Advertisers Caught Between Warner Music Group and YouTube
At a dinner party last night I showed my guests “Eyebrows”, the latest Glass and a Half Full Productions video from Cadbury. It’s a minute and a half of eyebrow raising fun accompanied by a remix of the 1980s Freestyle hit, “Don’t Stop The Rock”. I explained that this was Fallon London’s follow up to the Gorilla and Truck ads. Discovering they hadn’t seen either we proceeded to YouTube, only to discover that the Phil Collins track, “In The Air Tonight”, had been replaced by a range of lame non-synchronized tracks. The explanation? A copyright claim by Warner Music Group.
Warner Music Group signed a deal with YouTube in September 2006, agreeing to distribute on YouTube the library of music videos from their rosters of musicians, along with behind-the-scenes footage, artist interviews, original programming. YouTube users would even be able to incorporate music from WMG’s recorded music catalog into the videos they created and uploaded onto YouTube. The deal included sharing revenue from advertising on both music videos and user uploaded videos, using YouTube’s royalty reporting system. Warner Music videos often were able to be embedded into blogs and other sites.
Two years later, negotiations on just how revenue is made and shared have fallen down. Warner Music was apparently unhappy with the haphazard nature of Google’s advertising regime, a situation made more difficult with the drop in advertising revenue across the online industry. The deal between Warner and YouTube came unstuck. Music videos on the WMG YouTube channel have disappeared. YouTube over the last few weeks has given users with Warner-licensed music the choice of taking down videos, muting tracks, or replacing tracks with royalty-free music.
So who is affected? Bands signed with Warner include Metallica, Death Cab for Cutie, R.E.M., Radiohead, Fleetwood Mac, Panic at the Disco, Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Phil Collins is joined by Jackson Browne, Eric Clapton, Alanis Morissette and Faith Hill.
Between a Rock and A Hard Place
The advertising industry is caught between a rock and a hard place. Right now a significant number of commercials have been taken offline or rendered useless. Media planners must be scratching their heads around future use of YouTube and similar media sites. Sound and music professionals will be thinking twice about the future of licensing deals, recognising that the current dispute is likely to be played out with other recording labels as well.
Moving to other hosts such as DailyMotion, Hulu and Vimeo is likely to lead to similar problems with major record labels, even with licensing agreements in place. Hosting videos on company sites is clearly an option, but misses out on the mass appeal of social media sites.
Another approach is to just wait and see. The fact that YouTube has offered ways of keeping videos online with alternative sound tracks gives hope that Warner and Google could eventually sort things out. Both companies have a lot to lose, considering the potential clout from musicians’ fan bases.
An Original Response
Sound and music companies will be arguing that this is the time to be using either original music or tracks from smaller and more flexible labels.
The Toohey’s Extra Dry 2007 Australian campaign, “Harvested”, was highly sought after online, despite the actual advertisement leaving people puzzled and slightly disturbed. The video featured a Decoder Ring remix of “Yama Yama”, adapted from Le Monde Fabuleux Des Yamasuki, a pseudo-Japanese concept album produced by French duo Jean Kluger and Daniel Vangarde in 1972. The track, featuring a Japanese choir singing over drum patterns, vibes and fuzz guitar work outs, was part of a cult following dance scene in France in the early 1970s.
Moccona’s Cinderella tale, “Quest”, shot in Montevideo, Uruguay, featured an original piano composition by Elliott Wheeler. Interest in the music was so great that one keen YouTube user recorded videos demonstrating how to play the piece. Nylon Studios eventually released the score to interested parties.
The most recent Cadbury commercial, “Eyebrows”, has built part of its success on the sense of nostalgia by dance club and skating rink patrons who danced and moved through the late 1980s to the Freestyle track, “Don’t Stop the Rock”. Fallon London will be thankful that the man behind the track, Pretty Tony Butler, made the Freestyle sound popular without the help of major recording labels.
Members of the public do care about the music used in television commercials. As the editor of The Inspiration Room, with a YouTube channel of our own, I’ve found that the most common response to advertisements is curiosity with regards to the music. The first place they go to search for commercials is YouTube. The creative industry faces the challenge of either making the YouTube medium work, or coming up with a better and more popular online medium.