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YouTube’s Content ID – A Case Study

How much do artists get paid for YouTube videos? The other night I was going over some fascinating numbers for the 2000 Azabache CD that a few years ago we started selling on CD Baby which then registered the album on all the digital streaming services and affiliates – Amazon, iTunes, Deezer, Spotify… the list goes on. This article is a look, for those who are curious – and I am sure there are many, at what the accounting looks like from just YouTube when you get paid “royalties” though their Content ID system. Do let it be known that the payout to artists entering the program is 30% while YouTube gets 70%.

Below are the plays just on YouTube which for 2017 came to 2,561,994 – that is two and a half million plays for just one year of a CD that is now eighteen years old!

On that CD I co-wrote one of the songs and most of the arrangements. I had a feeling at the time that the music would resonate with people as everyone on the project was in the zone. I choose to not be paid as “work for hire” on this project but wrote up copyright agreements instead. Below are the YouTube royalty statistics for 2017.

So if you were ever wondering how much the artist gets paid (if anything) when you listen to a song on YouTube it is $0.00006343496 – or around six thousandths of a cent.

1 view pays $0.00006343496
It takes 157 views to make 1 penny
1 dollar is made after 15,764 views

If each time a YouTube video was played it paid the artist a penny it would a different story 2,561,994 * .01 = $25,619.94. When was the last time you bent down to pick up a penny. I do it all the time now.

I do not know the whole story about the woman who stormed YouTube with a gun a few months back but I did hear that it had to do with the meager payouts. Perhaps the general population should be more informed as to these business arrangements as I often am amazed at how little people know about publishing and royalty payments in general – especially in the digital age.

So how did we get to this situation?  The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 which I believe is against the spirit of the U.S. Constitution.

 [The Congress shall have power] “To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.”

– Article I Section 8 | Clause 8 – Patent and Copyright Clause of the Constitution.

The reason that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act is so flawed is that it is impossible to have your music NOT on a platform. Meaning there is only an opt-in but no opt-out as the DMCA created a “safe harbor” which should now be obvious to anyone was a gift to the tech industry.  If Azabache decided to leave the YouTube program there would be no way to make it so our music would be off the YouTube platform. In what way does that qualify as the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries? There is nothing exclusive in terms of copyright when dealing with YouTube. Perhaps this is one of the many reasons for the huge income disparities in our society.

So each year we split up our meager earnings from this project. Create other works of art and music. Play our gigs. Teach. Do our day jobs. Bring truth and beauty into the world and keep the spirit whole.  Just like before the internet when music publishers screwed over the artists, the artists keep it real and bring the joy.

More articles by:

Paul Lyons can be found online at the Pelican Cafe

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