How many people use YouTube? (2021)

How many people around the world are using YouTube to watch videos? You can bet it’s quite a lot but the real figure is shockingly huge.

Based on the latest data from Statista there are 1.86 billion YouTube users around the world.

Whilst it is a whopping number of people tuning into the world’s favourite video website, it’s surprisingly not growing much year on year. Based on the numbers from Statista there were 1.78 billion global users in 2020 and 1.68 billion in 2019 suggesting that the majority of users signed up long ago when their uptake would have been at it’s quickest.

It has long been established as the number one source of video content online and such has dedicated users from years ago. This is unlike music streaming which is still fairly fresh to the market. Although music streaming services have come up in a similar timeline to YouTube their ubiquity is nowhere near the level of YouTube’s and there are still billions of potential listeners out there yet to move onto the new form of music consumption.

That’s why music streaming is still growing at such a fast rate. However, surpassing its levels of growth in the last year are podcasts. As music streaming services adopt podcasts in deeper ways, the audio content is growing rapidly whereas music streams themselves are growing less slowly, although still notably increasing each year.

YouTube are improving parental control for tweens and teens on the platform

Image Credit: YouTube

YouTube announce they are creating a better viewing experience for those too old for YouTube Kids and too young for regular YouTube.

YouTube has always been designed for over 13s, with some age restricted content for those 18 and over. Launched in 2015, YouTube Kids provided under 13s with a dedicated platform, protecting children’s privacy, parental controls, restricting certain features and improve age restrictions. Aimed at children aged 9-17, YouTube’s latest announcement better fills the middle ground between YouTube Kids and regular YouTube.

Every child reaches different developmental stages at different times, so parents naturally have different rules in terms of the types of content they want their kids seeing. Hoping to appeal to all parents, YouTube’s new announcement gives parents the ability to grant tween and teens, with supervised accounts, access to parts of the main platform.

YouTube are working with parents and experts in areas related to child safety, child development and digital literacy. Parents with supervised Google Accounts will be able to create profiles for children with content settings and limited features. Parents will be able to choose between three different settings:

  • Explore: Videos suited for viewers aged 9+, such as vlogs, tutorials, gaming videos, music clips, news, educational content and more.
  • Explore More: More videos for viewers aged 13+, including live streams in the categories listed in Explore.
  • Most of YouTube: Almost all videos except aged-restricted content, aimed at older teens
Giving parents content options on YouTube
Image Credit: YouTube

Unlike YouTube Kids, the interface for tween and teens will be similar to regular YouTube, with some key features disabled on all tiers, such as targeted ads, in-app purchases, leaving comments and uploading videos. YouTube say the may implement some of these features in some form in the future, after working with parents and experts.

Parents will be able to manage watch and search history within their child’s account settings. Google’s Family Link will also allow them to set screen timers. YouTube will be adding new parental controls over time such as blocking content.

Age suitable videos will be determined by user input, machine learning and human review. YouTube know this won’t be perfect, but will evolve the system over time. Of course this update is no replacement for parents being aware of what children are consuming online. YouTube have developed a guide in partnership with National PTA, Parent Zone and Be Internet Awesome to help parents provide a supervised experience to their children.

Early betas will be sent to families with kids under the age of consent to test and provide feedback, so YouTube can expand and improve the experience over time. The beta will be launching in the coming months.

Now available in over 80 countries, YouTube are still improving YouTube Kids, adding new features such as allowing parents to select specific videos and channels from main YouTube to the Kids app.

Image Credit: YouTube

Twitch swap out Metallica’s heavy metal for Zelda-like music in order to avoid a DMCA takedown

Performing at last weekend’s virtual BlizzCon on Twitch, Metallica’s heavy metal music transitioned quite suddenly.

Live steaming platform Twitch has received a fair amout of backlash over its lack of a real music licensing system. When users on YouTube upload videos that contain copyright protected music, a claim is automatically filed and monetization revenue is sent to the rightsholder. Unfortunately Twitch doesn’t have a similar system in place. If copyright material is detected, DMCA notices are issued, with videos usually either muted or takendown. This issue only grew last year as Twitch’s watch-hours hit record highs when stay-at-home orders came into place.

After being postponed in 2020 from its usual November date, Blizzard held their annual gaming convention BlizzCon last weekend as a virtual-only event. Metallica first performanced at BlizzCon in 2014, but this year’s appearance took a turn for the hilarious for some viewers. While those that tuned in live on Blizzard’s own Twitch and YouTube channels heard Metallica’s 1984 tune For Whom the Bell Tolls, those watching the feed on Twitch’s in-house Gaming feed heard the song replaced by what The A.V. Club called “the dorkiest, most Zelda forest-ass music imaginable”.

It seems Blizzard’s music performance rights did not extend past its own channel. Rather than cutting off the live stream or muting the audio, Twitch’s copyright system decided to play the least Metallica music in its library. To watch the real full performance, click here.

