YouTube announced Creator Music on Tuesday (Sept. 20), a new digital storefront that allows creators to easily license popular music for use in their videos, generating revenue for them as well as music rights holders.
In the past “it’s been difficult for creators to license music,” says Christophe Muller, vp of music licensing at YouTube. “It’s complex, it takes time, and it takes them away from the creativity that they put into their craft.” The Creator Music program, he says, “offers an easy way for them to do that while still enjoying monetization opportunities.”
Labels and publishers are also set to benefit from the new initiative, Muller says. Creator Music “is good for the music industry because we have 2 million creators [in the YouTube partner program], and that’s going to open up a new audience to artists and to songwriters,” he adds. “And some of these audiences are super engaged.”
YouTube already has deals in place with more than 50 labels, publishers, and distributors, including Believe, Downtown and Empire, to make “several hundred thousand tracks” available to license through Creator Music at the click of a button, according to Muller. The early participants are from the independent label community, though Muller says “we’re talking to everyone, including the majors.”
Music rights holders can choose to make their catalog accessible to YouTubers in two different ways: One option is to charge up-front for a license, in which case the video’s creator is entitled to all the back-end revenue (minus YouTube’s share of 45%). The alternative is to enter into a revenue-share model, where there is no initial cost for the license but the creator splits the 55% portion, taking home 27.5% (minus a small performance rights fee), while the remaining 27.5% is divided between other music rights holders.
Labels and publishers who take the first route get to set their own price for a license; the majority of prices currently range from free to $4.99, though this could change. “It’s the first time this is being done at this scale,” Muller says. “We have to do a lot of work to really understand pricing and how to best do it.”
YouTube has been running a Creator Music pilot program “for the past few months” and plans to expand it first in the U.S. before rolling it out internationally in 2023. In a statement, Tracy Maddux, chief commercial officer for Downtown Music Holdings, said that participating in Creator Music presented an opportunity to “help our songwriters and recording artists find new, meaningful revenue streams for their work, as well as to make it possible for all YouTube creators to legally license and discover original music for use at scale.”
“We are convinced this launch will bring new and exciting opportunities for Believe and TuneCore’s labels and artists all around the world,” added Denis Ladegaillerie, founder and CEO of Believe. “By encouraging creators to use more music content in their videos, Creator Music will facilitate music discovery and engagement, thus allowing artists to reach wider audiences and gain additional promotional and marketing value.” This sentiment was echoed by Ghazi, CEO and founder of Empire, who praised Creator Music for allowing Empire’s acts to “engage with a new fan base and access new revenue sources.”
Muller emphasized that the initiative will continue to develop as it grows and lands more partners willing to license music. Historically “creators are not always in an easy position to license music and at the same time make revenue,” he notes. “We knew we needed to fix that. The creator economy is evolving, and we need to evolve as well.”