Last year, Jay Z dropped a freestyle at the Tidal B-Sides concert, where he addressed the criticism of his streaming service, his competitors in the field and the payment artists receive from these rival streaming platforms. Specifically, YouTube and Spotify caught the most flack in his freestyle, where he raps,
“I feel YouTube is the biggest culprit, them n**** pay you a tenth of what you supposed to get.”
The issue of the payment artists receive is, once again, gaining prominence with artists like Debbie Harry of Blondie, Nikki Sixx, and Katy Perry raising awareness.
YouTube (owned by Google), reportedly pays very little to artists despite the vast amount of content it has from the artist community. YouTube has fought back against those criticisms, citing examples where artists have made millions through their content being on the platform. In addition, they also point to the increase in live shows artists are able to do because of their content being on YouTube.
It should be noted, in the streaming model, the services pay the music labels and the labels pay the artists. Music labels have not made public how much money they receive from the streaming platforms. So a huge chunk of money may go to the labels that artists may feel they are entitled to receiving.
Christophe Muller, an executive from YouTube, answered the many criticisms lobbied at the platform with a blog post. Among his points, he says YouTube actually pays artists unlike terrestrial radio stations in the United States, which do not compensate them. He also pointed out content on YouTube exposes artists to a global audience and has been able to restart interest in old songs that were released decades ago.
Muller claims YouTube’s content ID technology allows artists to get their royalties no matter who uploads their content, which is a way artists are able to get compensated on their content. He also mentioned the amount of data they provide artists allows them to better plan tours, press runs, etc.
The fight continues between the artist community and YouTube, but as other streaming platforms gain more prominence, it may affect how artists release their content in the future.