Selective Hearing Roundtable: Red is the New Blackout

Anime Distress

As many out there know, YouTube recently launched their subscription service YouTube Red. The intention of this service is to allow users to watch videos uninterrupted by ads and to save videos for offline viewing. The cost of this service is $9.99 a month and guarantees access on supported devices as long as the user is signed into their YouTube account.

It sounds great so far right? Offline viewing and no ads for a reasonable price. What more can you ask for? Well if you’re a fan of Japanese music you may have noticed that since this program has gone into effect some of the channels you are subscribed to are no longer available to view.

The following is a listing of what is and is not viewable.

– Nogizaka46, Aqua Timez, T.M. Revolution, 2PM, YUI, ClariS, Porno Graffiti, Asian Kung-Fu Generation, Polysics, Nico Touches the Walls, 9nine, Kalafina, Kana Nishino.
– Rina Katahira, w-inds, aiko, Weather Girls, Mao Abe, Ayana Taketatsu.
– Morning Musume, ℃-ute, Angerme, Juice = Juice, Up Up Girls, LoVendoЯ.
– Not Yet, palet, Ayano Uema.
– Gachiric Spin, Love Psychedelico, Dragon Ash, Leo Leiri, Sakurako Ohara.

– Tokyo Girls’ Style, Ayumi Hamasaki, moumoon, Koda Kumi, Afterschool, supergirls, Dorothy Little Happy, Acid Black Cherry.
– BoA, Super Junior, Girls’ Generation, SHINee, Red Velvet.
Tasty, Lovelyz.

Editors Note: The channels for tricot, Alice Project and RADWIMPS are no longer blocked.

This has caused some distress among international fans. YouTube is a vital link between Japanese artists and their fan bases outside of Japan. Many fans depend on it to keep up to date on the artists they follow. Understandably being locked out from the content they desire is sending rippling waves of panic and mass hysteria.

The Selective Hearing staff have gathered to discuss how this latest change to YouTube has affected Japanese music fans.

It has been known for months that YouTube’s subscription service was coming and its concept has been rather controversial for both content creators and users. What are your initial thoughts on this service?

Steve: I initially thought it was pretty dumb, especially since YouTube ads can easily be avoided with a simple ad blocker in your browser, so who would actually pay money just to avoid them? Maybe only people who are constantly watching videos from their mobile device, that’s all I could figure. The other benefits of the service really don’t seem like they’re worth paying for at all, so it just feels like they were trying to make even more money than they already do off the content that’s been offered for free for the last 10 years, and so far it’s turning out to be nothing but negative changes since this happened.

Greg: When I heard the news of YouTube offering a subscription service I thought that it sounded kind of risky given that everything has been free so far. Are ads really that annoying that people would pay to bypass them or are they just too impatient to wait 15 – 30 seconds click on the “Skip This Ad” button or they unable to click on that “x” in the top right hand corner of the ad?

There are some features that sound interesting such as the offline viewing and the ability to hear the audio of the video when your screen is off or when you are in another app. And I guess the “original content” exclusive to Red subscribers. But that looks kind of meh at the moment.

Overall my initial impression of the service is exactly that. Meh.

Angry: Honestly it’s been known for a while that YouTube has trouble monetizing their content, so it’s a given that they would try for a scheme like this. I’m ambivalent about how this is going to work since it’s not really that clear how ads truly affect YouTube revenue, or how the Red revenue streams would be distributed to content providers. We’ll have to see what will happen.

So far 99% of content on YouTube is still free, well except for the stuff Japanese music fans want to watch. Did you think that the implementation of this service would have such an immediate impact on the fans of Japanese music? Or were you under the assumption that all would be status quo?

Steve: I never really expect big policy changes like this to just keep the status quo; there’s usually something that goes awry along the way, and since Japan are usually the ones with ridiculous restrictions or lack of access for overseas markets, it seems almost natural that they’d be the ones with the biggest problems out of the situation.

Greg: I was taken by surprise that the giant nerf just got dropped on every YouTube user in North America who uses the site for their Japanese music needs. So much for that whole deal where if you don’t subscribe to Red all is still okay to view with those pesky ads to swat at or ignore.

Then again, we are dealing with stupidity of copyright, regional restrictions and perhaps an industry that is to put it kindly, is stuck holding on to antiquated methods of delivering their content to a wider international market. So maybe I shouldn’t be all that surprised.

Angry: The problem with content has always been the ambivalence surrounding international copyright law. It’s stupid to assume that Red would change anything, if anything, the fact that now there is a primary source of revenue would mean that some significant changes would happen to the site. So it’s not really that surprising that this happened.

Are you affected by YouTube Red’s content blackout? If so, do you feel like you have lost a major part of your world?

Steve: I’m affected by this change in a way that many other people probably aren’t, since some of my videos of content I personally created have now been made region-restricted by this issue. I make many remixes and covers of Japanese music and upload them on my YouTube, and there’s somewhere around 20,000 views on them between all of them, and now 80% of them can’t be viewed in the US because they contain some little snippet, sample, or vocal track of the original song. All this is also despite the fact that my channel and videos are not monetized, so it struck me as more annoying and troublesome than it would be for your average user.

As far as for watching videos, I usually don’t really watch too many videos of J-pop on YouTube, though a few bands I wanted to check out in the last week ended up being restricted, so it was just more of an annoyance than it is any big deal to me personally.

Greg: Yes I am in the area affected by this blackout since Canada tends to get lumped in with the U.S. when it comes to these kinds of things. Much like Steve, some of the content that has been uploaded to the Selective Hearing channel has been adversely affected. I even got the whole corporate spiel from YouTube saying that our channel has had some videos blocked from being viewed in America (which again somehow includes Canada). So I can’t even view my own videos I own on YouTube from my home country of the great white north.

As far as whether this is affecting my whole Japanese music experience? Well, not really. I mean I post videos of the latest releases to help in reviews. But I guess that’s kind of pointless until this issue is resolved right? Otherwise, this isn’t really having a major effect on how I discover Japanese music.

Angry: While I am in the area affected, I’m not a content provider so I can’t really speak about that. That being said, I don’t think this will affect me that much in terms of my music experience – I primarily rely on those Japanese douga blogs for the majority of my J-pop needs. I can, however, see why this would be an issue for someone who uses YouTube to find everything.

If not, what other sources do you have other than YouTube? Or do you use a proxy as a workaround to access the videos you want to watch?

Steve: There’s plenty of other sources out there, and most of us know what they are, and not only do those services give you higher quality videos, but of course you can also watch them offline whenever you want. It’s pretty easy to even use proxies to view and/or just download the content from straight from YouTube, even after Red has taken effect, so if I really want to watch something, I generally can without much trouble and if it’s that important. DailyMotion and a few other streaming sites also still have unrestricted access to some videos, but not as much variety as YouTube. I was a J-pop fan on different levels for a good 8 years before YouTube existed and I managed to get a hold of content back then, so I’m sure I can do it again if I have to.

Greg: I have been listening to Japanese music since before YouTube became a go to thing. I’ve lived without it before and I can do without it again. There are sites like Dailymotion and Yokyu that have the same content as YouTube among others.

I can always rely on my previous method of blind faith and and picking up stuff because the cover is cool or they’re similar to another band or artist I like. I don’t really need videos for that, I can just listen and decide without the distractions of disgusting bikini’s and the like.

Angry: While I rely on other services, if I wanted to watch something on YouTube (say a Japanese or Korean stream), I would rely on something like Psiphon for that.

That being said, there’s a plethora of channels available for people to download and consume their content as needed, often in much higher quality than YouTube – as Steve has already pointed out.

Given that Japanese music fans in America are a niche market do you think there is anything that can be realistically done to protest this denial of content? Or are fans left out in the cold until the licensing agreements with Japanese companies are sorted out.

Steve: Honestly, not really. It seems a bunch of fans have been spamming the Facebook and Twitter accounts of these restricted content owners, and nothing has come of it. I think it’s just going to have to take it’s natural course, which, of course, with Japanese business might take a long while. I’m also curious to see if this same thing happens when Red rolls out in Europe and other areas of the world with fan communities like South America.

Greg: I’m going to be blunt. No, you cannot do anything about this. The way I see it the grass roots campaigns that are popping up amount to a giant waste of time. Especially if all you care about are idols and nothing else.

I believe eventually things will return to the the pre-Red days. But it will probably take a stupid long time to get back to normal. The idealist in me hopes that someone sees the public outcry from this small market of fans and just opens the floodgates to placate the masses. Again, not the most likely scenario.

Angry: Absolutely not. There’s no point in protesting, unless you’re reasonably sure that the Chinese, Taiwanese and South Korean fans will join you – and honestly, they’re already downloading everything anyway so they probably don’t care.

I don’t think things will change back to normal, because all content providers (the major ones, like Vevo or Sony Music Japan) had a full six months to negotiate all deals, and it is clear from their actions (both pre and post-Red release) that Western fans aren’t a priority.

If it boiled down to it, would you pay a subscription fee to access Japanese content on YouTube and explain why.

Steve: Absolutely not, for reasons I just mentioned a few questions ago. It’s available elsewhere, and it’s not like I spend every minute of every day streaming Jpop videos from wherever I am, it’s just an every once in a while thing for me when someone sends me a link or I randomly get curious about something.

Greg: Nope. I’m not a power user of YouTube and I don’t need all those fancy bells and whistles for a product I use every once in a while or in short spurts. That $9.99 can go to something more useful to me like Spotify or Apple Music or lunch at work.

Angry: Absolutely not. Unless they start uploading full variety or music programs, there’s no need to pay for an inferior service like the ones that YouTube is offering.

And that is our take on the whole YouTube Red service and how it affects our musical real estate. What do you think? Remember to keep your comments civil. There’s no need to get all emo.