Facebook Pursues Music Video Rights In Challenge To YouTube

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Written by Dana Sanchez
Music Video Rights
Facebook, which previously negotiated with record labels to let users include songs in videos they post, now seeks new licensing deals for music videos. 6LACK performs at SXSW. Photo: Anita Sanikop/Moguldom

Facebook, which previously negotiated with the record labels to let users include songs in videos they post, is now seeking new licensing deals for music video rights, Bloomberg reported.

If Facebook can acquire music video rights, it could share full-length videos on its Watch video service, potentially attracting more users and positioning itself as an alternative to YouTube.

Bloomberg says record labels have been pushing Facebook for a YouTube alternative — one that would pay them more and protect copyrights better.

Facebook has 2 billion-plus users a month and Instagram has more than 1 billion. Both are already important promotional tools for artists such as Selena Gomez and Ariana Grande, who rank among the most-followed accounts on Instagram. But neither site is a major digital video portal in the way YouTube is, Bloomberg reported.

Watch has struggled to attract viewers since launching in August 2017. One exception is the Emmy-nominated Red Table Talk chat show hosted by Jada Pinkett Smith.

Facebook claims Watch videos reach up to 720 million users per month. That may not be enough for Facebook. “It’s likely hoping to attract more of its 2 billion monthly users to the service. By hosting music videos, it could do just that,” Christine Fisher reported for Engadget.

YouTube, by comparison, says it has 2 billion-plus monthly users.

Facebook is negotiating with the big three record labels — Universal, Sony, and Warner — for music video rights, Bloomberg reported. Facebook already made deals with the big three in 2018 for licensing songs used in the background of user-generated videos such as weddings. Facebook has begun testing the distribution of official music videos in Thailand and India but it’s not available in the U.S.

In early 2017, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that he believed the future of community building and connection would happen through video. “That really marked a moment where the company plan became video-first,” said Tamara Hrivnak, Facebook’s head of music business development and partnerships, in a Music Business Worldwide interview.

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Facebook is looking to fill a gap with music licensing, Hrivnak said in October 2019.

“Our main goal is to fill a hole in the digital ecosystem. When we look at digital music today, we see that music streaming has become very powerful and popular, and we think that’s wonderful; it means strength in the business of delivering plays and playlists.

“But what has gotten lost in the evolution of music-to-digital is the ability for artists to tell their stories outside of their music, to connect the tracks on an album together, and to connect with fans. We’re seeking to fill that gap, which we think is an important opportunity both for artists and for people. That’s our main goal.”