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Facebook meets with record labels in bid to steal YouTube’s music video crown

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Facebook is chasing music licensing deals as part of its ramped up video strategy.

Execs from the company recently attended a pre-Grammy awards performance to scout emerging talent, alongside members of established streaming services such as Spotify, Apple Music, and Pandora Media. It is also meeting with music publishers, negotiators at labels, and trade associations in order to strengthen its ties with the industry, reports Bloomberg.

Earlier in February, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg made it clear that his company sees video as integral to its future growth. Other execs have in the past revealed that Facebook predicts it will generate 70 percent of its traffic from video in the next five years. On the one hand, Facebook has assigned its head of global creative strategy, Ricky Van Veen, the task of licensing premium, episodic content from TV studios and professional content creators. The company plans to fund its ambitious video strategy with an ad-sharing model that would see it split revenue with creators, according to Zuckerberg.

The initiative has inevitably drawn comparisons to YouTube and, sure enough, music videos are among the most popular types of content on the video platform.

Facebook’s plan is in its early stages and reportedly involves assuring the industry it has the infrastructure to fight copyright infringement in user-generated videos. In October, the president of industry trade group the National Music Publishers Association, David Israelite, urged Facebook to track unlicensed content and compensate publishers and songwriters. Israelite added that user-generated music videos (comprised of fan-made covers) on the social network were amassing hundreds of millions of views.

Fast forward three months and word leaked that Facebook is working on a music copyright tracking system. The tool is envisioned as its gateway to mending ties with the music industry and will also see it use its user-generated music content to position itself as a viable competitor to YouTube. Facebook has thus far declined to comment on its music strategy.

Capturing a slice of the music pie from Google’s video platform won’t be easy. Despite facing a mounting backlash from music industry trade groups over royalties for a good part of the previous year, YouTube announced in December that it had paid more than $1 billion to the recording industry from advertising alone. That gives it a sizeable head start over its rival.

However, it’s easy to see why labels would want to capitalize on Facebook’s video push, especially in light of the music video numbers the site already boasts. With close to two billion users, the social network provides a massive marketing platform for the industry.

Facebook has already taken small steps in creating deals with record labels. In 2016, it licensed music from Warner Music Group for its Slideshow mini-movie maker in Australia. In January, it hired former record executive — and director of music partnerships at YouTube and Google Play — Tamara Hrivnak to lead its global music strategy.

Speaking to Bloomberg, Israelite indicates that the path to success for the social platform is simple: work on copyright and revenue-sharing or face the consequences.“We are looking forward to being business partners with Facebook,” he states. “If that doesn’t happen, you’ll see the situation turn very quickly.”

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