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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Robert De Niro has walked off the set of Edge of Darkness
news The Godfather Part II actor has an estimated wealth of over $200m
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Robbie Savage will not face a driving ban
football'Mr Marmite' faced the possibility of a 28-day ban
Life and Style
Nearly half of all young people in middle and high income countries were putting themselves at risk of tinnitus and, in extreme cases, irreversible hearing loss
It was only when he left his post Tony Blair's director of communications that Alastair Campbell has published books
people The most notorious spin doctor in UK politics has reinvented himself
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in ‘I Am Michael’
filmJustin Kelly's latest film tells the story of a man who 'healed' his homosexuality and turned to God
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
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

SThree: HR Benefits Manager

£40000 - £50000 per annum + pro rata: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager / Financial Services

£30000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established in 1999, a highly r...

Jemma Gent: Year End Accountant

£250-£300 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Are you a qualified accountant with strong exp...

Jemma Gent: Management Accountant

£230 - £260 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Do you want to stamp your footprint in histo...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower