Adam Rafferty – Guitar and Spirit

All about music, guitar, spirituality, personal development and being happy

A Financial Solution for Youtube and Music Publishers


The music industry always seems to drag its feet. Often, they want new technology to work the old way. They want to jam that square peg in the round hole, no matter what. A new way – suggested below – would make them a ton of money. Are they smart enough and forward thinking enough to try it?

In the past, the music publishers have made a “ka-ching” off each play of a song on the radio or tv, they’ve sold CD’s and licensed songs to others to record. Because of this narrow way to make money, they see the Youtube cover artists as threats in the following way:

1) “The unlicensed song is getting millions of hits, and we’re not making out money for each play. This means the creator is our enemy, taking away from OUR publishing. Oh no, plays of our song are not making money.”

Based on the false premise

2) “If we eliminate the people doing cover material, viewers will want to watch the ORIGINAL artist, so lets eliminate the people who do cover material, to create the only endpoint possible – our original artist performing the song.”

Another premise, pretty weak

3) “If people see ONLY the original artist performing their tune, then they’ll want to buy the original artist on CD, mp3, etc.”

The solution that occurs after these false premises:

4) “Let’s cut off people who do covers, as it dilutes our sales.”

They have it so backwards and essentially are not coming up with a creative solution. Guess what guys, the internet shook up your world. Deal with it, and adapt.


Instead of seeing musicians doing cover material as “the competition, the enemy, and the blame for no sales” – embrace them as the NEW customers. If you can’t sell CDs, why not sell licensing to cover artists? It’s your new product, and you have a new customer base who have identified themselves.

Imagine – for $9.99 a year, anyone can license a song to do as a cover on YT. Then it’s legal, won’t get deleted, and will create a NEW income for the industry. Instead of alienating the new group of YT musicians, why not get them on board as customers?

“Do’h! Why didn’t we think of that?”

Youtube, c’mon you guys are Google. Use the already existing Harry Fox, Warner, UMG and other publisher databases to make a nifty control panel insnde YT. You could even have a cool url like, and you could charge via Paypal or credit cards. Keeping a database of which user has performed what song is easy. Then divvy the money up with the publishers once it gets onto your side and leaves our hands.

Let’s say I pay $9.99 yearly for a song like Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean. Well, someone like Sungha Jung sees me do that and also pays $9.99 a year for the tune when he does a version. He gets 5 million hits. I think you’ll get a few more $9.99’s a year after other people get excited and motivated. Now Sungha and I also do it on our CD’s because we have a fan base, hungry for the tune.

Suddenly you are not selling CDS, you are selling licenses for YT performance but who cares. It’s better than CDs, you need not manufacture anything – and YT viewers are your FREE advertising agancy. You could be making some serious dough, YT and publishers. But you gotta think outside the box!!!

Oh, and by the way all the “Billie Jean” official viewers can now see ads that you could overlay on the video.

Oh, and by the way you can target ads. If you see I have done 5 MIchael Jackson tunes, you can make smart suggestions to me.

Oh, and by the way you can see which songs are most popular amongst musicians…and so on, and so on.

And what if someone puts up a version without paying? No sweat, first send a notification to get the person on board and pay, then if they don’t – remove the video. Give them 21 days to decde. A potential customer has identified themselves. Don’t alienate them, embrace them!!!

This is not hard to implement, but takes creativity and a willingness to do a new thing. YT, publishers – you have identified a new customer base. People who do cover songs! So sell ’em something!!! Don’t cut em off and whine that CD sales are slumping!

I have about 40 cover tunes and the list is growing. I’d pay $400 a year in a hearbeat to have those tunes on YT, legally, and I bet others would too. If I had 100 tunes, I’d pay $1000 no sweat. Over 10 years, that would be $10K in income for you, earned off one guy – me. That’s way more than I’d spend on CD’s. It’s waiting there for you. And I would not be the only one!

Anyhow, just a thought. All the whining and moaning won’t make it “the way it was” so it’s time for you guys to get creative.

