Using copyrighted music in YouTube videos has always been fraught with issues but a new platform is looking to change that. Lickd allows creators to use commercial songs, through cheap licencing, without being penalised. But how does it work? And how can it benefit creators, as well as the music industry? TenEighty chats to Paul Sampson, the creator of Lickd, to find out.
Lickd, formerly known as Hookd, is a “pay-per-licence commercial music platform for online video creators,” which allows YouTubers to use commercial music in their videos without receiving a claim from YouTube’s Content ID. It is currently in open beta phase.
“Now every single one of us has a production company in our pockets and the world’s most generous commissioning editor in YouTube or Facebook,” says Paul Sampson. “It occurred to me to ask, ‘how would a consumer license famous music for their content if they wanted to?’”.
Paul, who has worked in music licensing for thirteen years, sought out the answer to that question. After researching the topic further, he found disappointed creators, unsatisfied with how YouTube’s Content ID match and the wider music industry is treating them. “Knowing the music landscape like I do and, after immersing myself in ‘creator land’ for a while, I realised I was uniquely placed to try and solve this and I already knew the team of people that could help make it a reality.”
Pointing out that the use of commercial music on YouTube is inevitable, he uses traditional media as an example. “If you never heard famous music on TV you would think that there was something really amiss.”
In the past, many YouTubers have experienced issues with copyright claims on their videos, often resulting in the video being taken down or ad revenue taken away from the creator. In one case, Rose Dix and Rosie Spaughton had the audio temporarily removed from their wedding video due to their use of Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off in their first dance.
YouTube’s Content ID feature compares videos that are uploaded to audio and visual files that have been registered to find out if it uses any copyrighted content. However, it certainly has its flaws. False copyright claims are fairly common, for example, when David Firth received a message saying that a user had claimed material in his series Salad Fingers.
— David Firth (@DAVID_FIRTH) September 2, 2017
There have also been instances of corporations abusing Content ID such as attempting to make claims on clear instances of fair use, as reported on by The Week in an article titled Copyright laws are breaking YouTube. Here’s how to fix the problem.
Over the years, there have been updates to how copyright laws will affect creators, including a feature which allows YouTubers to see how their video will be affected by Content ID before they upload it. YouTube also has a directory of songs stating their current policies. But these updates haven’t solved all the problems, as TenEighty explored with regard to covering songs in 2014 .
Lickd aims to go further than this. Explaining why the service is unique, Paul says that “it’s all about our VOUCH software. If you license a song from a label on our platform, VOUCH will ensure you do not get a claim from Content ID. So now, there’s a commercial music platform that ensures no claims against you so there’s nothing stopping you from using it. People have been using production music because of the claims issue and we’re removing that obstacle.”
He elaborates, saying that he refuses to allow any music on Lickd that is not covered by VOUCH. “That means convincing some of the most famous and established companies in music to change their behaviour and step into a new world.”
YouTube’s policies regarding commercial songs have also caused hurdles for the music industry. As Wired reported, “a 2017 report by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) estimated that a for-pay service such as Spotify paid record companies $20 per user in 2015, whereas ad-supported YouTube paid less than $1 per music user.”
And in 2016, more than one thousand musicians signed a petition to the European commission to “radically redraw the Digital Millennium Copyright Act”, particularly with regard to YouTube.
Considering why a solution that benefits both the music industry and the YouTube community hasn’t already been created, Paul points out that one of the problems is the “complex rights issues associated with clearing a song for any usage, let alone for something as ‘micro’ as a consumer licence for YouTube.”
“New technology presents rights holders with new opportunities and therefore new risks,” he continues. “Typically, and understandably, they want to be as close to 100% sure that any new innovation they partner with doesn’t undermine their existing revenue streams and or undervalue their music.”
However, he explains that the music industry has already adapted to major changes like downloads and streaming, so he believes that Lickd should be no different.
Lickd’s aim is for “the lion’s share of the licence fee paid by the YouTube creator to [go to] the music industry – something that is not currently happening, meaning that labels and publishers are missing out.”
It also aims to improve links between the YouTube community and the music industry. “Really, those two should be excellent bedfellows but they’re not right now,” says Paul. “That’s because of Content ID issues and that there’s not enough of a music lens through which to profile YouTube data.”
And Paul has a few ideas at how Lickd could increase collaboration between the two industries. “One of our first ports of call in 2018 is to build a tool for label marketing departments to be able to find the right YouTube influencers to help with the marketing of new releases,” says Paul. “Whether that is song promotion, artist interviews by influencers etc, we are the conduit for the two sides to find one another easily and collaborate successfully.”
The current standard on YouTube, however, is simply to use royalty-free music. Paul says that, while royalty-free music has its advantages and creators should use whatever works for them, “all of the music ‘solutions’ for YouTube are alternatives to using commercial music because of the claims issue. They’re ‘workarounds’.”
He questions whether, if creators had been able to use commercial music from the beginning, they would still seek out royalty free music as another option. “If creators want to one day use any song in existence from their favourite artists and not worry about any issues with it, getting behind Lickd is the first step to making that a reality.”
So what does the future hold for Lickd?
“All the world’s music available, pre-cleared and simple to use in your video whether that is for Facebook, YouTube, Instagram or any other video enabled platform,” answers Paul. “It’s a lofty ambition but we’re getting the buy-in we want from the music industry, slowly but surely. Now we have to prove to them that creators will use it if we build it.”
Ultimately, Lickd’s aim is simple. “These creators listen to famous music in their cars, in their bedrooms, at their friends’ parties and all day long in their headphones,” says Paul. “Yet when they try and express themselves online, if they use that same music, they have their income appropriated because they haven’t licensed the song.”
“We know creators want the ability to use their favourite songs if they want to and not to be punished for doing so and now they can.”
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