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Ok Go on Why Labels Won't Let You Embed YouTube Videos (forumsunlimited.com)
129 points by ironkeith on Jan 18, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 36 comments

Summary: because YouTube pays the labels part of the ad revenue for videos played on youtube.com, but not for embedded videos.

That is a summary of why you can't embed the video but I'd still encourage people to read the full post if they want a more thorough analysis of the state of the music industry today.

Absolutely - it's a great post overall.

Whenever I see a summary in HN comments it is usually because the post itself is long and rambling. I'm glad I was not deterred from clicking through, it's a great read.

I've always been deeply interested in the inner workings of record labels.

As I understand it, it seems that a label is somewhat like a VC for artists. But no VC takes 80-90% of the company they invested in. Why do they need to take such a big part? Is pressing CDs such a huge risk and expense? If such; why continue doing it? Barely anyone buys CDs for obvious reasons, shouldn't there at least be an option for artists that don't want to press CDs? Maybe there is but artists just want CDs for some reason?

Why can't artists get regular bank-loans to fund their business? Is it just too high risk? It seems that someone as famous as Ok Go should be able to take a bank-loan to fund some studio time, but I suppose they're already under contract.

Anyway, if anyone has answers to these questions or links to where I can read more about stuff like this, please do share.

"Why can't artists get regular bank-loans to fund their business?"

This is one of the fundamental questions that is most often overlooked!

Ok, so three long haired dudes working part-time jobs at coffee shops wander in to a bank and strike up a conversation with a loan manager...

...I think we can all fill in the blanks here. :)

The indicators that banks look to for giving out loans are quite different than the indicators an A&R man is looking at.

Would a bank care about how many people you typically draw to a concert? Would they care about a good review on Brooklyn Vegan? Or how many shows you've played outside of your home town?

Music is a specialized industry requiring specialized methods of investment, much like Internet or biotechnology companies.

Agreed, but shouldn't three long haired stoners with a couple of successful albums already under their belt be able to demand better terms? If labels aren't willing to do it because they've "always done it this way", maybe there's room for some new investors to offer less onerous terms to proven musicians?

This happens in industries as they undergo commidification, and it's pretty clear that the barrier to entry to making music has dropped a ton and the music industry is undergoing the same thing... so why aren't the funding institutions keeping up?

Well, people ARE trying. :)

Here's an article from Billboard: http://bit.ly/7qevgk

The concept was very interesting but unfortunately it had a lot going against it, which is why Jake got out of the music industry.

Jake didn't really know all that much about the music industry... he didn't know promoters, or booking agencies... having these connections are still very important, just like in any industry.

Also, Francis and the Lights are incredibly idiosyncratic and would rather not deal with the industry on any terms other than their own... which doesn't make for the best business partnership.

Independent labels still fulfill this role.. to an extent. What they are mainly lacking in is capital and a way to recoup, as bands do not sign contract for anything other recording.

It would seem that a company with the right contacts in the music industry, a good amount of capital to invest, and an all encompassing approach to the artists income would have a shot at becoming profitable.

There is most definitely money to be made from music, but understanding the intricacies of the this new marketplace are more complicated than most people are willing to admit to themselves.

Disclaimer: Jake and I have been good friends since college.

Except when a VC invests in your company, you still do all the work. They get a small share because all they are providing you is money. Record labels handle a lot of the business side of a band and let the band members just make music.

That would make sense if that was considered as part of the cut.

But it's not.

The labels still charge the band members for their services in addition to the 80-90% cut they take!

See the classic http://www.negativland.com/albini.html for an example.

Here's the very best point that is brought up: "And musicians need them to survive so we can use them as banks. Even bands like us who do most of our own promotion still need them to write checks every once in a while."

While the major labels had their faults, the DID act as investors for musicians.

This was probably their most important function, and it seems as if though the majority of Music 2.0 proponents do not know this.

This isn't the only thing they don't know about a functioning music industry.

The next time you're listening to a Music 2.0 presentation, stand up and ask the dude if he knows where the closest band rehearsal spaces are, where the closest guitar repair services are, who manages local acts, who does booking, who is currently promoting what genres and at what venues... really, I could go on and on about a lot of details that some messiah of the digital arts is most definitely unaware of.

I'm not exactly sure what you are referring to as "Music 2.0" (possibly the likes of pandora and last.fm?) but I do agree that the investment function of record labels is often over looked. As someone heavily involved with researching the industry, as well as helping local bands, I am constantly amazed with the parallels between entrepreneurism and being a musician.

There needs to be the musical equivalent of the lean startup theory. Just as swarms of young entrepreneurs are embracing the bootstrap, so should bands. Yes the labels could probably tell you where to get your Fender repaired, but so can Google. All functions of the traditional record company are becoming obsolete in comparison to digital methods. I envision an industry where musicians retain artistic freedom and everyone actually gets paid (check out Steve Albini's classic rant on how most artists don't make much of anything www.negativland.com/albini.html)

Yet another parallel between programming and musicianship... :)

I think any musician knows where to go to get their guitar fixed or where to find a rehearsal space. Those sorts of things are pre-requisites to having any sort of future in the industry.

By "Music 2.0" I'm referring to any number of articles related to music having to be free, being a loss-leader for t-shirt sales, etc... in these people's minds, bands form out of the ether and well-recorded albums rain from the heavens above!

Businesses involved in the digital commodification of music need to have a firm understanding of how music is made and performed in order to have any measure of success.

> While the major labels had their faults, the DID act as investors for musicians.

Investment under the some of the most onerous terms ever made.

Yeah, the music industry is experiencing some brain trauma right now. It'll happen to the film and TV industries too in a few more years once bandwidth and memory prices decrease.

