There was a content ID for the song “Mood” a collaboration between Uzi and the Atlanta producer TM88, who did Uzi’s biggest hit “XO Tour Lif3.” What was odd about this tag is that the song wasn’t released until January 2018, while the video was uploaded in November 2016. This is YouTube’s Content ID system working as intended but truthfully it never occured to me that this system could effectively be used to monetize content that was uploaded prior to an official release. A few hypothetical questions jumped into my head about the ethics to this system and the ways there are interesting loop holes to examine.
What exactly happens if there is a major songwriting or production change between the unreleased demo and what the Content ID is collecting? What if another rapper hops on the song but the version being caught in the Content ID doesn’t include that rapper. These compilations for Lil Uzi Vert aren’t getting millions of plays, so it’s not like thousands of dollars potentially slipping through the cracks but it did raise interesting technological questions around user generated content. Another example is the Florida rapper Kodak Black, whose hoped in and out of jailed, played an early version of 2017 hit “Tunnel Vision” back in 2016, and this video here still got back tagged
with a Content ID.
This might be why at this point artists, labels, and managers are more okay with songs leaking out if they arrive on a platform like YouTube. The initial videos might not be monetized but once the song is officially release the door then opens, which in a way makes sense as this isn’t an official product on the market, and the Content ID will effectively then monetize content from the pre-promotional cycle.
Last fall when I wrote about YouTube Music
when it was still just a rumor I was already hedging my bets at what the service might be: “there are so many thing YouTube could do to make itself dominate from an artist perspective that I’ll be disappointed if their new service is just Spotify-lite.” Unfortunately I was right to have my reserves with YouTube Music when it launched didn’t even have a way to search by YouTube channels and instead Lyor Cohen’s vision was a top down label capitulation for music consumption, rather than one built up from YouTube’s organic community. I makes these observations about Content ID, because I’d be interested in a version of YouTube Music that centered not around mimicking Spotify but rather understood music from how fans use it and how YouTube actually profits from it.
That’s what initially excited me about Instagram stories stickers for music, because it opens a new and fairly unexplored way to not only make money through one’s work but also re-imagining how music distribution even works. Much in the same way video game makers with early access were able to sell incomplete games to fans that wanted to experience a game early. Now to be critical that models of early access offloads what should be paid labor like Q&A testing onto consumers, but also potentially helps break the idea of a video or song being a single static product, rather than an every changing work.
Again with Content ID, I’ll admit I don’t like the constant surveillance state around this form of music consumption. Yet, if we’re going to live in a world of endless data tracking then I do think there is a lot of space to think about a platform like YouTube. There is more to YouTube videos than traditional lyric videos or even high budget music videos and the quirks of the Content ID system offer a bit of insight into what that world or service could become.