Late last month, the popular video site YouTube unleashed its new subscriptions-based service to the United States: YouTube Red. For $9.99 a month, U.S. users of the site can watch videos without any advertisements and even download the videos to watch on the go.
However, as many U.S. VOCALOID fans have noticed, the transition isn’t going as smoothly as Google likely expected it would. Huge labels such as Exit Tunes, UMAA, and Sony Music Japan are all either empty or missing quite a few newer videos. This is due to YouTube Red requiring all monetized channels to agree to the new Terms of Service brought on by YouTube Red’s changes.
Whether it be because producers are weary about the change, are simply slow, or feel uncomfortable with their videos being downloaded for watching on the go, many have yet to agree to the new ToS. And until they agree, their videos are unavailable in the United States.
What Is YouTube Red?
YouTube Red is a new service provided by YouTube. It allows people to not only watch ad-free videos while still supporting those they watch but also to download videos to watch offline, or to “watch” in the background while using an app or even having your screen off on your phone.
The $9.99 a month service works quite differently from NicoNico’s Premium memberships while also having a few similarities. There will be no faster loading times for YouTube Red subscribers unless one wants to count the 15-or-so second ads shown before the actual video plays. However, there is exclusive content available for YouTube Red subscribers. Many YouTubers are supposed to make videos only available to those who pay for YouTube Red. There have yet to be any reports of anything VOCALOID related being a YouTube Red exclusive.
Besides the ad-free viewing and exclusive videos, the main perks are being able to watch videos offline and in the background of your phone.
Why Are Videos Being Taken Down?
The videos are not being taken down. Talk to any friend outside of the United States and they will tell you the videos are working. They’re only blocked in the United States (and some other countries depending on the company, but that has nothing to do with YouTube Red).
Essentially, YouTube is offering an all-or-nothing deal at the moment. Channel owners who have chosen to monetize their videos have to agree to the new ToS or have their videos hidden in the United States. This is apparently so that YouTube Red subscribers don’t come across a video with an ad or one that they can’t download and take to watch later.
Many producers feel uncomfortable with the idea of their videos being downloaded, and without specifics on what exactly one can do with these downloaded videos, it makes things even more unnerving. People try their hardest to make sure their work isn’t stolen and reprinted and the “you can now download videos!” thing isn’t something they’re very into.
Larger-scaled YouTubers like PewDiePie don’t worry much about their videos being downloaded. But a producer who is already dealing with many, many reprints on YouTube will see even less money than they already do should more reprints pop up.
What About Reprints and Covers?
If your content has ever been flagged by the content ID system, you’re familiar with how it works. The system recognizes you’re using a copyrighted work (whether it be an instrumental, a full song, etc.) and puts an ad on the video. You gain nothing from this ad but the original owner of the content does. This lets you keep your video up and allows the producer to earn more money.
However, these flagged videos are now hidden as well. This is due to the owners of the flagged content not yet signing up to YouTube Red. Until they do, the flagged content will continue to be blocked in the United States.
So Now What?
For the moment, all we can do is wait. There’s a rumor going around that Exit Tunes is currently in negotiations over the new ToS but the other two major companies mentioned earlier have been rather silent. Producers who are YouTube partners are also quite the mystery at the moment. We can only hope that these companies and producers eventually find some way to make YouTube Red work for them.
What About My Favorite Songs?!
Unfortunately, song covers by Youtaites (the YouTube version of Utaites) are in limbo so long as the copyright holders aren’t part of YouTube Red. You can check your favorite Utaites’ channels to see if they have any other sites that they upload their content to; many have already shifted to uploading backups of their videos on other sites in case their covers are never available in the United States.
Original songs are a bit easier to find thanks to places such as VocaDB. Riipah explains in a VocaDB blog post that the website provides links to every official upload available with no preference for one or the other. And, should you refuse to get a NicoNico account for some reason (You can sign up with your Facebook or Twitter account! It’s that simple.), you can watch videos on VocaDB without having to have one.
So What Does This Mean for VOCALOID?
At the moment, things do look a bit dicey. YouTube is the hub for VOCALOID content in the West. While some channels like Miku’s official channel and the IA Project channel are still up and running, a lot of well-known producers like DECO*27, doriko, Supercell/Ryo, and Hachi all have their official uploads missing from YouTube. While some songs can be found illegally reprinted on other channels, other songs have been taken down completely thanks to the content ID system.
Overall, the impact isn’t as large as some may think. It’s mainly isolated to a few Japanese record labels that just happen to own the rights to anywhere from a few to all of the songs by certain producers as well as quite a few of our favorites.
There are many channels that are running without problems. So long as the video is an original creation and was never monetized, it’s guaranteed to be working. Reprints, covers, and subs are all subject to whether or not the owner of the original song had it in the content ID system, but original works should be perfectly fine.
Where Do We Go?
U.S. fans who want to get their fix of blocked producers/songs have to migrate to other sites until the YouTube Red problems are solved. The most logical place to go would be NicoNico (NND) as most producers upload there to begin with. However, unless you pay for a premium account, streaming can be very low quality during peak hours.
Some producers use Piapro or SoundCloud though these options are less explored than NND. Bilibili is also an excellent video site though it’s slightly more difficult to use due to being aimed at a Chinese audience. As such, you can mainly expect songs featuring Chinese VOCALOIDs to be on there.
For now, all that U.S. fans can do is wait while the rest of the world hopes that everything is sorted out by the time YouTube Red is launched in other countries. Complaining and fighting won’t do anything. It’s all in the hands of the companies at this point and starting a war will only cause unnecessary drama and make things more difficult for any company attempting negotiations.
Just sit tight and wait for now. You can still get your VOCALOID fix through other sites and YouTube still has a large VOCALOID selection.
UPDATE: U/M/A/A’s videos returned to being view-able in the US on December 15th.