YouTube Plays Offense, Funds Study Showing It Cuts Piracy, Doesn’t Cannibalize Paid Services

Youtube_logoAs the importance of streaming revenue has increased, so has the criticism of YouTube, Once content to stay above the fray, Google’s video behemoth is fighting back against those who contend that it pays too little and cannibalizes users from other services that pay out more.


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Admitting there is a “lively debate about whether YouTube is bad or good for the music industry,” Google’s YouTube has financed a study by RBB Economics to prove its worth.

The first results, published yesterday, look at the issue of cannibalization. Does the fact that people listen to music on YouTube mean that they don’t use other sources of music that better reward creators and rightsholders? 

Their study finds that, instead of cannibalizing higher paying services it reduces piracy. 85% of time spent on YouTube would move to lower value channels, concluded the survey, and result in a significant increase in piracy. image from

The researchers find that significant cannibalisation by YouTube of other legitimate music channels is unlikely, for a few reasons:

  • Most time spent listening to music on YouTube would be lost or shifted to lower value music channels.

  • In the absence of YouTube, time spent listening to pirated content would increase by 29%

  • Blocking music from YouTube does not lead to an increase in streams on other platforms.

The cumulative effect of these findings, says YouTube, is that it has a market expanding effect, not a cannibalising one. In coming weeks, YouTube and RBB will release further papers on other aspects of the digital music world and YouTube’s role in it.





NOTE: The study surveyed 6,000 users across Germany, France, Italy and the U.K.

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