UPDATE: It’s now 2022, but I wrote this in 2010. Crazy. A lot has changed since then. Feel free to ask questions in the comment section! – AR
Greetings Friends. I am sitting in NYC’s Laguardia Airport on the way to the Bermuda Guitar Festival. Normally I would have spent the last 48 hours practicing my tail off for the show. This time was different.
I did get some practicing in, but I had an issue that became what I call “pants on fire” i.e. something that needed to be addressed right away…danger Will Robinson, danger!!! I spent this last 48 hours in front of the computer – namely re-encoding and uploading videos to a new channel on Youtube. Why, you ask? Read on…
[psst – subscribe to the main Adam Rafferty channel here]
Why YouTube is Critical for Musicians
As you probably know, Youtube is critical for musicians at this point in time. No longer is a record company or magazine review needed to get in front of people’s eyeballs – all you need is a self-produced video and an internet connection to reach fans worldwide.
My entire fingerstyle guitar career has materialized through my youtube videos and presence – and I am not the only guy who can say this. I think it has helped countless musicians present themselves to fans, concert promoters, and sell CD’s and DVD’s, book workshops and who knows what else. Many musicians have gotten a boost from this incredibly genius, earthshaking (but really friggin’ stupid) website called Youtube. I know I have.
In my case, my 2 most popular videos are Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” and Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition”. As you may know, I released a Stevie Wonder instructional guitar DVD teaching the arrangements I play on Youtube. All the marketing, customer base, etc are from YouTube.
Cover tunes help musicians “get out there”. You might not search for a new artist, especially if you have never heard of them. The Beatles, Stones, and Led Zeppelin were cover bands which wove their own material in. Hence, cover tunes are helping me immensely!
By the Way, YouTube is one HUGE Copyright Infringement Platform
Here’s the rub. All of my cover tunes on Youtube – and anyone’s cover tunes on Youtube are flat-out, no questions asked copyright infringement. Yep, if you are not paying for a license, it is copyright infringement. Does not matter if you did it for fun and not for money, does not matter if it is YOU playing the song. Copyright Violation. Period. Grow up if you want to argue or think otherwise!
This poses quite a dilemma. My “new fan” traffic comes from people searching the tune titles – not me, as far as I can tell. They find me via the tune connection, and like magic, I have new fans. These infringing videos are critical to my career, as you can see. Few people start out by caring about Adam’s or anyone’s originals – relatively speaking. However, when they find my Billie Jean, they flip out!
(EMI told me a one-year license for one tune is about $2500. I may even pay for a tune or two – more to come in another blog post.)
So if you do ANY cover tunes AT ALL – you better keep reading and get real with yourself about where it is all heading.
YouTube Account Deletion – It’s Happening More Than Ever!
Several musicians have had their entire accounts on Youtube deleted after achieving a high profile through popular videos of cover songs. That’s all videos, comments, messages, friends, and subscribers gone all at once.
This really would suck for me if it happens. I have 11 thousand people who have subscribed to my channel, and I’d lose contact with them. Ouch! That’s fans and customers. It’s like the ultimate targeted mailing list for an artist gets destroyed.
Glowing comments show concert promoters that I have fans. Fans mean ticket sales to them, so part of my presentation for concerts is based on my YouTube presence.
It does not matter if many many other people play the same cover song as you on YouTube. YOU or I could be singled out, have videos removed and once you have an account in “bad standing” and get 3 offenses, your account is deleted.
YouTube – for the geniuses you are, how could you be so moronic to have set up a website where copyright infringement is so easy, and then hurt users so badly in a seemingly random, inconsistent fashion?
What really sucks the big one is that YouTube is totally inconsistent in how they deal with offenders. Also – the more popular you become, the more of a target you become as publishers search for their own tunes and report to YouTube on who to axe.
Warner Music Group
It appears that songs administered by Warner it seems are the most dangerous to use. Once Warner bitches to YouTube about a video, YouTube says “Uncle” by flagging, maybe deleting your account. UMG seems to do ad overlays on videos of cover songs which is a much nicer, less hurtful thing to do.
Don’t Believe Me?
Naudo is a guitarist whose instrumental covers were very popular had his account deleted. Click here to read about what happened to him.
A friend just informed me that his instrumental guitar version of “What a Wonderful World” was deleted and his account is now in bad standing. His buddy, a beatboxer, had 30K subscribers and his account was deleted because he did covers.
This makes me very nervous, to be honest, which is why I am taking action before there is a problem.
My concert booking and DVD and CD “pipeline” is my YouTube channel due to my covers – particularly Billie Jean and Superstition along with other popular covers.
