Entertainment & Arts

Iggy Pop takes aim at YouTube and U2 in John Peel Lecture

Iggy Pop delivering the John Peel Lecture
Image caption Iggy Pop said musicians had swapped the 'corporate rip-off for the public one'

Rock legend Iggy Pop has given his backing to independent record labels in a royalties dispute with YouTube.

In June, YouTube threatened to block videos by acts signed to indie labels after they refused to sign a new deal.

Pop, delivering BBC 6 Music's John Peel Lecture at the Radio Festival in Salford, said YouTube was "trying to put the squeeze" on indies.

In a wide-ranging speech, he also took aim at U2, BitTorrent, Megaupload and fans who do not pay for music.

The annual speech, named after the former BBC Radio 1 DJ, has previously been delivered by The Who's Pete Townshend, Billy Bragg and Charlotte Church.

'Power nerds'

Iggy Pop, who is known as "the Godfather of punk" for his raw rock songs and raucous live shows, praised independent labels as some of the music industry's "good guys".

Indie labels look after acts including Adele, Arctic Monkeys and Radiohead.

But Merlin, the global rights agency for the independent label sector, has not yet signed a new agreement with YouTube for a new music subscription service.

The three major record labels have all agreed terms with the site. In July, more than 750 independent music labels worldwide formed a pact to seek fair treatment from streaming services.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Iggy Pop began hosting a weekly show on BBC 6 Music in March

Pop said: "YouTube's trying to put the squeeze on these people because it's just easier for a power nerd to negotiate with a couple of big labels who own the kind of music that people listen to when they're really not that into music. Which of course is most people.

"So they've got the numbers. But indies kinda have the guns. I've noticed that indies are showing strength at some of the established streaming services like Spotify and Rhapsody. People are choosing that music.

"It's also great that people are starting their own outlets like Pledgemusic, Bandcamp, Drip etc. As the commercial trade swings more into general showbiz, the indies will be the only place to go for new talent outside the Mickey Mouse Club.

"And so I think they were right to band together and sign the Fair Digital Deals Declaration. There are just so many ways to screw an artist that it's unbelievable."

A YouTube spokesperson said its new subscription service would "bring our music partners new revenue streams in addition to the hundreds of millions of dollars YouTube already generates for them each year".

The statement added: "We are excited that hundreds of major and independent labels are already partnering with us."

'Thieving habit'

Modern music fans were determined to have freedom of choice, Pop said - whether the choice to access any music they like, or the choice not to have music they do not want forced upon them.

Referring to U2's controversial deal with Apple to have their new album automatically added to iTunes users' music libraries, he said: "The people who don't want the free U2 download are trying to say, 'Don't try to force me.'"

The star also spoke about his fondness for old-style music bootleggers, but said modern file-sharers were "not as cute", criticising BitTorrent and Megaupload for facilitating piracy.

He said: "That act of thieving will become a habit and that's bad for everything. So we are exchanging the corporate rip-off for the public one. Aided by power nerds. Kind of computer Putins. They just wanna get rich and powerful.

"And now the biggest bands are charging insane ticket prices or giving away music before it can flop, in an effort to stay huge. And there's something in this huge thing that kind of sucks."

The speech is available to listen to on the 6 Music website and will be screened on BBC Four on Sunday 19 October.

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