Thanks youtube for bringing music to the mass. On demand music and music video have never been more convenient and cheap (free in fact). It makes me wonder what the business model is behind putting all the music onto youtube. For the English music, mostly they are automatically recognised by youtube’s video filter and so whatever advert revenue arises from views on those videos, a portion will go to the company who owns the rights to that music. So at least that sounds alright. But for eastern music, they are generally uploaded by the general public and are not recognised by youtube as copyrighted items, yet the existence of these uploads seem to be totally ignored by the record labels. Given that it is not an income stream at all for the record labels, I can only presume that the music are not taken down for the purpose of marketing, but why they do not themselves upload these music (instead of letting the public do it) is beyond my understanding. It is not difficult to set up a channel on youtube or upload videos!

If it is not because of youtube, I would have missed out on so much music out there. Not saying that I like them, but without youtube, probably I wouldn’t have listened to Stairway to Heaven, or Smells like Teen Spirit. There are many people like me out there who discover new music now and again with youtube. The radio is just so “last-century”. Katie Melua, my latest mega-discovery, has got such a heavenly voice that I just want to listen to nonstop. But this highlights another fallacy of youtube. I can just download the video from youtube and then I have the song to myself for nonstop play on my personal player. The advert income for the record labels, other than those arising from the crazy Justin Bieber fans, are more than likely below what is needed to sustain music production.

At the moment, the availability of free music on youtube might not have caused much harm to the sale of music, but looking forward into the future, I can’t see how the story can be rosy for the music industry. The prevalence of youtube extends only to the younger generation, and many people are still limited by their internet bandwidth for repeated video plays. But these will change with time, plus youtube is in fact reinforcing the idea that music is free for all. Piracy has been a problem for a while, but we all know its illegitimacy. But youtube is telling you and me that why buy music when you can have it legally for free, in an all-you-can-eat buffet style too?

Music is an essential part of our lives, so at least we can be sure that it is not going to die out due to lack of funds. There is always a demand so there will always be people willing to financially support its production. But the method of generating revenue might turn to more of a donation basis, where people can choose to pay or not, and how much to pay. It is already happening to an extent, for example, by me choosing to listen on youtube for free or purchasing through itunes, but I see this becoming a more formalised and widely accepted business model in the future. Afterall, we don’t need profit hungry corporations. It would suffice as long as there are creative musicians who are able to provide us with good music.


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