After thinking long and hard, I have come up with an action plan of solutions that I am implementing that you may want to consider for yourself to stay afloat in this tricky minefield. Read all of them to get a picture mentally before you implement anything.
9 Solution Action Steps for YouTube Musicians
Step 1 – Write your own tunes, or use public domain tunes!
Build up a body of your own material and why not check out traditionals, hymns, and look up the definition of “public domain” tunes. This way no one can ever accuse you of copyright violation. Not easy but legal! Get started. I am amazed that people on YouTube learn my material.
God bless those of you like Andy McKee, Tommy Emmanuel, Don Ross and so on. You guys who have well-loved original tunes. No one can ever take you down for your originals!
Step 2 – Create a Copyright-Infringement-Free YouTube account if you are infringing (i.e. if you have any cover tunes you did not write) on your current account. I am in the process of launching a new youtube channel that will have my original tunes, lessons (not of songs though), messages to fans, rants, and so on. YES – I do covers so I am infringing. Let’s call a spade a spade.
(2017 – Abandoned the new channel)
Here is the current channel – subscribe here too, but who knows what the future brings? This is where the cover tunes are.
Of course, you can delete infringing videos from your current account but that’s what we want to avoid. Or – we want to get the max out of the infringing videos yet not suffer the full blow of punishment! 🙂
Step 3 – If you must do covers (and I must!) then consider uploading your videos of covers to several other video sites. Hint – check out Tubemogul.com to make this easy. Just do a google search on “best youtube alternatives” to get educated about where you can host videos. Vimeo, Viddler, and Dailymotion are a few.
Remember – if these are infringements, they can at one point be removed from those sites too….but proceed to Step 4.
Here are a few links to my Billie Jean and Superstition on other sites. Yes, other video sites exist! I’ll probably embed these…
Adam Rafferty – Billie Jean by Michael Jackson – Solo Guitar
Adam Rafferty – Superstition by Stevie Wonder – Solo Guitar
Step 4 – Put a “pointer” video on Youtube so that a search on YouTube points to a video on a different video site. Unfortunately, Youtube is the 500 LB gorilla, and searches are done there more than any other video site.
As soon as I do one, I will link it here for you.
I plan to put up pointer videos – which means if you search “Michael Jackson Billie Jean Guitar” for example, you’ll get a video of me talking, not playing. I’ll say something like “Hi everyone, I am playing nice with Youtube and have a link below this video screen so you can see me play Billie Jean on another site”.
If you have several versions of the same video up across several sites, and one gets deleted, you can always change the link to view the video on some “other site” but retain the search capabilities of Youtube with a non-infringing video – the pointer video. I repeat – we want to take advantage of the YouTube search function, but the infringing material is not on the YouTube server. All that’s on the YouTube server is a pointer video you (or me) talking and a link.
Step 5 – Don’t upload exact duplicate video files from your old to your new channel.
I started re-uploading videos and saw that there might be an issue with 2 accounts uploading exactly duplicate files. No sweat. Just go into your original movie editing files and re-output the movie with a few seconds extra on the file, maybe with different compression. If the file size and play length are different that “ought” to make the Youtube system see them as 2 different videos.
Step 6 – Do this while your infringing account is active – before anything bad happens It’s like insurance. Easier and less expensive to deal with before disaster strikes.
Step 7 – Put up a new announcement video on the old channel announcing the new channel and urge subscribers to re-subscribe.
Step 8 – (Optional) I may even do an audio-swap on the original infringing videos if I get flagged. More to come on that, as I am not decided yet. I could keep the old vid up with an audio swap, retain the lovely comments and have the old video “point” to another vid.
Step 9 – Get a new habit!!! Watch videos on other sites and don’t be lazy! Easier said than done. YouTube has to be slightly decentralized so that we are all not at their mercy. What a pain in the ass this is becoming. Excuse my French.
ADAM’S PROPHECY for 2012 🙂
The days of posting copyrighted material for free will come crashing down and screeching to a halt just like the golden age of Napster.com when everyone thought that gigabytes and gigabytes of mp3s were and should be free. It is only a matter of time. I’d rather prepare than get caught blindsided!
For example, I can type in “Stevie Wonder Songs in the Key of Life” on a Youtube search and I get a nice little playlist of the whole ORIGINAL album, with the visual being a scan of the record cover. Millions and millions of plays and no one – Stevie or the publisher gets paid just because a random person felt like sharing it. IN ALL FAIRNESS – WHAT IF THAT WERE YOUR INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY? If someone shared my instructional material for which I get paid I would be very upset.
This will not last. No one is getting paid for the plays. And sorry – music should not be free unless it’s your creation and you decide to give it away for free.
FYI Here is a nifty video that I found on restoring suspended accounts.
Good luck and be prepared!
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