Why YouTube Red is a threat to Japanese music worldwide

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Yesterday morning I woke up with the sweet thought of a lazy Sunday awaiting for me, ready to enjoy a sunny day in my hometown. As usual when I wake up, I grabbed my phone beside my bed to check new notifications, and noticed I had received an email from YouTube. I thought of the usual “Recommended video” email or of a new user that subscribed to my channel, but alas, the reality was far worse: Five videos I uploaded two years earlier on my channel were blocked in the United States. Reminiscing the old days fighting the YouTube algorithm to avoid copyright strikes, a struggle every Youtuber probably had to deal with at least once, many questions started popping up in my mind: Why only those five videos? And why only in the U.S. ? Then I read the email body, and the portrait of the situation started to take shape.

The email introduced me to YouTube Red, a Premium service with a monthly fee from the world’s biggest streaming website offering several advantages, including ad-free videos, the chance to download videos and play them in the background on your mobile device, and full access to Google Play Music. The message then stated that my videos (that had copyright notifications, but weren’t blocked) were made unavailable because some of the partners “asked for more time to consider and accept the conditions of YouTube Red”, and so, my videos were blocked. This is the absolutely unclear explanation YouTube gave to me.

I reached my desk and turned my laptop on, and as soon as I open my social network accounts, there’s already a battlefield on the web. From people claiming this new service is nothing more than a “Premium” version of YouTube, to those calling it a real disaster, I started looking for concrete informations the world’s biggest streaming service didn’t bother to give me. After a bit of research on various websites, the situation is finally clear. YouTube Red has been created to give its partner creators more income, taken from the price of the monthly subscription ($9.99) instead of gaining from ads displayed at the beginning of videos, that will still be viewable by those that will keep a free account. For those who are not aware, YouTube’s partner creators are users that satisfied certain requirements in terms of subscribers and views and made a request to become partners to start monetize with their videos. So it’s natural that big and popular channels on YouTube are all partners, including music labels promoting their artists by releasing Music Videos on their channels. And, of course, Japanese music labels aren’t an exception.

And here comes the real problem of all this situation: YouTube partners are obliged to accept the conditions of YouTube Red. If they don’t, all their videos will be made private. Basically, if they don’t accept the terms of this new service they will completely disappear from YouTube.

Now it’s all clear: The five videos from my channel YouTube blocked in the U.S. all featured old tracks from the Japanese electronic duo capsule when they were signed to Yamaha Music Communications. This label didn’t agree to the terms of YouTube Red, and so all the videos featuring contents (music, video footage) from the label’s groups have been made private in the U.S. , the only place where YouTube Red is officially launching on October 28. Of course, when this new service will kick off globally as promised by Google, these videos will be made private and impossible to watch worldwide. YouTube claimed that 99% of the partners agreed to these terms, and wether this is true or not, that 1% remaining still translates into lots of channels and partners that didn’t stick to YouTube Red’s conditions. Fans in the U.S. already reported several videos of Japanese artists blocked in their country, a list that includes almost thirty labels and acts, including popular icons such as AKB48 and sister groups, The GazettE, SCANDAL, B’z, tricot, Yamaha Music Communications, Stardust, Flower, and many more.

This disheartening scenario leads to an obvious question: Why aren’t these artists and labels accepting YouTube red’s terms? Because they probably don’t even know about this. Maybe some of them don’t care, or still don’t even noticed this. Or simply they don’t have a clue of what’s happening. Sadly, Japanese labels are well known for their sometimes controversial approach to the international audience and to the internet itself, and the Japanese music industry is generally famous for being way too old-school for certain aspects, first of all digital delivery of music and streaming services. You know, 240p videos, short versions of Music Videos, complete absence of Japanese artists on iTunes… the stuff that makes international fans go mad.

Not all the Japanese labels care enough about spreading their artists worldwide, and there’s a not-so-remote chance that many of them won’t voluntarily stick to this new terms and conditions, while others simply won’t even care about the matter. And the fact that all of these labels, including very famous ones, are still not taking care of the matter is honestly worrying. What’s even more disturbing, and the biggest problem of all this mess, is that Japanese music will lose a lot of visibility with all of these labels and artists losing their spot on YouTube. I can tell you for sure that many, if not most of the Japanese music fans worldwide, discovered this industry through YouTube. This is the price we’re risking to pay from this hazardous move, which is the disappearance of a way-too-large slice of Japanese music from the world’s biggest video website.

The only thing we fans can do is to hope Japanese labels will care enough and do what’s necessary to make their music available worldwide again. YouTube’s new move is definitely drastic if not absurd, and I understand how annoying it can be, but the price to pay in terms of visibility is too high, so I hope to see a resolution to this situation in the foreseeable future. And to get my video featuring capsule’s Hello back to the U.S.

– Alex


What do you think about all this? Is Japanese music’s visibility at risk with this risky move by YouTube? Be sure to leave a comment down below!

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