Three issues have converged this week: YouTube’s inability to make revenue, the continuing fight between the PRS and YouTube, and Rickrolling.
What has multi-millionaire Pete Waterman got to say about it all?
The chances are you’re aware of a song called Never Gonna Give You Up by Rick Astley. The reason being this is the song that has become a viral hit due to the Rickrolling meme which has been running for a couple of years now.
For those totally in the dark, a Rickroll works by inviting you to click on a link, either for an interesting video, or something completely different, and then instead taking you to the music video for Never Gonna Give You Up, complete with Rick Astley doing his cheesy 1980s dancing.
Rickrolling has been a huge craze, which is thankfully dying out now. But not before Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of The House Of Representatives, used it to draw traffic. Rick Astley even won an MTV Europe Music Award for ‘Best Act Ever’ after an intense online voting campaign by his fans.
Why is Rickrolling suddenly back in the headlines? Because due to the ongoing battle between the Performing Rights Society and YouTube over how much money the latter should pay the former each time a music video is viewed on the site, the co-songwriter of the Rick Astley classic has decided to go public with his views on the whole thing.
Pete Waterman Speaks Out
In an editorial in The Sun newspaper, Waterman complains that he only received £11 ($17) from Google for Never Gonna Give You Up in 2008. He then uses this as the basis for condemning YouTube, having a pop at Google, and generally complaining at the hardships being felt by musicians and record labels from the success of online video.
Waterman starts by claiming that Google “is not prepared to pay the going rate for the music that plays on it and contributes to its £3 billion annual profits.” For starters, Google isn’t YouTube and vice versa. Although Google owns YouTube, it’s a separate entity that has got to be profitable on its own. That isn’t going to happen if it concedes to the demands of every self-interest group looking for a big payday.
Waterman then accuses YouTube of being “engaged in, and benefit[ing] from, copyright infringement.” It certainly hasn’t done so with Never Gonna Give You Up, and it also has a strict (often overly strict) policy of content being removed if there is even the whiff of copyright infringement going on.
He then claims that the “song must have been played more than 100million times on YouTube. It has become one big advertising campaign for the site.” Actually, the official version of the video has been viewed 15 million times, not 100 million. And since when has YouTube used the Rickroll phenomenon to advertise? It simply hasn’t.
What Is It Actually Worth?
He finishes up by stating that “Google doesn’t want to pay what the music is worth any more. It is using more and more music but wants to pay less and less for it.” Again, an argument not based in fact. YouTube has always had most music videos on its site, so it hasn’t upped the number all of a sudden. Plus, I don’t think it’s about paying less, but more about paying what it’s worth.
Pete Waterman, and the music industry as a whole, needs to realize that the Internet has changed their business forever, and that goes deeper than just online video sites. Maybe £11 is a derisory amount for Waterman to receive but it’s likely the fair share of the revenue made by Google from the Never Gonna Give You Up video.
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