Battle Lines Drawn

Continued from: Music Access Rather Than Ownership

Irving Azoff and his company, Global Music Rights, have demanded that YouTube take down about 20,000 videos with music from about 40 major artists, including Pharrell Williams, John Lennon and the Eagles.  If YouTube does not comply, they're threatened with a $1 billion lawsuit, according to an article in the Hollywood Reporter.  Azoff's position may have some legal merit on the grounds that YouTube does not have sufficient rights.  The Google-owned video distributor may have negotiated deals with the record labels to obtain license to play the videos, but according to Azoff, they have not negotiated an agreement to so with the artists (or their estates).

Dr. Dre (Andre Romelle Young) performing at Coachella, 2012. Cropped version.  Photo by Jason Persse

Dr. Dre (Andre Romelle Young) performing at Coachella, 2012. Cropped version. Photo by Jason Persse -

This battle could get nasty as there's potentially big money on the table either way.  Ultimately there will be some resolution to this.  Either YouTube will pay more for access, or another service may be willing to pay more for exclusive access.  When Apple acquired Beats audio, they not only got a company that makes stylish but overpriced headphones, they also go access to a music streaming service lead by powerful music executive Jimmy Iovine and Hip Hop star Dr. Dre. These two, especially Iovine have an inside track and the clout to mediate deals which in addition to Apples access to consumers, could push this music streaming to the top.

The long game here is a tight rope the connect streaming services to fans by way of whatever deal they can make for distribution. Like we have in pay cable and other subscription services, we will see some differentiation between higher costing services offering access to restricted music and/or higher quality files and services that are free and or inexpensive subscription based models.  

Perhaps there was some inevitability to this.  Once you take a vinyl album and transform it into a compact disc and then into just a downloaded file, you strip a something of "thingness" in the material world. As you remove that thingness, people begin to literally lose touch with the object as a thing.

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