Michael Jackson Too? Is YouTube Taking Video Views From Music Artists?

YouTube_51Warning: YouTube is taking away video views from YouTube Partners where either staff or the algorithm determines, rightly or wrongly, that your video views were in some way enhanced. This is fact, and Dan Sabbagh of the Guardian UK, one of my favorite news site, got this one a bit wrong.

To start, the website SocialBlade.com, which tracks stats for YouTube channels like Zennie62 produced another set of stats for the “Bottom 500” showing an alarming drop in YouTube video views for Universal Music Group and for Sony BMG at -1,015,800,589 and -851,488,973 respectively – a total of almost 2 billion views alone.

But the report doesn’t stop at UMG and Sony; it includes the following in rank from number three to number 10: BritneyTV at -462,567,849, jawed at -326,360,005, michaeljackson at -287,342,053, hollywoodrecords at -251,563,767, BlackOleg at -208,498,417, ChrisBrownTV at -187,413,623, RCA Records at -159,532,715, and beyonce at -151,447,244.

In total, the list of 500 just happens to include a who’s who of notable artists, like Usher (-82,616,277) , Justin Timberlake (-75,011,522), and Kelly Clarkson (-95,919,151), to name just some of the hundreds listed.

In all, the page amounts to a shake out of the music industry on YouTube, and is one of alarming proportions that goes beyond Sony and UMG. Why?

What’s happening is that Google / YouTube has a new automatic system that’s going through and knocking off video views that it determines in some way are not real. This happened to me, but with just one video, and one from my San Francisco Giants World Series 2012 Collection – the one where Sergio Romo gets the final out to win World Series Game Four, and The San Francisco bar “The Republic” exploded.

I got a notice via email and a warning. Like all such messages regarding my YouTube channel, I immediately responded, sending an appeal email that’s still waiting for final action. Why? Because the YouTube Partner doesn’t have control over who’s watching his or her videos, and there have been instances of pranksters buying YouTube views for a video on a channel of a person they do not like. Fortunately for me, this issue impacts just one of my 2,234 uploaded videos that have produced over 44 million views since 2006.

YEAH for Zennie62!

Since I don’t know what’s happening, and I know it’s not me, I used the not-for-publication-to-avoid-spamming email all YouTube Partners should be aware of (and if you’re not, ask) and filed a complaint. What I want is for the video to be reinstated so I can investigate the issue. As of this writing, it’s still unresolved.

But the point is that there is a very large underground industry of buying YouTube video views and subscribers that Google’s correct to be concerned with because it impacts ad revenue claims: YouTube can’t rightly charge a brand for views that are not real and doesn’t want to. Thus, the almost paranoid attention paid to this issue.

What Dan Sabbagh wrote ignores that problem, and in doing so, he really tries to cover for Sony and UMG and basically say “there’s no real numbers drop” and fails in the process. (For example, Dan didn’t note that between January and May of this year, 2012, UMG lost 100,000 subscribers of their total of 1.1 million to open 2012.)

See, Dan says the reason for the Sony and UMG drop has to do with its “transfer” of videos from YouTube to its own Vevo website; this one: http://www.vevo.com/

Well, “transfer” means that one video was removed from YouTube, and then it appears on the new website, right? True, but that’s not what happened. All Dan or anyone has to do is check both the VEVO website and the UMG website and bingo, in many cases the same videos are on both websites – Dan at The Guardian didn’t do that.

Instead, he points to a Billboard Magazine Online report, which also goes on to assume that videos from YouTube were removed when they were replaced by the videos on their website. But the reality is that’s not true.

What is true is that many of the artists I’ve named who have suffered video view drops, like Beyonce, trust VEVO to make their videos. Thus, even the Beyonce video view drop on YouTube is, you guessed it, a reflection on VEVO, which is owned by the music industry.

Thus, Dan saying that “The majors prefer Vevo because they own it, and get a better deal from advertising sold there,” is true, but they’re not so stupid they would yank videos down from YouTube, and thus lose a ton of potential video views, not to mention potential link traffic that can be gained from YouTube to the VEVO site.

What this all points back to is this: there have been instances of inflated YouTube video views, and The Daily Dot blog post by Chase Hoofberger is right on. Also, the UMG YouTube channel isn’t that “dormant” because they uploaded a video as recently as a month ago.

Where it’s easy to get confused is that VEVO’s impact is left out of the journalists view. VEVO makes many of the videos that are not just on Sony and UMG YouTube channels, but on the YouTube channels of many of the artists mentioned as having lost video views in the 500 list. So, VEVO, a prominent YouTube channel in popularity, is undoubtedly facing the heat here.

But make no mistake about it, fake video views have impacted this industry. What I’m waiting to see, and should be looked at, is how advertisers are going to respond to this issue. But YouTube and Google should be commended for working to maintain a World where a video view is really a video view.

Stay tuned.