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Music Streaming: Is There Space for YouTube Red?

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Last year for the first time ever revenue from streaming services surpassed the revenue generated from digital downloads in 2015. There is an obvious issue artists and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) have with this – they let people listened to music on-demand for free. However, there culprits worse than streaming services – user upload services including YouTube and Soundcloud – which are widening  the “value gap” between the volume of music consumed for free and the amount of revenue they generate for the music industry. The 900 million listeners on these sites resulted in revenue of just £447 million in 2015. When compared with the world’s 68 million paying music subscribers who generated £1.4 billion, it’s easy to see the level of exploitation.  

YouTube is said to be killing the record industry because a business model where artists make money only by placing ads around their music is not sustainable long term. So in order to keep up with streaming giants Spotify, Apple Music and TIDAL, YouTube took the decision to introduce a new paid service (YouTube Red) last year which allows users to watch all YouTube content without ads as well as having exclusive access to original series and unlimited use of Google Play Music. This year they’re planning to introduce ways to better promote artists and bring more exclusive videos to the service, focusing particularly on emerging artists.

With artists already picking and choosing which streaming service to release their music on do consumers really need another one? Adele withheld her latest album from all on-demand listening and Taylor Swift took all her music off Spotify and made it available in full only to paid services. Kanye famously released The Life of Pablo exclusively on TIDAL (although two months and more that 400m streams later it is available on iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify and other major services). Highly anticipated albums are set to be released this year from the likes of Beyonce and Drake who will no doubt make these exclusive to one service only. There just isn’t room for another service listeners have to pay for to hear their favourite artists, particularly when YouTube hasn’t treated artists fairly thus far.

Streaming services are the future of the music industry, and the music industry has to accept that this future is inevitable. On-demand listening is so popular you don’t need downloads to create a hit, but deals need to be made between Spotify, YouTube etc and labels and artists to ensure artists have an element of control over whether their music is available for free. Artists must also receive their fair share of royalties to stop the industry declining. Steps should be taken to ensure these measures aren’t only effective for established acts, but also support new artists.

And for consumers? It would be nice to have our music available to listen to all in one place!

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