of a company called Mediaguide ( Mediaguide uses fingerprinting technology to monitor music and advertising on over 2,700 college, non-commercial and commercial radio stations in 150 US markets; and over 3,500 internet stations in real-time, 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.

    The technology is available to other PROs, but has not been adopted because they have their own methods of determining what is played. That being said, Mediaguide monitoring stations have been set up in major markets around the world and the information collected is used to confirm the accuracy of data provided by foreign societies with regards to the use of music created by ASCAP members.

    One of the most perplexing problems with regards the the exchange of digital data between organizations of all kinds – and in particular internet based users of music – is the lack of standards. To facilitate accurate data delivery, and initiative call DDex ( has been under way for some time to develop the needed standards.

    With regards to Google’s (YouTube’s) assault on songwriters (PRS), it wasn’t the songwriters that demanded the YouTube remove the videos – YouTube did it themselves to try to break the backs of the lowest paid (and to my mind the most important) contributors to the music food chain – songwriters… without a song to sing there’s really no need to make a music video.

    My heart really bleeds for Google when they cry poverty out of their YouTube mouth. I could care less of videos of my songs ever show up on YouTube again … There are now a lot of other legal sources for high quality videos from companies that understand the value of the people that create the product they use to make a profit.

    I’m really sick and tired of Google trampling on the rights of every creator in the world and stomping out the incentive to create just so the can be the richest, most over reaching, privacy invading company that ever existed. Talk about greed!!!

    If I’m not mistaken, they only took down videos from the majors; so, for those indies that believe YouTube exposure will enhance their careers, they should be in hog heaven … the competition from the majors is gone … YouTube is all theirs …

    Fine with me.

  7. i’m keeping quiet on this one. i don’t know enough about it comment on either side.

    i just hope they sort it out and writers get their royalties….

  8. TonsoTunez says:

    Here’s something that just crossed my desk:

    Leona Lewis – HOW Many Viewings????
    “Bleeding Love,” recorded by Leona Lewis, has garnered an incredible 84 MILLION hits on Google’s YouTube, yet YouTube refuses to pay Jesse McCartney and Ryan Tedder a dime. Who are Jesse McCartney and Ryan Tedder? The songwriters!—how-many-viewing.html