Indie Musician Outlines 'Demanding' Contract with YouTube's Music Service

Zoe Keating
Claude Shade

Zoe Keating

Updated: 3:08PM ET, Jan. 23.

YouTube has a "demanding" contract for independent musicians, according to a blog post by musician Zoë Keating, a frequent chronicler of her experiences with the digital music business.

The five-year contract mandates that her entire catalog be included in both the free and premium -- Music Key -- services and every song monetized. What's more, the contract effectively bans platform bias by requiring new music be released at YouTube at the same time as other services. In other words, Keating wouldn't be allowed to release music first at Bandcamp or iTunes and later at YouTube -- for half a decade.

"I was encouraged to participate and now, after I'm invested, I'm being pressured into something I don't want to do," Keating wrote Thursday.

Keating isn't the first rights owner to express unhappiness with YouTube's contract. Last year independent labels complained about YouTube's original contract terms. Independent labels were eventually able to collectively negotiate better terms, although it wasn't easy. One independent music executive tells Billboard negotiations for the YouTube was a "huge" and "long and nasty" process during which YouTube "inflamed things to a whole new level."

A spokesperson for Google refuted Keatings claim of being "blocked" by the service, telling Billboard that: "Any artist who agrees to our basic Terms of Service will always be able to share videos on YouTube."

This case is different because individual creators like Keating don't have the leverage necessary to obtain better terms. Keating will lose the ability to monetize user-generated videos that utilize her music. That's because ContentID, YouTube's technology for identifying and monetizing music in its videos, is available only to licensed rights owners. This would be a big loss for Keating, who claims her music is used in 10,000 user-uploaded videos -- with more added every day -- that were streamed 250,000 views last month alone.

Keating can, according to a source, retain her access to Content ID, but that monetization of her music is all-in or all-out. Access to Content ID is still granted on a case-by-base basis.

Financial terms, a major contention in independent labels' battle with YouTube, aren't mentioned. Instead, Keating is more concerned about control of her music. "It's one thing for individuals to upload all my music for free listening (it doesn't bother me)," Keating wrote. "It's another thing entirely for a major corporation to force me to."