posted by Liam Dryden

YouTube is still the biggest place to listen to music for free – but the music industry is starting to fight back.

One indisputable fact about YouTube – which they have been skirting around for a while – is the fact that the site has unwittingly become one of the largest services for streaming music. Rivalling specialist services like Spotify and Apple Music, YouTube viewers are frequently pulling up music videos from their favourite artists, and letting them play in the background. Music videos from the biggest artists are pulling in hundreds of millions of YouTube views.

And the music industry is finally sick of it.

Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse” has over a billion YouTube views

“YouTube, they’re the devil,” says band manager Peter Mensch. “We don’t get paid at all”.

Mensch manages huge bands such as Metallica, Muse and Red Hot Chili Peppers – all of whom are actually losing profit due to YouTube’s ad revenue system, which doesn’t offset the loss from consumers streaming their music on a free service.

“If someone doesn’t do something about YouTube, we’re screwed,” Mensch said to BBC Radio 4. “It’s over. Someone turn off the lights.”

His comments come just a week after massive artists like Katy Perry, Christina Aguilera and Bon Jovi signed a petition to overturn the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (or DMCA), which affords a lot of protection to YouTube users who share copyrighted content. The general feeling appears to be that YouTube (and Google) aren’t paying artists enough for the millions of “streams” their music generates on the site.

Major labels such as Warner Music Group, Sony, and Universal Music Group, apparently believe the DMCA is limiting their ability to gain a better deal – just as the time has come to renegotiate their contracts with YouTube. But RIAA’s Cory Sherman, CEO of the trade group that represents the major labels, insists it isn’t about bigger artists like Katy Perry wanting to be paid more.

“The petition [Katy] filed makes clear that she’s worried about the next generation of songwriters and artists that are coming up,” Sherman tells Recode.

But is YouTube really to blame? As you might expect, their Chief Business Officer Robert Kyncl doesn’t think so. He implies that record labels are a middleman that, especially in this case, are responsible for reducing the profits of the artists.

“It really depends on what is the flow of the money from us to you”, he explains. “The artists who are signed up directly with YouTube are seeing great returns.”

According to Kyncl, violin star Lindsey Stirling earned $6 million from ad revenue on her viral YouTube videos last year.

Lindsey Stirling is cited by Kyncl as someone profiting massively from her direct deal with YouTube

“There are middle-men – whether it’s collection societies, publishers or labels – and what they do is they give advances and they want those recouped,” says Kyncl of the traditional music industry model. “So it’s really hard when there’s no transparency for the artist.”

But what do you think – Should YouTube be paying more out to major artists for their views? Should they be taking more responsibility for their userbase’s streaming habits? Should artists just ditch the labels and join YouTube? Let us know your thoughts in the poll below.