YouTube's new contract looks like a dominant player applying the squeeze


Outlook Is YouTube going to finish off the "don't be evil" motto of its parent Google with its treatment of independent music companies?

On the face of it, the row over the new contract that the video streaming service wants the indies to sign up to resembles Amazon's spat with the publisher Hachette: an increasingly common pricing dispute between internet platform and supplier in the new media age.

In reality, it is very different.

Amazon has real clout in books, and has stopped taking pre-orders for Hachette titles including JK Rowling's forthcoming detective novel, The Silkworm. Queue a chorus of outrage, including from Hachette, its authors and its allies, who have portrayed Amazon as a big bad bully.

But let's be clear, Hachette is no shrinking violet. It is one of just big five publishers and a part of a multibillion euro enterprise (Lagardère Group) to boot. There may well be issues with how Amazon operates, but this is hardly a case of noble David versus nasty Goliath.

What's more, Amazon, perhaps with a nod to the competition authorities, has pointedly and very publicly made it clear that customers can use external retailers who actually sell through its website, and competitors if they want to pre-order Hachette titles. Or, which has also come up as an issue, if they're concerned about delivery times for Hachette titles. You can bet Tesco and its ilk will be featuring the latest work from Rowling, via her pen name Robert Galbraith, prominently as a result.

By contrast, YouTube's opponents are largely small independents like XL Recordings, which discovered Adele. Many of them live hand-to-mouth existences. The company had previously done a fine job of assisting them by providing a portal, and even some revenues, for them and the new and left-field talent they support – talent which has previously found it hard to get exposure (and cash).

It says its new subscription service, which necessitates new contracts with suppliers, is about providing "our music partners new revenue streams in addition to the hundreds of millions of dollars YouTube already generates for them each year". Au contraire, say the independents' trade bodies. You're imposing new, and significantly worse, terms on our members. And we suspect that they aren't anything like as good as those you've offered to the music majors, which have greeted the development with equanimity.

Given the importance of YouTube to their businesses, cutting them off is far more harmful to indie music labels than Amazon being awkward is to Hachette. There's no Tesco out there to promote their work. And YouTube isn't offering openings to rival portals through its website. No wonder, then, that some have decided to reluctantly accept.

This really is David vs Goliath, and David's getting battered. YouTube/Google is a commercial outfit and has the right to negotiate terms with suppliers. But there doesn't seem to have been much negotiation here

Evil is an emotive term. But what YouTube is doing is certainly unpleasant, even if it isn't found to be anticompetitive – and there is surely a case for the EU authorities to accede to the indies' requests and take a look. It is also desperately sad, given the positive role the company has previously played.

Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreEXCLUSIVE The Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Colombia's James Rodriguez celebrates one of his goals during the FIFA World Cup 2014 round of 16 match between Colombia and Uruguay at the Estadio do Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Antoine Griezmann has started two of France’s four games so far
Life and Style
techYahoo Japan launches service to delete your files and email your relatives when you die
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Arts and Entertainment
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>
filmRobert Downey Jr named Hollywood's highest paid actor for second year running
Life and Style
Dale Bolinger arranged to meet the girl via a fetish website
Sign here, please: Magna Carta Island
propertyYours for a cool £4m
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Business Analyst (Agile, SDLC, software)

£45000 - £50000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Finance Manager - Bank - Leeds - £300/day

£250 - £300 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Finance Manager - Accountant - Bank...

Compliance Officer - CF10, CF11, Compliance Oversight, AML, FX

£100000 - £120000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: A leading fi...

Day In a Page

Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

20 best days out for the summer holidays

From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

All the wood’s a stage

Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

Self-preservation society

Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor