Videos from independent music labels could start disappearing from YouTube in the coming weeks, as the website has reached an impasse in the negotiations with several record companies. As YouTube prepares to launch a brand new music service, which would dispense with ads and allow users to download full-length albums, contracts have been negotiated with the three major labels – Sony, Universal and Warner. The indies, as represented by WIN (Worldwide Independent Network) have not been offered the same deal, according to Forbes. This could mean that soon, indie artists like Adele and Radiohead could start disappearing from the site. The wipe would exclude videos under the VEVO umbrella, but live performances and particularly rare recordings are under threat.

Artists like Adele tend to pride themselves on their indie status, but it could now do them a huge disservice.

Independent labels have instead been offered template contracts with unacceptable, but non-negotiable terms which undercut the rates of services like Spotify and Rdio.

“This is not a fair way to do business. WIN questions any actions by any organization that would seek to injure and punish innocent labels and musicians — and their innocent fans — in order to pursue its ambitions,” said Alison Wenham, CEO of WIN and chairman of the Association of Independent Music, UK (AIM).

Thom Yorke, Radiohead
Also under the indie umbrella: Radiohead...

YouTube officials, on the other hand, maintain that the changes are all in the fans’ best interest. Speaking to the Financial Times, Robert Kyncl, the company’s head of content and business operations, says that videos from independent artists could be blocked “in a matter of days” if the labels continued to refuse to sign. Some content will still be available va channels such as Vevo, but exclusive content such as live performances will vanish.

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“While we wish that we had 100 per cent success rate,” he said, “We understand that is not likely an achievable goal and therefore it is our responsibility to our users and the industry to launch the enhanced music experience.”

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For many observers, this marks yet another step in YouTube’s move away from the independent and free platform, which the website has always represented. According to Kristoffer Rom, co-chairman of Danish indepependent label association DUP, losing touch with independent creators could mean the company’s downfall.

Arctic Monkeys
...and the Arctic Monkeys.

“YouTube’s self-proclaimed role as a ‘a distribution platform for original content creators and advertisers large and small’ is little more than hollow branding of a company that in reality is losing touch with the very creators and audience that have bloated the size of the platform into the stratosphere over the years,” he says.