What Facebook’s Licensing Deals mean for YouTube

What Facebook’s Licensing Deals mean for YouTube

Earlier in the year, Facebook secured licensing deals with Sacem, Socan, and Wix Publishing. The social media company had previously secured licensing deals with Universal Music Group, Sony Music, and Warner Music (Welch, 2018). These licensing deals illustrate Facebook’s desire to attract more users to its platform through music, but more importantly, it show’s the company’s commitment to work with the music community as we try to turn streaming into a sustainable source of income. In order to show their consideration for music creators and rights holders, Facebook hired Tamara Hrivnak. Hrivnak was the Director of Music Partnerships at YouTube for six years, and prior to that position she was the VP of Digital Strategy & Business Affairs for Warner/Chappel Music Publishing (Levine, 2017). Her experience will be extremely valuable to Facebook’s efforts and could give them a favorable advantage as they prepare to battle against YouTube for music video consumers.

I remember when bootlegging was extremely prevalent in the early 2000’s. There was one artist here in my hometown, Houston, that would literally find bootleggers and fight them during that time. But for every bootlegger he battered, two more appeared. Although he was upset about missing out on sales due to the bootlegged copies of his music, he did notice that his fan base was growing. Eventually he set up a meeting with all of the bootleggers in town with the intent of making them authorized sellers. The meeting did not go well. The bootleggers said they could only afford to pay him .05% of his asking price; an asking price he felt was already extremely low. Needless to say, he was outraged. He continued to battle with them for months, but they just wouldn’t go away. After hundreds of brawls, his stamina and resolve were finally depleted. He gave in and allowed the bootleggers to legally sell his product on their payment terms, and he’s been stuck with this awful deal ever since. The bootleggers in this story represent YouTube, and the artist represents music companies and publishers.

YouTube has been a thorn in the Music Industry’s side for quite some time, particularly due to what is known as the value gap. According to IFPI, the value gap illustrates the “growing mismatch between the value that user upload services, such as YouTube, extract from music and the revenue returned to the music community (2017).” In other words, the value gap explains the variance between the benefits YouTube receives from uploading music on their platforms and the money that labels and artists obtain from those activities. As you can see from the chart below, the difference is blatant.

Does FB’s licensing deals prove that the music industry is regaining authority in a tech-driven world? If Facebook is able to take some video consumption away from YouTube, it could give labels, publishing companies, and artists more power in terms of negotiation. YouTube has grown tremendously over the years. One can argue that this growth is primarily due to how YouTube has been able to integrate music into their platform. According to the 2016 IFPI Music Consumer Insight Report, 93% of YouTube users aged 16-24 utilize the platform to access music, while 82% of total users utilize it for music listening (IFPI, 2017). With over 1 billion users, YouTube is the most popular platform for music streaming. YouTube is able to attract a large number of consumers and advertisers due to their music catalogue, however, they fail to pass on suitable revenues to the copyright owners of that music (primarily because the service is free). One may argue that the copyright owners should prohibit YouTube from showcasing their music until a fair price can be agreed upon, but it’s not that simple. With over 1 billion users (82% being music consumers), YouTube has all of the bargaining power. Michael Weston once said, “To win a negotiation you have to show you’re willing to walk away. And the best way to show you’re willing to walk away is to walk away (Wise Old Sayings, n.d.). It’s difficult to walk away from 1 billion customers though. Even if they are not paying for the digital version of the music, artists and music companies can recoup the losses through revenues from live shows and merchandise. Labels and publishers certainly do not want to leave 1 billion potential customers at the table. But if they have the opportunity to serve those same customers on a different platform (like Facebook) then they may not be hesitant to leave. That’s what makes this development so dynamic and noteworthy.

YouTube and Facebook could soon be in a bitter war to see who can reign supreme over the video streaming market. All the while, music labels and publishers will be standing idly by, waiting to see which platform wants their songs the most. As demand for digital music increases, the price will have to increase as well. I believe recorded music is extremely devalued and that people have acquired a false sense of entitlement when it comes to accessing music. Facebook’s willingness to negotiate with labels and publishers shows that they have an appreciation for music and want to create a partnership with our industry. I commend them for that and applaud them for producing a new revenue stream for creators and right holders.

I believe the music industry is taking initiative by engaging with social media companies. This endeavor creates various opportunities for music industry professionals. Facebook hiring Tamara Hrivnak (a former music business expert) is a perfect example of this. Tech companies understand how important it is to have an industry insider on their side, especially when it comes to negotiating deals.

Technology and music have always had an unsanctioned marriage. In order for the music industry to remain relevant, we have to find ways to stay ahead of the curve. Music streaming has proven to be a profitable source of income for labels and publishers for two years in a row, so it’s only right to ride the wave and widen the stream of revenues. As new social media companies enter the market, they will also be required to do what Facebook is doing if they want to incorporate music into their platform. This deal sets the standard for the future of music in the social media era. I just hope we can stay ahead of the next technological curve so we never have to accept terms from a position of weakness again.

References

IFPI (2017). Music consumer insight report 2016. IFPI. Retrieved from http://www.ifpi.org/downloads/Music-Consumer-Insight-Report-2016.pdf

IFPI (2017). Rewarding creativity – fixing the value gap. IFPI. Retrieved from http://www.ifpi.org/value_gap.php

Levine, R. (2017, January 1). Facebook hires YouTube’s Tamara Hrivnak to lead global music strategy. Billboard. Retrieved March from https://www.billboard.com/articles/business/7669971/facebook-hires-youtubes-tamara-hrivnak-to-lead-global-music-strategy

Nicolaou, A. (2018, March 18). Facebook strikes new music licensing deals. Financial Times. Retrieved from https://www.ft.com/content/7b7e71d6-2964-11e8-b27e-cc62a39d57a0

Welch, C. (2018, March 9). Facebook now has music licensing dealsw tih all three major labels. The Verge. Retrieved from https://www.theverge.com/2018/3/9/17100454/facebook-warner-music-deal-songs-user-videos-instagram

Wise Old Sayings (n.d.). Negotiation Sayings and Quotes. Wise Old Sayings.

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