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Irving Azoff Hopes Warner Music Avoided ‘Step Backwards’ On YouTube Deal

After months of negotiations, Irving Azoff says he hopes Warner Music avoided "step backwards" on its deal with YouTube

Neither Warner Music Group nor YouTube has disclosed the terms of their freshly inked licensing agreements. But the details are of keen interest to artists and their managers, who’ve been calling on the massive video platform to give them both more of the ad revenue and more control over how their tunes feature on the free site.

Irving Azoff, who manages acts from the Eagles to Christina Aguilera and represents an array of star songwriters through his performing rights group Global Music Rights, told Billboard that he hoped the label stuck to its guns.

“I trust that Warner took its responsibility to its artists and insisted on two crucial points: both better control for artists and increased compensation,” Mr. Azoff said in an email. “It will indeed be a good day for artists if Warner listened to the creative community and obtained the technical improvements that allow artists to choose when and how to put their music on YouTube, and for artists to receive a marketplace rate that is comparable to the rates paid by platforms like Apple and Spotify. If there was no progress made on either control nor compensation, then it is a step backwards.” 


Sources close to the deal said that Warner won some concessions to boost ad monetization, and also secured better rates than YouTube had wanted to give for music on its subscription service, YouTube Red.

But the results weren’t ideal for the record label, and the negotiation process was a “case study” in why labels think the so-called safe-harbor—which shield sites from liability when their users upload content without copyright owners’ permission—need to be changed, these sources added.

In recent months some major-label executives have been considering ending their licensing agreements with YouTube instead—but that would mean forfeiting the revenue they do get from YouTube while continuing to police the site for unauthorized uploads of their music, a costly task.

YouTube, which has more than 1 billion active monthly users, has paid the music industry more than $4 billion since it launched a decade ago.