MPs grill lobbyist about how YouTube pays artists by Charlie Pinkerton
Oct 5, 2018
The sunny testimony of a lobbyist for YouTube was met with concern from MPs who, at a committee meeting on Thursday, wanted to know how the video service can better compensate the artists who use the site.
Jason J. Kee, a lobbyist for Google — YouTube’s parent company — appeared as a witness in front of the House Heritage Committee for its study on compensation models for artists and creative industries. The committee has heard from dozens of artists and industry representatives already.
Kee spoke about YouTube’s role as a platform for creators.
According to Kee, more than 400 hours of video are uploaded to the site every minute, “making it one of the largest living collections of human culture ever assembled.”
YouTube collects revenue primarily through advertisements. It shares a portion of that revenue — set at a minimum of 55 per cent — with its content creators, whom it calls its “partners.”
In the past year, Canadian channels were watched 45 per cent more, and creators making $100,000 or more rose 24 per cent over the last year.
YouTube protects its creators from having their content stolen with its $100-million copyright-management system, Content ID, Kee explained. The system allows rights-holders to: upload reference files they can use to block videos that poach their work; track a video’s viewership statistics; or monetize a video for themselves by running ads, which creators choose to do 90% of the time.
Kee said the system is effective in more than 98 per cent of cases, and has allowed YouTube to pay out more than $2 billion to its “partners.”
Kee also talked about YouTube’s investments in Canada.
The company has partnered with Canada Media Fund on Encore+, which features Canadian content that no longer airs, such as TV shows The Littlest Hobo and Wayne & Shuster. It also broadcasts live streams for events like the final Tragically Hip concert, the Juno Awards, the Canadian Screen Awards and APTN’s Indigenous Day Live.
The company also opened YouTube Space Toronto, where Kee says more than 5,000 creators have shot videos or attended workshops since 2016.
The site also has a specialized Canadian section, the YouTube Canada Spotlight Channel — the first channel to promote local creators.
Kee was challenged by MPs, notably NDP Heritage Critic Pierre Nantel, about how the service can do a better job at compensating Canadian creators.
“How do you explain there’s such a discrepancy between your saying, ‘Oh we do all we can, it’s amazing … rah, rah, rah,’ and people come here and just cry, saying they can’t afford to make a living as creators?” Nantel asked.
Kee later praised Canadian Youtube creators whose use of the site has made them internationally famous, including Justin Bieber, Shawn Mendez and Casey Neistat.
Liberal MPs Gordie Hogg and Wayne Long, as well as Conservatives Martin Shields and David Yurdiga, also pressed Kee on YouTube’s power as a platform.
In response, Kee said YouTube plans to better compensate artists through its new subscription service, YouTube Premium. The service gives creators a pro-rated share of the viewer’s monthly subscription, which Kee said “can be more lucrative than advertising revenue.” As well, YouTube is building functions such as channel-specific memberships, merchandising features, and a new marketplace to connect creators with brands.
YouTube is but one piece of a successful artist’s pie, he added, with branding, advertising and merchandising making up the rest.
“We believe every Canadian creator should have a chance to be discovered, develop an audience, and succeed on their own terms,” Kee said in a statement.
“By radically lowering barriers to entry and eliminating gatekeepers, while giving creators instant access to a global audience of almost two billion users and a variety of features to help them grow revenue, YouTube is the best place for creative entrepreneurs to build and grow sustainable businesses.”