Nikki Sixx ramps up protest against YouTube video royalties

The former Mötley Crüe member has written to site owners Google, accusing it of stonewalling musicians in negotiations

Mötley Crüe co-founder Nikki Sixx has ramped up his campaign to get YouTube to pay better royalties to artists by writing directly to Larry Page, accusing the Google-owned video-sharing site of stonewalling musicians in negotiations.

Sixx, along with James Michael and the rest of his current band Sixx:AM, became the latest in a string of musicians to criticise YouTube’s music video royalty pay out policies in April.

He has taken the step of writing directly to the Google co-founder threatening to step up protests, “taking the issue into our own hands”.

The letter says that the publicity garnered following the recent criticism by artists led to music industry representatives meeting with Robert Kyncl, YouTube’s chief business officer, who asked them to “pause” their protest in return for meaningful action on the issue.

James Michael Sixx: AM
James Michael of Sixx: AM performing at Download Festival, wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the slogan ‘Don’t Be Evil: Do The Right Thing’. Photograph: Ben Gibson/Outside PR

“No action has been taken, meetings have been postponed, emails remain unanswered,” said the band, who are currently on tour in the UK. “The lack of action has hit a sour note with musicians, so we will be renewing our protests and taking the issue into our own hands.”

A source close to YouTube says that it is in active discussions with artist representatives and that the company is “not the enemy” it has been portrayed as being.

“We continue to engage in productive conversations with labels and publishers,” said a spokeswoman for YouTube. “Digital services like YouTube are not the enemy and we’re working hand in hand with the music industry to bring more money to artists, both by growing our ad-supported platform, as well as through our recently launched subscription service in the US, YouTube Red. Ultimately we believe that by providing more transparency into payouts to artists we can address many of these concerns.”

Last month a report from UK music industry trade body the BPI found that royalties from sales of vinyl records were more than artists made from proceeds of music videos played on YouTube.

The report found that YouTube and similar operations contributed a “meagre” £24.4m in royalties, despite an 88% increase in music video streams to 27bn in 2015.

The sale of just 2.1m vinyl LPs earned labels £25.1m.

Meanwhile, subscription audio streaming services such as Spotify and Deezer contributed a combined £146.1m last year, according to the report.

“Artists from every genre are finding it impossible to pursue their art in a world dominated by YouTube,” said the letter, co-signed by all band members. “Without changes, young musicians will no longer be able to make music for a living. Dreams of breaking into the music industry will effectively be unattainable.”

In April, more than 100 artists and managers including Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Rod Stewart filed a petition sent to the US Copyright Office asking it to reform the so-called “safe harbour” laws.

Under current safe harbour laws, sites such as YouTube are protected from copyright infringement prosecutions as long as they remove any copyrighted material when notified by the rights owners.

The music industry argues that this means that YouTube has immense power in negotiations when making deals with labels and publishers.

“Don’t be evil,” says Sixx:AM, citing Google’s early corporate mantra in his appeal to Page. “We want you to take your own advice before irreparable damage is done to the future of artists around the world.”

YouTube, which is owned by Google, points out it has paid out $3bn to music rights holders to date.

“Google has paid out billions to the music industry, and we’re engaged in productive conversations with the labels and publishers around increasing transparency on payouts,” said a spokeswoman. “We believe that by providing artists and songwriters greater visibility around revenue earned on YouTube, we can solve many of these issues.

“We’re also working hard to bring more revenue to the music industry through our subscription service, as well as continuing to grow our ad supported business, which allows artists and labels to monetise the 80% of music listeners who historically have never paid for music.”


Mark Sweney

The GuardianTramp

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