Because music is so readily available, almost no one expects to pay for it. Itunes is cleaning house right now, but that's because people still want ultimate control over their libraries. I'll bet once people can be guaranteed the same level of access that they enjoy on their Ipods as they do on their phones, then Itunes will meet the same fate. Apple probably knows this which is why they are making plays in the streaming business.

What the content providers need to do is accept this fate and start building a new model around distribution and the incredible amount of information (data!) they have available to them. Package the product up in something consumers will always pay for--new devices or other peoples products (advertising).

The beauty about this business is that it hits a chord in consumer's lives. They will always want it because this content defines them in some abstract way. If content companies can learn more about their consumer's identities, they can sell that information to product makers. If you doubt all you have to do is look at the new artist product lines-- Sean Jean and Dr. Dre Beats to name two.

Question: Does MTV pay the record labels for showing their videos? I'm not being a smart-ass, I'm really asking and didn't want to rip into this without having some background.\

The article says that they used to consider MTV a promotional partner, do they still?

MTV has changed dramatically from 10-20 years ago. They have moved away from playing music videos around the clock. Now the majority of their content is teen reality shows and the like. Televised music videos is limited to very few, already very popular artists.

This doesn't really answer the original question, in which I am also interested. What about MTV2, Fuse, BET, VH1, etc? Do TV networks have to pay royalties on music videos?

MTV2 doesn't play much music videos either- for that matter, neither does BET or VH1.

Still, I also would like to know the answer to the original question. Surely videos are still played somewhere. Do labels get paid when that happens?

I don't know for certain if MTV have any special deals with the music companies (I did used to work for EMI but not in royalties) but everyone who plays music public needs to pay for it. This includes radio and TV stations.

I think the point probably is that music videos tended to be given away as freebies (although public playing of them would still incur a royalty payment) but now the music video is seen as part of the sellable product. I was actually part of the team that helped implement the technology part of this at EMI some years ago.

This is also extremely interesting because OK Go was one of the bands that was able to tap into viral video as a way of getting the word out there. Remember the video for Here It Goes Again? 50 million views.


Hang on, why does the label allow them to upload videos to Vimeo?

While I can't find a link, my guess is that Vimeo has exclusive distribution rights with the labels.

It's extremely difficult to feel sorry for the record labels. They all deserve their fate. They saw everything coming as far back as the mid 90s, but decided they were more powerful than the market. With all their CD boom money, they could have bought Napster and Big Champagne, which tracks P2P file sharing. They could have bought MySpace and Pandora and just about any major music portal that any person of average intelligence would have thought was a good idea.

I agree with you. I don't feel sorry for the record labels. I do however feel sorry for the artists. They're the ones getting screwed while the labels hold on to their dying industry for dear life.

The artists are actually doing just fine. They've always wanted to free themselves from the labels. If you're an artist and you can figure out distribution and marketing on your own, all you need is about 1000 loyal fans to make a decent living because you keep most of your profits. It's not as easy as it sounds, but at least it's freedom and what's more important than that?

I just want to see what happens when the music hydra hits a million users.

is it possible to do some kind of javascript/iframe hackery to make embedding work?

You maybe can come up with a technical solution, but the point is that it's not permitted. The article itself offers a solution to the problem of embedding (offering the video through a different website).

The article raises more interesting issues than this, however, such as why it's not allowed in the first place, and what needs to change to make it allowed.

I've seen some weird hacks that sort of get you embedding of embed-disabled videos, but they're incredibly fragile, and tend to break whenever YouTube makes any change to their layout.

FTFA "So the money that used to flow through the music business has slowed to a trickle"

I'd like to call that a "mis-speak"

"The digital music business internationally saw a sixth year of expansion in 2008, growing by an estimated 25 per cent to US$3.7 billion in trade value. Digital platforms now account for around 20 per cent of recorded music sales." [1]

Which makes music sales of US$18 billion for 2008 by contrast the revenue for the top 20 countries in 2005 was $12b [2]

"PRS for Music, the organisation representing songwriters, composers and music publishers, today published new research showing that UK music industry revenues totalled £3.63bn in 2008, up 4.7% from 2007’s £3.46bn." [3]

Some fucking trickle

[1] http://www.ifpi.org/content/section_resources/dmr2009.html

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Music_industry#Statistics

[3] http://www.prsformusic.com/aboutus/press/latestpressreleases...

Not saying this is authoritative but your numbers don't jive too well with this Wikipedia quote:

"In the 21st century, consumers spent far less money on recorded music than they had in 1990s, in all formats. Total revenues for CDs, vinyl, cassettes and digital downloads in the U.S. dropped from a high of $14.6 billion in 1999 to $10.4 billion in 2008. The downward trend is expected to continue for the foreseeable future—Forrester Research predicts that by 2013, revenues will reach as low as $9.2 billion.[5] This dramatic decline in revenue has caused large scale layoffs inside the industry, driven music retailers out of business (such as Tower Records) and forced record companies, record producers, studios, recording engineers and musicians to seek new business models.[6]"


Both posts can be true. "music business" is not only about record sales. It's also about ads, gigs, licensing, etc. Even if direct sales are lower, the business itself can be alive and well. It's only the amount of money spent by customers that went down.

To be fair, I bet the money that flows down to them has slowed to a trickle.

Yeah, but digital sales aren't replacing CD sales. They probably never will. That wouldn't be so much of a problem if the labels didn't mind becoming smaller entities. The thing they haven't yet realized is that the industry is breaking up into many different niche entities of which they're now only a small part. It sucks losing power they way they have but complaining that the digital music revolution is unfair is like saying that gravity is unfair.It's a non-starter.

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