Music industry bigwigs, from producers and copyright lawyers to some musicians themselves, have never been big fans of YouTube. While it’s a haven for indie musicians and content creators looking to make a name for themselves, their royalty structure has been universally panned as anemic and their system for catching and flagging copyrighted content has its fair share of criticism thrown its way. Adding to the din of voices shouting down YouTube is Trent Reznor, an executive for Apple Music and semi-legendary frontman of the long-running group, Nine Inch Nails. Once having drawn controversy for making an album essentially legal to obtain through channels normally reserved for piracy, Reznor still stands by fair compensation for musicians and thus had a few choice words aimed YouTube’s way in a recent interview with Billboard.
When asked about YouTube, Reznor didn’t mince words. He said that YouTube was “built on the backs of free, stolen content” to explain its early meteoric rise, likely referring to fan-made music videos and covers just as much as he was referring to illegal uploads that slipped the filters. He went on to say that “any free-tiered service is not fair.” While this statement may draw criticism far and wide, with some even already suggesting Reznor is an “old man shouting at a radio”, the point has its roots in fact; YouTube has long been panned as unfair for content creators, yet it’s the only free service of its kind to meet with such massive success. SoundCloud, meanwhile, almost sold out to Twitter a while back, and Spotify’s subscription numbers are growing every day, poised to possibly outstrip the number of free users in the near future. Apple Music is a paid service and boasts some 15 million subscribed users, flying in the face of the old argument that people would skip out on some content they obtain illegally if they had to pay for it.
This is more of the same for YouTube, who are currently seeking a legal means to protect themselves for liability stemming from uploads of copyrighted content that, by law, should never have made it onto the network. While not garnering hate on the same level as an entity like The Pirate Bay, YouTube’s latest criticisms are pointing out a large number of pitfalls that have become ubiquitous among almost any service that provides content to users free of charge.