YouTube royalties hit a bum note with UK musicians

Artists claim a song needs to be streamed 51.1 million times before they can make the average UK salary of £27,600 from YouTube royalties.

Musicians, MPs and music industry leaders are set to gather in London to urge MEPs to back a copyright change.

This article originally appeared in September 2018, and was factually / statistically correct at the time of publication. For the current ‘state of play’ regarding music royalties follow the #BrokenRecord campaign on social media.

Why are musicians taking on YouTube?

Musicians don’t believe sharing platforms such as YouTube are paying them fairly for using their music. YouTube does have technologies in place to detect copyrighted music against a catalogue of registered tracks. But emerging artists don’t necessarily have the resources to detect their work.

youtube on phone with headphones
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Artists claim a song needs to be streamed 51.1 million times before they can make the average UK annual salary of £27,600 in YouTube royalties.

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How do artists make money from YouTube?

YouTube royalties are based on the number of streams a video has received. The payouts to the artist are funded through advertising.

It’s claimed YouTube pays creators 0.00054p per stream of music. This means a track streamed one million times would earn the artist around £540.

Last year, YouTube’s head of music Lyor Cohen revealed that artists earn three dollars per thousand streams in the US. The company claims this is more than other ad-supported services.

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How much revenue do artists say YouTube is making?

Artists say that 85% of YouTube’s visitors come to the site for music. These music lovers contributed £2.33 billion to the website’s revenue in 2017.

youtube music logo
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What do other streaming services such as Spotify do?

Spotify and other streaming sites have two models paid and ad-supported. They calculate revenue in the same way as YouTube – based on the number of streams.

However, Spotify doesn’t have the same copyright restraints as YouTube. YouTube is a video-sharing platform anyone can upload to. But Spotify works with record labels to choose which tracks it makes available.

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What do artists hope a change to EU law would do?

Artists hope a new EU copyright law would compel sites such as YouTube to take more responsibility for compensating them for their work.

Sir Paul McCartney is one of the supporters of initial Copyright Directive proposals particularly Article 13. This article pertains specifically to copyright. But ultimately MEPs rejected the bill in July 2018, in favour of creating an alternative plan.

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