YouTube asks promoted musicians not to bad-mouth the company

25 Jan 2018

YouTube on a smart TV. Image: A Aleksandravicius/Shutterstock

Promoted artists on YouTube are reportedly asked to sign non-disparagement clauses.

YouTube is reportedly requesting that musicians working with the platform and original series creators sign non-disparagement clauses, forbidding them from saying negative things about the company.

Some musicians have received money from YouTube for video production and promotion purposes, which is part of a bigger campaign to boost the site’s relationship with the music industry.

Selected artists have been working with the video platform in the last few months creating music videos and promotional billboard campaigns.

Bloomberg reported that the non-disparagement agreements are about more than just refraining from speaking negatively about the site, but anonymous sources didn’t provide further details of the conditions.

A history of tension

This may have something to do with YouTube’s notably tense relationship with record labels of late.

In the summer of 2016, musicians including Kings of Leon and Taylor Swift signed a petition demanding reforms to digital copyright laws.

The artists asked for “sensible reform that balances the interests of creators with the interests of the companies who exploit music for their financial enrichment”.

Billboard reported that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) gave YouTube “safe harbour” from copyright infringement liability for the actions of users – for example, if people upload videos from artists unofficially.

This is contingent on the company responding to takedown requests from the copyright holders.

Since this petition, YouTube has signed licensing deals with three major record labels ahead of the launch of its paid music streaming service, YouTube Remix.

The company also hired recording executive Lyor Cohen, who has been involved in mending relationships with record labels.

It’s notable that although non-disparagement agreements are par for the course in many business dealings, YouTube’s competitors in the music world don’t require them to be implemented.

These include Spotify and Apple Music, two firms that have a strong foothold in the subscription-based music streaming market.

YouTube on a smart TV. Image:  A Aleksandravicius/Shutterstock

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects