All things come to an end. How about clubbing?

 Unfortunately, this video is not available in Germany …”

Probably there is no German internet user who hasn’t come across this famous sentence when scanning YouTube for music videos. More and more videos are blocked which actually were accessible two years ago, even videos which you wouldn’t look for these days like Britney Spears’ debut single “Hit me Baby one more time” cannot be found anymore.

Those who weren’t confronted with this problem up until now might wonder how it’s possible. Well, GEMA, the society for musical performing and mechanical reproduction rights, makes it possible!

What is GEMA?

GEMA is a German association that aims at protecting the copyrights of artists. But this isn’t a mark of politeness or altruism, it is mere business. GEMA charges a fee for all kinds of use of music, that is sale, advertisement, live performances and radio. They represent composers, text editors and their music publishers with around 64,000 members in Germany and two million right holders from abroad.

Who pays what and how much?

GEMA obliges YouTube to pay € 0.006 per click. Seems like peanuts but it’s not! According to the online market research company  Comscore about 3.8 billion videos were watched in April 2011. Assuming that 50% of that number were music videos whose authors are represented by GEMA, YouTube would shell out €11.4 million just for the month of April. Not so easy to earn this sum of money with online advertising…

That’s why YouTube blocks many music videos that otherwise would be available. Those that still can be viewed generate profit for GEMA which passes along one part of the earnings to the their members.

The GEMA controversy has not come to an end yet but how about the German nightlife? Not only YouTube has to filter its music but so do German nightclubs. While YouTube had to introduce a “Content-ID” function that immediately identifies videos that violate copyrights, clubs will have to pay a fee for playing songs.

As if one battlefield was not enough…

GEMA interferes where copyrights need to be protected. Therefore the charges for proprietors of clubs and other institutions where music is played will increase from January 1,2013.The result: everyone is upset. Because of the increase of fees many club owners are afraid of the consequences and reckon on closing their business. Party animals fear an explosion in admission fees.

Gema defends the new regulation arguing that it gives the maze of prices a clear structure; instead of 11 tariffs there will be only two. There are two important factors that will be taken into account by GEMA. One is the size of the venue in steps of 100 square meters and the other is the entrance fee in steps of €1.

For owners who organize big events with high admission fees this means  significantly higher expenses. This is valid for events where DJs play the songs as well as live performances. In some cases the charges will increase by 1400% but GEMA still points out the advantages.

Smaller events might benefit from the future tariff regulation by paying less than before. Do we have to avoid mass events from now on and settle for small or medium-size events then? That is absurd, isn’t it?

Clubbers are furious because of the upcoming change expecting to pay more than usually although the prices are already a bit close to the bone. Nevertheless, it wouldn’t make sense to increase the admission fees since they are linked to the tariffs. However, it makes no difference if we pay more for the entrance or for the beverages, in the end it is the consumer that pays the costs anyway.

Especially the nightlife in Berlin could suffer from the GEMA tariffs. The German capital already has a high mortality rate among its clubs and GEMA promotes it.  Consequently the tourist industry would sustain losses.

Are we closing a chapter of German culture now? Isn’t it another form of censorship that we aren’t aware of yet? Or is it just a counterattack on the consumer due to a drop in revenues in the music industry?

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9 Responses to All things come to an end. How about clubbing?

  1. nourann says:

    Thanks for writing about this topic! Almost everytime I want to listen to music on youtube, I am confronted with the fact that the video is not available in Germany. That is really annoying! And I think everyone reading this post has seen the first picture on it already. This is a good way to start, because you definitely win the readers´ attention and sympathy when you depict GEMA as the monster from this horror story 🙂 . I did not know about the second “battlefield” though, so I think this was a very nice aspect to write about, and probably not as well known as your starting point. I like your conclusion, since you end the post with unanswered questions, inciting me to think further about your topic instead of reading without internalizing (what I frequently do).

    • mirkalilka says:

      Thanks for your positive feedback! I appreciate it. Actually I think that the GEMA YouTube controversy is better known for most German internet users than the new tariff regulations for clubs,bars or pubs which were published in April this year.

  2. Mai says:

    Wow, very interesting aspect. I also recognized that more and more videos are blogged on Youtube. I am always envious when I visit my friend in the Netherlands, she can watch all kind of videos!
    As I said, it annoys me, but I never felt like I want to find out why these videos are blocked. But since I read your post there seems to be more behind than I thought.
    My advise for this blog: It would have been great if you gave some examples of record labels, musicians or clubs that are affected by this restrictions. But other than that, really interesting post!

    • mirkalilka says:

      By the way, there many YouTube tutorials that try to explain how to avoid the GEMA lock-up, however, it is a bit tedious to retrieve another page every time you want to watch a music video on YouTube. I gave it try, but the videos load quite slowly if they load at all.
      To answer your question which clubs are affected by the GEMA tariffs: the owner of Watergate club in Berlin expects an increase in costs by 500 to 1000%. Calculations yield €50,000 to €140,000 of additional costs per year which is a lot. GEMA wasn’t able to tell them the exact figures, but if these calculations are correct, Watergate would have to close its doors. Apart from that , especially the Jazz scene in Berlin is affected; clubs like Quasimodo or A-Trane.Same scenario in Munich, the Pacha club will have to pay up to 1273% more per year.

  3. lilmeu says:

    Uh, I really HATE this GEMA stuff at youtube. Of course, I can understand the artists when they want me to buy their original CD or download their music for 0.99€ per song. Otherwise, the musician branch wouldn´t be profitable anymore. You just have to consider all the cost that are behind the production of a song or music video. This may include the salaries for the songwriter, producer and management, the rent for the recording studio, the flight and accomodation cost (if you shoot the music video at a special place) as well as the cost of a vocal coach each singer usually have. If there weren´t any earnings from concerts or the fanshops, the musician cannot maintain his/her living standard!
    Maybe you should not take this GEMA hype too serious. Even ACTA could not get accepted (
    To my mind, there always will be other opportunities to avoid GEMA and consume music free. For example, you can (illegally) change you IP address from a German to an US-American one and therefore watch this “forbidden” videos (if you know how to do so!)
    So, just don´t stress yourself out and make fun about it like 9gag: 🙂

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  7. angi2012 says:

    very good choice of topic. At this point, I can only agree it is annoying when you want to listen to a song and it does not work. The sad part here is that it is all about money.
    I first read your title, and without having read the text, looked at the picture. First I wanted to write that the video does not work, because I was thinking that there is a video … Then I had to smile. I do not know if it was your intention but you got me. The first picture is fantastic I also like your examples and your structure.

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