Is The MMF Shilling for YouTube (Again)?

Irving Azoff recently posted an open letter to YouTube on a tech industry news site where he laid out the arguments against YouTube–we think very effectively.  He echoed many of our complaints against YouTube, particularly about how YouTube uses the “notice and shakedown” system of DMCA abuse in the form of “whack a mole” for Google’s own profit.

Of course, it’s not really correct to call it “whack a mole” because the mole never gets whacked. Google’s interpretation of the DMCA has effectively created yet another government mandated compulsory license, this time a compulsory license that is royalty free or more accurately  redistributive because it moves value from the artist to Google.  Add that to the vicious attacks on Prince by Google surrogate EFF in the ridiculous decision in the Lenz case and you’ve got a real recipe for disaster.

You would think that at least some of Irving’s fellow managers in the MMF would have rallied around him, but in the case of the Music Managers Forum in the UK, that’s not what’s happening at all.  As we’ve long suspected, the MMF (at least in the UK) is busily shilling for Google.

Here’s an email that MMF president John Webster blasted out to MMF members:

From: Fiona McGugan <>
Reply-To:” <>
Date: Saturday, May 14, 2016 at 4:19 AM

Subject: ICYMI 85: Life at a Major, Start Ups, YouTube
Dear Manager,
Very instructive view of working at a major label:
A digital veteran questions the role of the music industry in the demise of music based tech start-ups:
A creator defends You Tube:
And the Featured Artists Coalition has launched a survey about YouTube. Please take three minutes to answer on behalf of your artists;

Best Regards

Jon Webster
President, MMF

About: The MMF UK is the largest professional community of artist management in the world. We exist to provide support, training, representation and opportunity for Managers. We want a transparent music business that respects the needs and aspirations of the artist and their fans. If you wish to unsubscribe, please do so by return email.

This email is quite incredible because it cites to “A creator defends YouTube” but never mentions Irving’s open letter that engenders that defense.  It only mentions the attack on Irving’s letter from a YouTuber who for whatever reason was defending Google against Irving.  If they want to give both sides, then fine, but they didn’t.  They only gave Google’s side.

Not surprising considering the email was from Jon Webster, but you would think that even he would be more careful about being balanced.  This is the Music Manager‘s Forum, right? Not the Google Managers Forum?  Wouldn’t it have made more sense to put a link to Irving’s open letter and then give the response rather than just giving the response?

Mystifying.  We’re sure that both Webster and the YouTuber would deny that they are in Google’s pocket which could be true.  They could be “useful idiots”.

If you read both Irving’s open letter and that response from the YouTuber, you’ll notice the response never brings up a really important point that Irving emphasized–YouTube’s utter failure at accounting transparency for the meager royalties it does pay after you cut through all the “DMCA license” and “fair use” claptrap.

You say you want transparency, and I agree that labels and publishers have not traditionally been the best at that. Two wrongs don’t make a right. You need to be transparent, too. Be transparent about your ability to keep illegal music off your platform.  Be transparent about your ability to keep your own content behind a paid wall.

Be transparent about your revenue and, when paying artists, include all the revenue that is generated by music including advertising on YouTube’s home page. If you do this, I pledge to you that I will pressure the labels and publishers to pass on that transparency and increased revenue to the artists.

We would have thought that Jon Webster would be rallying the troops behind Irving on the transparency issue when the shoe is on the other foot.  But Webster appears to have no interest whatsoever in criticizing Google about anything from his mealy mouthed defense of Google’s DMCA practices to this indirect slam of Irving Azoff standing up for his artists and our industry.

Not only is Webster out to lunch again when it comes to Google, he doesn’t even address Irving’s rather generous offer to actually help Google.  That is a major offer from a major manager who could definitely make a difference.  Google, of course, has ignored this generous offer.  Why?  Probably because it is conditioned on Google being transparent about their own revenues.  If they want to pay artists a share of advertising revenue, then Google should be transparent about how that share is calculated and where the money comes from.

They should also stop playing games with ContentID and doing things like putting speed controls in their YouTube viewer to make it easier to pitch bend around ContentID in the first place.

It makes you wonder whose side the MMF is on–if you haven’t made your mind up already.  The unity in the music industry against Google has gelled in a way that we haven’t ever seen before, and that’s what makes Google really nervous.  That’s why they trot out the YouTube lottery winners (many of whom make the real money from distasteful brand integration fees or product placements, not YouTube royalties), that’s why they try to tell us that music isn’t an important part of YouTube’s revenues (so why bother auditing), and that may very well be why they use the MMF to push their agenda.

As Irving said:

The root of the problem here is YouTube: You have built a business that works really well for you and for Google, but it doesn’t work well for artists. If you think it is just the labels and publishers who are complaining, you are wrong. The music community is traditionally a very fractured one, but on this we are united.

And just in case they haven’t figured this part out yet, we’re complaining, too.  We know where Irving is coming from, but Webster needs to decide which side he is on instead of standing shoulder to shoulder with Google and its surrogates.

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