“I find YouTube’s business to be very disingenuous. It is built on the backs of free, stolen content and that’s how they got that big,” said Reznor in an interview with Billboard.
Reznor was not speaking purely as an artist, however. He is also chief creative officer at Apple Music, the streaming service launched by Apple in 2015, which is one of the key rivals to YouTube in the digital music world.
“I think any free-tiered service is not fair. It’s making their numbers and getting them a big IPO and it is built on the back of my work and that of my peers. That’s how I feel about it. Strongly,” said Reznor, widening his criticism to other rivals like Spotify in the process.
YouTube has faced a barrage of criticism from musicians and music-industry bodies in 2016, as part of a campaign in the US and Europe to rework copyright legislation that grants the service “safe harbour” status when users upload copyrighted material without the permission of the rights owners.
Rightsholders have also argued that YouTube’s vast catalogue of free music could impede the growth of paid music-streaming subscription services like Apple Music and Spotify’s premium tier – important context to Reznor’s comments, given his role.
In its most recent public statement, following an open letter to Alphabet boss Larry Page from rock band Sixx:AM, YouTube indicated that the criticism is having an impact on the company’s plans.
“The voices of the artists are being heard, and we’re working through details with the labels and independent music organisations who directly manage the deals with us,” a spokesperson said.
“Having said that, YouTube has paid out over $3bn (£2.1bn) to the music industry, despite being a platform that caters to largely light music listeners who spend an average of one hour per month consuming music – far less than an average Spotify or Apple Music user. Any comparisons of revenue from these platforms are apples and oranges.”
Following Reznor’s criticism, YouTube issued a new statement addressing his comments.
“The overwhelming majority of labels and publishers have licensing agreements in place with YouTube to leave fan videos up on the platform and earn revenue from them. Today the revenue from fan uploaded content accounts for roughly 50 percent of the music industry’s YouTube revenue,” said a spokesperson.
“Any assertion that this content is largely unlicensed is false. To date, we have paid out over $3 billion to the music industry – and that number is growing year on year.”
This article was written by Stuart Dredge, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 15th June 2016 22.13 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010