Marian Call got my attention yesterday with this tweet:

So I went looking around, and yep, it’s absolutely true. The Guardian also has commentary, as does ars technica, but the Bloomberg article is a bit more in depth.

YouTube wants to solve its “being a radio station” problem with a new streaming service, apparently, and if you as an artist don’t like it, they’re going to exile you. One imagines they won’t outright throw non-new-service-licensing videos offline (tho’ that might actually happen), but they can do a whole hell of a lot by whittling them out of search results. (And, apparently, getting all letter-of-the-law on accessibility.) Several smaller/indie labels in Europe are suing for regulatory intervention to prevent this; I’ve no idea how that will go.

It’s a huge loss, if it plays out as reported. Last I checked – a couple of years ago – YouTube amounted for nearly 70% of music plays on the Internet. Google are the new gatekeepers, and wow, does that suck, because “Don’t Be Evil, Inc.” has been busily showing what a lie that was this entire decade.

Now me, I don’t have a big YouTube presence; I’m barely there at all. Really, I’m only there so if someone actively looks for me, they find something. I’m not on even an “indie” label. I haven’t been asked boo about this initiative and I’m sure I won’t be – which means I sure as hell won’t be on their new service. I’ll be locked out.

On the other hand, I’m likewise sure they won’t be throwing off my tiny-viewership live videos. But damn, folks. A lot of people (Hi Molly!) have gained a lot of traction (Hi Doubleclicks!) on YouTube, and … will this hit them? I don’t know yet.

But it does almost certainly say that this particular onramp – a big onramp – is henceforth closed. Sure, you can still upload your videos. Shame if nobody was to find them.

And that’s certainly one problem. With this action, Google/YouTube have taken the gatekeeper position so many people (hi) have been worrying they’d take. Right now, it’s music. What next?

A further specific music problem gets discussed over here at the generically-named Music Industry Blog. Basically, Apple loss-leads content to sell hardware, with their music service, this claims. Amazon does the reverse – loss-leads hardware to sell music/content.

Google/YouTube’s plan is to loss-lead on both, in order to own you. Which is Google’s business model in general, of course. But the downside is that it means they’re placing no value on either music or music technologies – they’re both just lures. Which has the psychological effect of further devaluing the idea of music having value – bringing zero-value thinking to streaming services as well.

That’s possibly already a lost battle – see also how the music industry made “music ownership” have negative value – but if there’s more damage to do, I’m wondering if these clowns won’t find it. I’ve previously discussed how streaming/banking services keep alienating customers with constant appearance and disappearance of shows, due to licensing games. This takes “licensing game” up another whole new level.

In a real way, it’s another prevention-of-plenty action. Like the cable companies and the so-called “internet fast lane,” which means slow lane for you and me, Google is gaming the system to benefit themselves and the other large companies with which they are making these deals, at the expense of everyone else.

Let’s limit supply of music on YouTube to that from other large corporations. Let’s try to implement some artificial scarcity.

Is that the plan? Maybe. Where there’s a way, there’s a will, and this part of the supply-constraint game is the opposite of new.

But will it work? Good question. Looks like we’re about to find out.

This is Part Nine of Music in the Post-Scarcity Environment, a series of essays about, well, what it says on the tin. In the digital era, duplication is essentially free and there are no natural supply constraints which support scarcity, and therefore, prices. What the hell does a recording musician do then?