PRS vs Google
So I thought I’d dip my toes into this as a couple of Sentric artists have asked for my humble musings on the matter and as that’s what this blog is all about (to serve you good people) let’s crack on shall we?
So you probably will have seen in the press/blogosphere/twittersphere that YouTube (who are owned by Google) have removed all official music video content from the site due to a dispute they’re having with PRS For Music who are asking for more cash off them to pay the writers and composers of said music.
Now there are arguments for both sides of this disagreement (although for me there are more valid ones for a certain side than the other) but throughout my web trawling I’ve come across some dubious at best statements that scream ignorance and have come out of pure ill education.
There is a brilliant Mitchell & Webb radio sketch where they’re presenting a spoof current affairs show asking the good folk of Britain what they ‘reckon’, an excerpt of which goes like;
“You may not know anything about the issue, but I bet you reckon something. So why not tell us what you reckon. Let us enjoy the full majesty of your uninformed ad hoc reckon, by going to bbc.co.uk… clicking on ‘what I reckon’ and then simply beating on the keyboard with your fists or head.”
Now I’m not usually one to back down from a debate, but if I’m ignorant about a certain subject I tend to stay out of making my opinions public or at the very least prefix it with some kind of ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ statement which relinquishes any future vituperation that may be directed towards me. I’ve been asked by a few people to make comments on things before for websites and newspapers which I’ve had to politely decline simply due to the fact I don’t know a thing about them. The best of which was when I was asked to contribute to a debate in the Liverpool Echo where the central question was “Do you think bail is granted too easily in this country?” Why on earth ask me that?! I’m a music publisher so therefore my knowledge regarding the UK judicial system is pretty thin on the ground.
Anyhoo, my take on this is that Google are going to have the ‘reckoners’ of this country back them in their slagging off the PRS as they just aren’t too clued up with what’s happening.
I’ve no doubt there will be people educated within this are who will be on Google’s side and that is more than fine, healthy if anything, but there will be a whole cacophony of contributors who’ll be siding with Google/Youtube because (as my rather brilliant colleague summed up) “people have an emotional link with YouTube; it has funny clips on it”.
Google are brilliant. Pretty much everything they do simply ‘works’, they’re consumer focused and have revolutionised several sectors of the new media industry. They also offer a lovely bunch of free tools that can be utilised by savvy unsigned/independent artists which I wrote a post about in the past. Click here to read Web-er You Know It Or Not and educate yourself into becoming an efficient artist. Despite my fondness for Google I would have to argue they’ve been a tad ‘arsey’ with their approach to this whole situation. So much so I just contemplated using the word ‘conflict’ rather than situation in the previous sentence when really it should have never escalated past a simple ‘discussion’.
Here are some bits and bobs you should probably know:
- Google’s PRS license expired in December 2008 and the two parties have been in talks to renew
- Streams of premium music video content have risen nearly 300% (up from 75million to almost 300million a quarter)
- Despite this rather significant rise, Google want to pay the PRS 50% less than they did previously despite their music usage suggesting they’re significantly underpaying
- At no time did the PRS instruct Google to withdraw the content from the site, this was Google’s own doing
I’m hoping that for those unaware of those facts previously will have read them and made a ‘hm!’ noise thanks to the knowledge just bestowed upon them. (on a side note, the ‘hm!’ noise I talk about is one of my favourites in the world as it means I’ve just learnt something interesting. I must make said noise several times throughout the average episode of QI).
It’s borderline lunacy for Google to expect to pay half what they were paying previously despite usage increasing 300%. Isn’t it? And then to withdraw all the content is just playing dirty as there was no need to whilst discussions were taking place. It was done to bring light to the situation and to make the PRS look like money grabbers to therefore make the ‘reckoners’ of the UK dislike the PRS even more than they already do.
We all know the PRS doesn’t do too well when it comes to its public perception; we read stories about how they’re demanding money from small businesses or they’ll fine them and sometimes they don’t help themselves. But this isn’t Joe Blogg’s Mechanics, this is Youtube, a company Google purchased for $1.65 billion. Surely if they’re using the content then they should pay for it? Let’s not forget that Google made $5.7billion in the quarter of last year. Share the wealth eh?
Another problem is that the ‘reckoners’ think that Coldplay, Robbie Williams and Kate Nash don’t need any extra money from Google as they’re no doubt rolling around in pools of cash already. Fair enough point, but how about the other artists trying to make a living from music who aren’t celebrities? Beth Orton spoke out in favour of the PRS the other day on the BBC 6Music website. The female singer-songwriter is testament to the fact that artists rely on the royalties from their music to live:
“It’s been lovely for me because I’ve had the last two years to just concentrate on my little girl.
“That’s been from working really hard for 10 years and then being able to live off the back of what I’ve done when those little royalty cheques come in.”
Now I don’t read Heat magazine but I’m guessing Beth doesn’t grace their front cover as often as Leona Lewis does. And how about artists even more grass roots then Beth Orton? A certain Sentric Music artist had their video streamed 38,175 times during a quarter last year and would you like to take a stab in the dark of the royalties they received from that? A whopping £2.62. An average Premier League attendance watches your video and you barely get enough for a pint of lager in return.
So there you go; I hope this blog has helped a good few of you make up your mind about the Google vs PRS situation and if you hear any ‘reckoners’ chatting otherwise then please send them to this post to hopefully educate them somewhat.
On a related note another artist’s asked me about the best way to go about commissioning a music video and unfortunately I’m pretty inexperienced in that area so rather than reckoning something I’d rather send you over to the lovely Caroline Bottomley at Radar Music Videos who are pretty clued up about that sort of thing.
What I’m listening to this week; some cheeky Florence and the Machine demos I was lucky enough to acquire (there are a couple of belters; the album could be potentially brilliant) and Everything Everything.
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