“Make Google do it” – says UK Music CEO Michael Dugher

YouTube pays just a tiny amount of its multi-billion pound profits to those who create the content we enjoy - we want to change that

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10/09/18: ‘Make Google Do It’ – that’s the message in the tech giant’s lavish new advertising campaign to promote Google Assistant.

With the help of comedian David Walliams and Star Wars actor John Boyega, we are all urged to use Google’s latest product because it will apparently make our lives so much easier.

The truth is that for many people who work in music and the creative industries, Google has made their lives harder.  It makes them financially poorer than they would otherwise because it short-changes them for their work.

Since 2006, Google has owned YouTube, the video platform that millions of people across the world use to listen to music online   A total of 85% of YouTube’s visitors come to the site for music and YouTube accounts for 84% of video streaming services.

At least £2.33bn of YouTube’s revenue in 2017 was generated by music in 2017.  According to to MIDiA Research, music is the service’s biggest revenue source.

It is the most popular way that music lovers stream music online, yet Google’s YouTube pays just a tiny amount of its multi-billion pound profits to those who create the content we enjoy.

That’s why I have been working with our members and partners in the music industry to change that and get everyone in the music business a fairer deal.  And, it’s why we are supporting EU copyright changes which are the subject of a crucial vote this week as part of the Copyright Directive.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, some tech giants like Google are trying every trick in the book to permanently block that change and deny those who work in music their fair reward.

As one of the world’s mega-corps, Google and their allies have used their huge muscle to cynically pedal fake news, suggesting the change would mean censorship of the internet and the end of memes.   Both claims are ludicrous and untrue.

It turns out that many Google supporters who apparently urged “their MEP” to block these urgently needed copyright changes actually live in America.

And when it comes to its powerful lobbying operation, the European  Union’s Lobbying Transparency Register reveals that Google directly spent €5.5m on lobbying and is a client of at least eight consultancy firms employed to influence policy initiated by European Union institutions.

The US company also indirectly lobbied the EU via its membership of 24 other organisations, as well as two European Parliament industry forums. The combined value of Google’s indirect lobbying of the EU amounts to €25.5m.

Last week, I joined songwriters and musicians joined us outside Google’s London HQ at our #LoveMusic event to fightback and  highlight how YouTube gives music such a raw deal that performers are better off busking than relying on YouTube for cash.

(L-R) Ed Harcourt, Crispin Hunt, Madeleina Kay, Dave Rowntree, Tom Watson and Newton Faulkner at the #LoveMusic busking event 

A huge one million streams on YouTube generate just £540 for the artist.  Another depressing statistic reveals YouTube pays creators a tiny £0.00054p per stream.  In contrast, one million streams on Spotify return £3,400, Apple Music £5,700 and Rapper Jay Z’s Tidal service pays £9,800.

Suede frontman Brett Anderson, Newton Faulkner, Ed Harcourt, Blur’s Dave Rowntree and Crispin Hunt, current BASCA chairman and former Longpigs’ frontman, Helienne Lindvall and Misty Miller were all there outside Google to help make the point.

But it’s not just the industry hammering home the message.  The Government clearly recognises the problem too.  Margot James, the Minister of State for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, told MPs last week:

“I am indeed concerned about the rights of independent creative artists, and about their power vis-à-vis the huge power of Google and YouTube. I was disappointed that the recent European vote on the matter was so swayed by Google that it went, in my view, against the interests of artists….we will be looking carefully at what more we can do to protect artists and their rights over their own output.”

The Minister’s concerns were echoed by Labour’s Shadow Culture Secretary Tom Watson when he joined us outside Google’s Kings Cross base.  He told people there that Google and YouTube were abusing their dominant market position by offering artists “rip-off deals” which they could choose to take or leave.

We are grateful for their backing and the support of senior Liberal Democrats like the party’s digital economy spokesman Lord Clement-Jones who joined us at the event.

It’s great that cross-party MPs have been so supportive and realise the threat facing the future of music online from Google and the threat to the pipeline of future talent on which the music industry relies.  The talent pipeline is such a crucial issue that UK Music will be making it the central focus of our fringes at the Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem conferences this year.

Music contributes around £4.4 billion to our economy. On almost every economic indicator, the music industry outperforms the national average. Except on one thing: average earnings are below that of the rest of the economy – and that’s why we need fair rewards for musicians, creators and investors.

Just like a rainforest, the music industry is a vibrant ecosystem. Yet tech like Google and YouTube are just bulldozing their way through the heart of this and damaging people’s chances of making a decent living.

This week MEPs have a chance to put that right. When it comes to protecting the future of our music industry and finally start ensuring that the creators of music content get fair rewards, I hope MEPs will vote to finally ‘Make Google Do It”.

This piece originally appeared in Record of the Day.

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