Until next time, keep Swingin’



Author: Adam Rafferty

Adam Rafferty. Fingerstyle Guitarist. Recording and Concert Artist. Meditator. Philosopher. Lover of Groove.

10 thoughts on “A Financial Solution for Youtube and Music Publishers

  1. That’s a brilliant idea, you should get the ball rolling, you might revolutionize the industry. Good luck getting labels and publishers to have vision though, that’s why they sign cheeso weak pop stuff that any 12 year old can digest, no vision for forward thinking/progressiveness…

    • Todd, thanks. The only ball I am willing to roll is this post, and lets see if it catches on. This is their problem. Mine is guitar playing.

      Brian Tracy has a story about how a truck did not clear a bridge underpass and got stuck, having slammed into in at 60 mph. All the police trying to back the truck out, couldn’t.

      Then a 10 year old kid comes to the police chief and says “why not just let the air out of the tires?”

      Same thing here. They gotta get creative. Please pass the link along, maybe it will catch on.

      – AR

  2. I like the direction you’re taking. Unfortunately, if something like this doe s get implemented it will be with the industry that decides this in conjunction with youtube – not the artists.

    I also wish the industry would come up with a more generic licensing solution. Right now there are separate fees applied to licensing music for CD, mp3, video, etc. It makes my head spin.

  3. This is an interesting idea, and although I know very little about marketing, I can say from experience that cover songs expose a lot of my generation to classics and oldschool badassery. The first version of Sir Duke I ever heard was a solo fingerstyle acoustic version.. On Youtube. I’ve been listening to Stevie Wonder and Adam Rafferty ever since.

  4. You’re a thinker Adam, of this there is no doubt. I’ve been mulling over it while I been painting my house (would rather be playing guitar) and I can see that model would work for you, but not for me. Work for you because you make money directly & indirectly from using cover songs, whereas I don’t, I use cover songs only for fun. Why would I pay hundreds of dollars a year to entertain others? Of course the moment I’m making more than $9.99 per song per year I’m onboard – fair enough, pay your dues.

    You’re a bit of a rarity on youtube, the majority of covers, well at least fingerstyle covers as that’s all I look at, are non-professional folk just having a bit of fun chucking it out there for others to have a bit of fun watching.

    So during my mulling, possibly fueled by the smell of paint, I tried to bring it back to the absolute basics. Which is people enjoying themselves (good/yang) and money (evil/yin). Mmm, might have mixed up my yins and yangs, never understood that stuff anyway 😉

    So to start, an original artist/creator makes something great, and unless it was Tommy, they want money for it. The people who get enjoyment out of it, they are the ones who should be paying for it. Waaay to simplistic 😉

    A cover on youtube – the viewers are the people who get enjoyment out of it, but they don’t hand over money. Who stands to make money out of it? Maybe the cover artist (eg Adam Rafferty 😉 ) gets a bit through CD and ticket sales from promotion. Maybe the actual artist gets a bit, again through sales from promotion. Youtube gets a bit, through paid advertising, ie the ads you see while watching videos.

    One approach is to make the viewers pay for content delivered. Not going to happen. Watch the immediate swing from youtube to metacafe/etc…

    Cover artist pays. The Adam Rafferty model. If the cover artist stands to make money, then basically the cover artist is turning viewers into payers – he collects money from them, pockets a bit, pays up the royalty. Is a flatrate appropriate? Could you even measure for a percentage based payment? Maybe some non-performing artists are happy enough to pay and get nothing back; but I suspect the majority of non-performing artists wouldn’t like that model. Maybe they’d say “hey I paid for the music score, I’ve already paid for the right to play it”. There is a world of debate starting from there…

    Actual artist says “this is free promotion” and in fact says “go for it you cover artists!”. Well if that model worked we wouldn’t be here talking about it. Generally, it’s not the actual artist pushing copyright infringement.

    Youtube pays. If Google were prepared to pay 2billion bucks for it, you’d hope it was a good money spinner. What percentage of viewers were brought to youtube by copyright infringement and then the great advertising monster somehow, I’m not sure, got them to part with money? Youtube will never go for it; I bet secretly the old advertising model is breaking down just as fast as the copyright model; youtube wouldn’t want to part with any of it’s profits. “Our users aren’t allowed to put copyright infringing videos up.” Chortle chortle.

