For years we’ve had the following statement on our website:
“If you want to be a part of our community, we'd be honored if you'd join our newsletter here. That way there are no algorithms or third party companies that can get in the way.”
Well... the prophecy has come true again. Yesterday, Google — a big third party company and mother of all algorithms — removed all Danish music licenced through KODA from YouTube. If you’re not familiar with KODA, think of them as one of the good guys working behind the scenes to make sure that the little guys get paid. KODA is Denmark’s performing rights organization for songwriters and publishers, responsible for collecting royalty payments from streaming services, radio stations, et al., and making sure that songwriters are paid for their work.
Recently, Google has been negotiating with Nordic collection organizations (i.e. KODA) in hopes of replacing national royalty agreements with pan-Nordic agreements. Their terms? A 70% decrease in royalty payouts. (YouTube is already one of the lowest paying streaming services in the world.) KODA refused, rightly, so Google continued their negotiation. And by “negotiation” we mean “blatant show of force meant to bend the entire music industry to its knees, to bow in front of it’s master, and to kiss the ground, swearing to never disobey again”.
Now, we’re not lawyers or economists or politicians. Some would say that we’re not even particularly smart in the music industry. But we know what is bound to happen when one of the biggest companies in the world negotiates with a small organization representing a small industry in a small country: they get to make the rules. This is a far cry from a “negotiation”.
Herein lies the problem, but also what we hope could be a solution. Google is a monolith, while the music industry is atomized. KODA is a small piece of the giant puzzle that is the music industry. It’s an industry where responsibility is divided into many small businesses which rely on each other through some kind of symbiosis.
So yeah, KODA is the little guy when negotiating with Google, but we reckon that if the entire music industry joined in support behind KODA — kind of like that scene in Lord of the Rings when the giant army appears from over the hilltop to join their outnumbered brethren — then Google would think twice about their “negotiation”. Just like they did in 2014 when they tried to pull the same move on global independent music.
While Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are still free to use (and effective at sending viral hashtags into the stratosphere) perhaps #standwithkoda could be a good one to let Google know exactly how many people they are negotiating with.
And to our friends abroad, we hope you’ll join in support. There is nothing preventing this from happening in your country. When one domino falls, so do the rest.
Photo by Tangi Berlin