Artists, Your Digital Music is on Youtube, Like it Or Not

Artists, Your Digital Music is on Youtube, Like it Or Not March 20, 2015

Some time last fall, I began to notice a strange phenomenon on Youtube. Videos were cropping up all over the place with high quality songs from a variety of artists, both secular and sacred. They featured exactly the same thumbnail image (the cover reflected against a dark background), and they were all tagged as “auto-generated by Youtube.” Essentially, if an album was being sold in digital markets, it was made available for free streaming this way. I did some googling, and at first all I found was a page about auto-generated playlists, where Youtube would collect already uploaded videos on a particular subject and create playlists automatically. This was obviously different. It was as if Youtube itself was providing new content. All that distinguishes these music videos from other user uploads is that popular web conversion services like youtube to mp3 will not work with them, making it difficult to download copies onto your own computer.

After more digging, I found out that yes indeed, Youtube is automatically putting artists’ full digital albums out there for free. With the integration of Youtube and all things Google, some have speculated that it’s tied in with Google Play. As far as I’ve been able to find, neither Google nor Youtube itself has released any official statement on the matter. But I’m not the only one who’s noticed. Here is a reddit thread, and here is an article describing the phenomenon.
This extends to southern gospel artists with work in the digital market as well, including people like Gerald Wolfe who have been very vocal about piracy concerns in the past. I hate to break it to Gerald, but for whatever reason, it looks like Google and/or Youtube is now making piracy official. (You can find hours’ worth of Greater Vision albums here, all automatically generated.)
However, given southern gospel music’s particular demographic, I’m not sure how much of a concern this should be to southern gospel artists. Southern gospel fans like to have music in their hands, and unless you have a mobile phone, you can’t listen to Youtube playlists on the go. My advice to southern gospel artists would be that it’s still worth it to put their music on the digital market, even though this automatic process now seems unstoppable. And if anything, it’s such a small niche in the music business that even more Youtube exposure is probably going to help more than it hurts.
What are your thoughts on this trend, as it affects southern gospel music or just music in general? I think it raises some interesting questions and concerns. I think the people who will be hardest hit are independent artists with a younger demographic.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • JSR

    No way I would be a SG fan without Youtube exposing me to the genre…

  • As a consumer, I really enjoy YouTube doing this, not just for southern gospel. Because apparently it’s legal (?), I don’t have that much of a problem with doing it as a consumer. (Is that even the right word?) Just yesterday, I used YouTube to listen several times to a new GVB song that I haven’t bought yet.
    I don’t think it affects the music industry in a negative way. For me, at least, I don’t want to keep YouTube open all the time or use data to play a song. I’d rather have it in my possession. That’s not true necessarily for all songs, but for the good ones I keep coming back to.

  • Well of course, and neither would I. However, this particular development of literally putting entire albums on Youtube is quite recent. I first became a fan through watching just the smattering live performances and what-not that users had uploaded. But I’ve seen some artists complain because they now feel like Youtube is essentially giving their music away.

  • From what I’ve read, this is a recent development from YouTube in an effort to compete directly with services like Spotify. Every stream/view is quantified, and royalties are paid to the appropriate parties (using advertising revenue). The videos are automatically generated from digital distributors (my guess is from Google Play, since they get most major releases).
    Statistically, most kids and teenagers get their music from YouTube than any other source today. It makes sense that YouTube would want to cater to this demographic. As long as the video is either posted by the record label or Vevo in an official capacity or one of these auto-generated “topic” videos, the artist should still be getting royalties from their distributors. Now, if it’s uploaded by a private user with no connection to the artist, then yes, that’s unauthorized piracy.

  • What advertising revenue? Do you mean these videos are supposed to have ads for people without ad-blocker? I’ve never seen any ads myself, but then I do have blocking software.

  • YouTube has quite a bit of advertising lately. They typically start at the beginning of the videos, with the option to “Skip Ad” after the first several seconds.

  • Wow, then I must have really good software! Adblock Plus, everybody. I swear by it.

  • Lydia

    I suppose if they don’t allow conversion capability, that would prevent using it for distribution. If Kyle is right, then Gerald should be very pleased. He should suddenly be seeing more royalties, right?

  • Possibly, although if it’s being run like Spotify, I’ve heard artists complain that Spotify gets them peanuts in royalties.

  • JSR

    I’ve used this a little bit tonight and I love it. The latest GVB Happy Rhythm CD was uploaded today. Apparently you can search for an hashtag and the artist name and find the artist and the albums. For example #gaithervocalband opens the doors to lots of their music…

  • Yep, it’s a lot of fun! Thanks for the heads up on that live stuff. Man, Bill needs to get some new material though, if you know what I mean. Although I admit that a little more “Winds of This World” won’t hurt anything.

  • Spotify’s pay-outs are ridiculously low. I make around $0.001 cent per unit streamed. If an artist gets, for example, 10,000 streams on Spotify, they get roughly $10 (and that’s only the artist – the songwriters/publishers have it even rougher!).

  • Sounds about like what I make in interest from my bank account—bi-annually!