    Well I think the paint smell has worn off, I’ve lost my train of thought, and I’ve taken us nowhere 🙂

  5. Hi.

    I can see jaw’s point, since I would not pay $9.99 a year per cover song. There’s no point to it as it’s roughly a hobby through which I’d like to get to know other people who like and play music.

    However, in an effort to be proactive and not only highlight the cons, I’d like to give an idea that you as a pro musician could try to promote. That would be to get instrument and overall music related gear manufacturers to be able to claim credits in each cover and use it as advertising, with the singularity that they will not pay the person making the cover, but the copyright holder.

    I have no idea if such thing can be possible/acceptable to the corporate parts that will actually have cash flowing between them, but as you say there’s no way they can make it work as before so my guess would be that anything to elaborate on should be welcome.


  6. Hi Adam,

    Let’s say you as a musician pay $9.99 per song to cover, for a year, fine, that’s the price of a CD (well is it? It’s been so long…), and let’s say you’re gonna do as many covers in a year as the average person would have bought CD’s before CD’s started being threatened by the internet and mp3’s, something like ten CD’s in a year…it would be even only if there were as many artists playing covers as there are former CD buyers, but unfortunately that’s not the case, the ratio is maybe 1/500 (let’s say 1/10 person plays music, any type of music for that matter, 1/20 plays mainly copyright material, and 1/50 will want to play this copyright material on Youtube, and 1/500 will be good enough to expect any earning from his/her music, when in the past nearly everyone was buying CD’s).

    So at the of the day (and at the end of the year!), music publishers will be earning a tiny, ridiculous proportion of what they were earning in the past.

    I’d like your idea to work though (if only to get things moving), I’m just thinking and writing at the same time, just giving my impression. But bottomline, I don’t think people should be getting so many things for free (I agree with Jaw that customers should pay something), I’d be ready myself as a listener to either stop wasting time listening to music that I only listen to because it’s here for free, or pay something for a few artists who I find interesting enough (whether they do covers or original songs).

    Why are artists giving away so much for free? Because they want subscribers, hits on their page, this gives them a little taste of fame, and even many professional artists have given in to the temptation, they may earn their living playing music, but they are not famous, and fame has become the priority. And by doing so they make it harder for them and other artists to survive doing what they love.

    • Thanks for posting. Hmm. Some thoughts.

      Well, yes they would not make as much money, but I suspect they never will. And of course they are pissed and trying to figure out how. I’t like dating a super model, the relationship is over – and wondering how you can get the situation back. Not so easy if she married a rich guy and you are 10 years older 🙂 So – things change.

      I have a story here about Van Morrison and other videos getting purged from YT:

      The situation as it is now is that the ability to post stuff for free on whatever sites will not go away anytime soon unless they start taking offenders to the guillotine to scare the pants off all other offenders.

      And people will always love FREE, even if a few of us guys are willing to pay.

      FREE uploads have helped me immensely.

      A good read that we all need (I lost my copy) is Chris Anderson’s “FREE”. He defines the 20th Century mind (if it’s free, there must be a catch / I gotta get paid for my stuff) vs the 21st century mind (I want it free, and then I’ll decide if I want to buy something from them / What? It’s not free? Next…)

      2 TOTALLY different outlooks and attitudes about FREE.

      Do the Van Morrisons and others like him & their companies think they are helping themselves by removing stuff from YT?

      Seems like they are simply taking themselves out of the public eye – whereas they think they are “forcing people into the buying funnel”. Nothing in my estimation is further from the truth. If I can’t see it for FREE, I ain’t buying it!

      Youtube is free advertising.

      They really ought to do a study – upload an artists discography in full, and after 6 months eliminate half. Tell us what CD sales show after the removal. See if they really forced everyone into buying since viewers couldn’t get it for free anymore.

      This could be a wake up call!!

      Please continue. Maybe a ding dong over at Google will read this blog and get some ideas!!!

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