YouTube vs the PRS – A Music Fan’s View

I’d like to start this blog entry by saying a big “well done” to the bosses of YouTube. They’ve just blocked access to music videos on its British site, thus isolating the 95% of British users who don’t want to watch the effects of Mentos in bottles of Pepsi or need to see Robert Webb’s hilarious Flashdance parody for the 550th time.

For those who’ve been living on a desert island over the last few days, YouTube are currently locked in a dispute with the Performing Rights Society (PRS), the body that represents musicians and songwriters. YouTube had a deal with the PRS, in which YouTube paid royalties every time a music video was watched on its site. In negotiating a new deal YouTube’s bosses claimed that the PRS were demanding too much money from them, while the PRS said that YouTube’s offer was substantially less than what they were paying before. In any case, it seems like the big corporations are once again holding the little people to ransom, refusing to budge until they get their way.

For those of us who like to listen to music online, this is a blow. When you consider that there are very few decent music shows on terrestrial  TV these days (with the exception of Later and Channel Four’s late night 4Music output) and the music radio and TV stations seem to play the same ten songs all day, the internet is often the only option British music fans have. YouTube gives people the chance to watch music videos when they want to as often as they like. Their current actions are limiting people’s choices, not to mention limiting the amount of exposure an artist can get.

MSN have been quick to jump on the situation by advertising the selection of music videos available on its own site.  This would be fine were it not for the fact that MSN video is crap. The one occasion I tried to watch something on it, I was forced to install a plug in as I was using Firefox and not their beloved Internet Explorer. The plug in wouldn’t install properly and the only part of the video I saw was the annoying advert that came on before it.

YouTube’s bosses may feel as though they have the upper hand at the moment, but they are surely on course for a massive public humiliation the longer they continue their ridiculous stance. With the head of UK Music Feargal Sharkey already condemning them as bully-boys, chances are that it won’t be too long before other music industry figures, including many artists, are speaking out against them. In the meantime, I’m considering boycotting YouTube for as long as this goes on. If the visitor figures for the British site suddenly dropped,  they’d soon get the message.

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