Media conglomerate YouTube faces a $1 billion dollar lawsuit brought about by Pharrell Williams and other musicians. Pharrell, along with 40 recording artists, has demanded YouTube remove over 20,000 music videos. If YouTube refuses to take down the music videos, they will be sued. The lawsuit claims YouTube does not have the performance rights to thousands of songs.
Irving Azoff, founder of the new legal group, Global Music Rights, is representing the 40 clients named in the lawsuit. Some of Azoff’s clients include John Lennon, Smokey Robinson, and The Eagles. Recently, Spotify and Pandora have been highly-criticized for their artist services too. It was reported that Pharrell Williams’ hit song, “Happy,” was played over 43 million times on Pandora, but Pharrell was compensated just $2700.
In November, country music’s best selling artist, Taylor Swift, left Spotify because she felt her value as an artist was not appreciated on the music service. Taylor Swift believes she was the only artist to go platinum this year because unlike her counterparts, her music was not available on Spotify. Spotify is used by more than 50 million people, and most of these people are not Premium Account users. Only Premium Account users have to pay for Spotify’s music services. Media companies like Spotify, Pandora, and YouTube do not require people to pay in order to use their services. Therefore, fans can freely listen to music.
The music streaming company’s artist payout system has become an issue. Spotify pays artists $0.006 to $0.0084 per stream. Therefore, an artist with 30.2 million streams, will receive a payout between $180,000-$250,000. Consequently, this has caused a rift between some artists and the music streaming companies. On one hand, there are artists who feel companies like Pandora and Spotify hurt music sales. On the other hand. Spotify says it pays 70% of its revenue to record labels. Spotify will pay $1 billion dollars to the record labels this year.
Pharrell Williams’ lawsuit hopes it will be the first step to bring about change in the digital music era. The rights of musicians have been compromised, largely because fans have access to streaming music without having to pay for it.