The main selling point of YouTube Music at the moment is its catalog. Not all of the officially licensed music, but rather the decade worth of legally dubious music, remixes, concert footage, and who knows what else that’s uploaded to the platform. Content that YouTube doesn’t own, isn’t actively fostering the creation of, and in other parts of the YouTube world is actually trying to curb and reduce. That tension between YouTube Music shifting into a more legitimate platform, while at the same time marketing its endless video content is what makes the platform so interesting to examine how it moves.
Last month Julia Alexander, a internet culture report at Polygon, wrote a great story
that looked at the future of YouTube from the point of view of its creators.
YouTube can’t promise brand safety with volatile creators on the platform — advertisers don’t want to be caught in a firestorm. The only move is to pivot, and YouTube is ready. Hollywood names like Will Smith and Demi Lovato are safe bets. Same with music videos already vetted by major record labels. Clips from late night shows are another safe bet.
Alexander highlighted that while YouTube is built on user created videos; the last couple of years of negative press around creators like PewDiePie and Logan Paul is causing an adverse response by the company. YouTubers, who made careers are on the platform, are realizing that their home might not be the best place for them to continue trying to make their content. This manifests in many forms: Demonetization of video content with little reason given, raising the barrier to get paid for content, subtle tweaks to the algorithm, or a Trending tab that favors video by Hollywood studio and major music labels. All of these hints are YouTube saying: “Of you can use our platform, but we’d rather you didn’t.”
Congrats to the music industry, along with Hollywood, the great beast known as YouTube heard your collective whines. Or well YouTube is listening to the angered shouts of advertisers that don’t want products next to live streamers who say racial slurs or make jokes about Nazis. Not a particularly extreme request all things considered. Yet, it’s YouTube’s decision to rely on professional industries, who are already equipped to make advertising friendly content, rather than boost its own community is interesting.
YouTube was built on user created content, but is now pivoting to holding back future creators from entering that space. That isn’t to say that people won’t still create on YouTube or find an audience—the platform is too big for that to be the case. No instead the company is establishing tiers where certain video creators won’t be able to make money, while YouTube’s more favored content will. That creates a potential future, where it wouldn’t be shocking if YouTube actively funneled advertiser money towards these trusted partners and those legacy YouTubers are left without any real to sustain themselves. This is already happening to a degree, but not officially mandated down.
YouTube Music for all of those other YouTube music creators represents Hollywood and other professional video creators creeping into their space. These officially licensed songs is another way for YouTube to supply its platform with content that isn’t homegrown, but rather from large companies they can trust and potentially better monetize. Unfortunately that particular catalog alone no matter how good the recommendation algorithm isn’t going to convince people to pay YouTube Music’s premium fee. I say this because YouTube Red already offered much of the same content and never found much of an audience given YouTube’s size.