Legendary music manager Irving Azoff doubled down on his criticism of video monolith YouTube on Monday — calling the control the Alphabet-owned company exercises over copyrighted material “really evil.”
Azoff blasted the service for its proliferation of popular music free of charge while keeping their own content behind a pay wall — the subscriber service YouTube Red — during his keynote conversation at TheWrap’s TheGrill conference at Montage Beverly Hills.
“There’s such a lack of respect for intellectual property and they’re the worst offender,” Azoff told TheWrap CEO and Editor in Chief Sharon Waxman.
“This is evil — it’s really evil,” Azoff said.
Azoff has long decried the “safe harbor” protections afforded YouTube thanks to 1998’s Digital Millennium Copyright Act, signed by President Bill Clinton.
“YouTube puts their own content behind a pay wall but will not allow artists [to do the same],” Azoff continued. “Physical sales are down, purchases on iTunes is down — no one ever thought mobile is where you’d carry your library for music. Music has never been more popular and less monetized.”
Azoff noted that companies must flag individual copyright infringements by YouTube users ripping entire songs and uploading self-made lyric videos as a game of “whack-a-mole.”
A YouTube spokesperson refuted Azoff’s claim, saying, “99.5 percent of sound recording claims are automated through Content ID — meaning only 0.5 percent are claimed manually. In other words – the system works incredibly well, with automated claiming far outnumbering what the [record] labels are doing manually.”
Azoff also touched on an RIAA study from April that shared Azoff’s views that YouTube was hiding behind the safe harbor protections while major labels continue to monetize relationships with other services like subscription streaming companies Spotify, Tidal and Apple Music.
A YouTube spokesperson defended itself: “The average YouTube user spends an average of an hour a month consuming music, far less than music-only platforms. Less than 20 percent of all music views on YouTube happen through the user searching for a specific artist or song.”
Watch Azoff’s full remarks above.