Why Blocking Art Sucks For Society and For Business
YouTubers are increasingly having their videos blocked or de-monetized for shady, outdated reasons
Rick Beato is one of my favorite music YouTubers. He’s smart, knowledgeable and is really good at making videos about music from the perspective of someone who’s been in the industry for a long time.
Yet some idiots who “own” the music he uses to teach viewers seem to think it’s better that he not use those tunes. It’s short-term, greedy thinking and, from my perspective, it makes no sense.
Every time I watch one of his “What Makes This Song Great?,” if I already love the song, I love it even more (and usually share it on my social media). And if it is a song I am not a fan of or even didn’t like, I finish the video and have a new appreciation for the tune.
Many of these videos are de-monetized, which means Beato doesn’t make any money from them. In fact, according to Beato in this video, the record companies (or whoever owns the songs) make some money from them.
Now, I could go into why I think that Beato should make some money because he’s putting a lot of time into making them (he said 15 hours to do this recent Led Zeppelin video). But Beato said he doesn’t want to complain about that; it’s their tune, and he’s merely using the songs as a way to teach people about good songwriting.
He’s just confused about what the purpose is of blocking them altogether?
Why Is this Not a Win-Win? Why Do We Stay Stuck in Win-Lose?
Ultimately, it seems to me to be a win/win. Beato can enjoy making a video, we can enjoy watching it, Beato can gain some business from the video and the artists (or whoever owns the song) can make some money from it.
Yet, for some reason, a number of these companies block these videos from being shared. Let’s be clear, most of the time this is not the musicians themselves who are blocking them, but some old farts in a stuffy office somewhere making the decision.
In my opinion, this is just pure fucking stupidity. But unfortunately, it’s reasonably widespread.
In fact, I was shocked to hear that some of my favorite bands — notably the Grateful Dead and Phish — have blocked such videos, because one of the reasons I feel so strongly about this topic is I learned from those two bands, who allowed fans to tape their shows when most bands didn’t, that nothing beats free promotion. For years, Deadheads and Phish phans circulated live tapes of those bands and, well, that’s how a lot of us became fans of them.
To me, that showed an ahead-of-their-time recognition of the growing collaborative or sharing economy of the 21st century. (There’s plenty of heady articles about this topic and what it means, but in the interest of keeping this essay short and focused, here’s a link to an academic article for those who want to explore it further).
Copyright Infrigement Claims Also Cloud This Issue Up
But again, it’s not the musicians who make these decisions, it’s someone somewhere in a mysterious den hiding behind often vague copyright laws, and teams of soul-less lawyers who understand that a simple YouTuber is not going to have the time or money to fight them, so they don’t.
In addition, while the laws are vague, and YouTube has different agreements with different record companies on what’s allowed and what isn’t, what makes it even more frustrating is that YouTube is relying more on more on A.I., which, in 2020 at least, really doesn’t understand the concept of “grey area.” (This excellent 2019 article dives deeper into this debate, and includes a quote from an entertainment lawyer, ““It’s really hard to rely on an algorithm to know if something is fair use or not. That’s really hard to fucking do — especially if you’re a computer.”)
And as popular music YouTuber Paul Davids explains in this clip above, he had a two-second lick from an Eagles song in a 15-minute video that was copyright claimed, which means all of the advertising money that Davids had made from creating the video now goes to the greedy folks who “own” the song.
But what makes it even worse is that it’s not just some dipshit A.I., but actual people who go through channels like Davids’ and look for clips where they can make these copyright claims. He showed his cell phone where he’d received 15 such claims in one hour!
Artists Suffer the Most In This Extractive Capitalist System
As an artist, you want your stuff to be shared and enjoyed. I speak as a writer and budding podcaster. I’ve had trouble doing self-promotion over the years because, well, its just is not in my DNA. I’d rather do the art creation.
This is true for many artists. So they find someone who does enjoy the business side of things and have them do it. Yet it seems as we’ve entered this new, digital world where information is so readily available, the problem is these “business-minded” people are only thinking about making money NOW! So they pay people to find copyright violators like Davids or Beato and make the claim, thus sucking the ad revenue into their pockets. Just one more aspect of an extractive capitalist system that not only doesn’t serve to make our society better, but punishes those of who are trying.
It punishes content creators and, tragically, punishes many lesser known artists. In the video I posted, Beato talks about some young saxophone player he thinks is brilliant who he posted an interview with but nobody watched it because his record company (like most in the jazz industry, he said) doesn’t allow even one note of his to be shared.
Like I said, stupid.
These old men running these companies (“older than me!” Beato joked) don’t understand what WE have here with the Internet. They are still stuck in the “me, me, me” world of extractive capitalism that is dying. The sooner it dies, the better, in my opinion.
Davids included a solution in his video that sort of went over my head, but Beato as well as the article I linked talked about how perhaps the best thing to do for creators is to use social media to raise awareness, even contact the artists directly.
Beato said that he believes it was people using Twitter, which apparently Jimmy Page and Robert Plant use, that led to the “Ramble On” video being unblocked.
So perhaps this is also a call out to artists, especially major ones of bands like Zeppelin and the Eagles. If you guys want your music to be shared into the future, why not start raising a stink with whatever corporate blowhard is not allowing your tunes to be shared in these ways? I mean, come on, Don Henley, two fucking seconds of a song? With that kind of thinking, no wonder young folks refer to such bands as dinosaurs! Your music really will die out faster if it is not widely shared in various forms.
Now, I recognize there are grey areas about information on the Internet, but it seems to me like this is one of those areas that the vast majority of people would agree seems pretty obvious.
Maybe it’s not, though. Maybe I’m missing something. If you think so, let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading.