Our chances of watching future Susan Boyle videos online may have taken a turn for the better: PRS for Music, the ‘collection society’ that negotiates on behalf of artists, has succumbed to pressure and come up with a cheaper way for sites to stream music videos over the internet. PRS has offered to slash its per-track rate from the current level of 0.22p to 0.085p, a reduction of more than 60%, in the hope that the likes of YouTube will reverse their decision to stop showing music videos. PRS, a not-for-profit, claims it’s just looking after its artists’ interests – but the move is being interpreted by some as a sign that it’s been forced to wake up to digital reality…
YouTube started blocking access to all its UK music videos back in March, complaining that PRS was demanding extortionate rates – a claim supported by sites like Pandora, We7, Last.FM and Imeem. At the time, PRS suggested YouTube was basically trying to pull a fast one, but now it seems to have bowed to the inevitable and reduced its demands (presumably on the grounds that something is better than nothing, as far as its artists are concerned). Online MD Andrew Shaw said the changes – which will come into effect on July 1st and last for three years – were ‘a good deal for music creators and for music lovers.’
Although the reaction has been largely positive, not all sites will actually be better off. That’s because they have to pay a percentage of revenues if this exceeds the per-track total – and this headline rate is increasing from 8% to 10.5%. A site like YouTube that streams zillions of videos will end up being charged on the per-track rate, so they’ll pay less; but the smaller outfits on the percentage charge will end up paying more. So there’ll no doubt be some in the industry who feel these cuts are still not enough (YouTube itself has refused to comment either way).
Ultimately, both sides want the same thing: a growing online music video market; because that means more revenue for the streaming sites (via ads or subs), and more royalties (quite rightly) for the artists. So in the sense that today’s move represents an olive branch from PRS, after the very public bout of mud-slinging in March, it has to be a positive development. Although perhaps it’s also an admission that the music industry needs YouTube more than the other way round, as it tries to survive in the brave new world of digital...
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