YouTube permanently close their physical Spaces in Berlin, London, Los Angeles, New York, Paris, Rio and Tokyo

Image Credit: Ed6767

YouTube Space are putting a heavier focus on their virtual and pop-up events as they close several physical locations.

First launched in London in 2012, YouTube Space opened up in many cities around the world to provide eligible creators with free tools such as equipment, studio space, post production facilities, training and workshops to help them learn production, provide the facilities to create content and build creative connections. Over 45 smaller pop-up Spaces have brought the creative environments to over 20 additional countries, with cities including Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Madrid, Milan, Cairo, Jakarta, Taiwan, Mumbai, Stockholm and Nashville, helping YouTube Space reach over 15,000 creators.

YouTube Spaces around the world were closed last year due to the pandemic, as YouTube moved to a virtual model. Over a thousand virtual events have been held online, such as introductions to Shorts in India, helping US creators produce from home, or a program in the UK focused on supporting diverse female creators. Virtual YouTube Space events have reached over 70,000 creators across 145 countries worldwide.

Last week, YouTube’s chief business officer Robert Kyncl announced physical Spaces in Berlin, London, Los Angeles, New York, Paris, Rio and Tokyo would remain permanently close. YouTube’s Spaces in São Paulo, Berlin, Mumbai and Dubai will remain open. Going forward, YouTube will hold more virtual and in-person pop-up events, providing creators with tools and workshops.

YouTube Space are committing to the following in 2021.

  • Multi-week virtual development programs to invest in the growth and success of our first-ever #YouTubeBlack Voices Fund for creators and artists—recipients span the U.S., UK, Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria Brazil and Australia. 
  • Ongoing investment in the NextUp program to support fast-rising creators in markets like Russia, Japan, the Philippines and Germany.
  • Multiple live and recorded online workshops as part of the Creator Academy’s Learning Toolkits. These offerings help creators produce great content at home, explore new ways to earn money with YouTube tools, and learn best practices for livestreaming.
  • YouTube artist and label workshops to preview the latest product developments, content strategies, and case studies.
  • Once in-person events are allowed, we will once again bring Pop-up events and experiences to even more new communities. Programming will include trainings on new products like Shorts, and events like Music Nights.

Apple Music, Spotify and Amazon want to help artists earn more from streaming

Image Credit: William Santos

The three major streaming companies showed a willingness to discuss new changes to benefit artists, when questioned at the UK government’s inquiry into the economics of music streaming.

The UK government’s DCMS inquiry into the economics of music streaming has been investigating whether musicians are fairly paid by streaming services. We’ve been following the sessions, hoping for an outcome that puts more money in the pockets of music artists.

In one of the last hearings before UK MPs write up their report on the streaming economy, it was finally the turn of representatives from Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon to face questioning.

The committee took turns trying to prise out of the execs what balance they strike between ensuring artists are paid fairly and staying profitable as companies. Elena Segal from Apple, Amazon’s Paul Firth and Horacio Gutierrez from Spotify, all showed a surprising willingness to engage with the committee considering the whole debate is centred on if their business models are unfair.

Before we dive in, get up to speed on our coverage of the previous sessions in the inquiry here, here, here and here.

Would users pay a little bit more if it meant that their favourite artists got a fairer deal?

Spotify haven’t raised their prices in a decade. Asked if the price of Spotify subscriptions should be raised in a bid to get more money to artists, Head of Global Affairs and Chief Legal Officer at Spotify Gutierrez advocated for caution. He noted the need to strike a balance lest users turn to piracy instead, sending the music industry back to the bad old days of the late noughties. Worth mentioning here is the fact that Spotify have just announced the planned launch of a presumably more expensive HiFi tier.

Netflix meanwhile has raised its prices, but music streaming is a different beast to video streaming. They have an exclusive catalogue, whilst the music streaming services all pretty much have the exact same catalogue. And as the music streaming execs pointed out, they are competing with free – YouTube.

Does everyone hate YouTube?

YouTube is often the focus of complaints, as revenue from free, ad-funded music streaming is less than subscription-based streaming services as the company is protected by safe harbour laws from claims of copyright infringement.

Choosing her words carefully, Segal, Global Senior Director of Music Publishing at Apple said: “It’s challenging to compete on an un-level playing field… [YouTube] don’t necessarily have licences for all of the music that they use, and they don’t need to.

And even if they do have licences, the amount they pay because of the way their business model is set up, and the way the tariffs work, is less.”

Do the streaming companies agree that artists are losing money?

Presented to the companies was Nadine Shah’s testimony, wherein the independent singer-songwriter claimed that she doesn’t make enough money from streaming to pay the rent. How do the companies feel about that, then?

Spotify’s Gutierrez responded as diplomatically as you would expect, but warily pointed the finger at labels being the issue. 75% of streams came from major labels, and Gutierrez claimed the problem comes from how the revenues “trickle down” through the intermediaries from the moment the song is streamed. Addressing Shah’s comments, Gutierrez said:

It’s unfortunate that [Nadine Shah] feels that way… I don’t know what agreements she has with labels and publishers. I don’t know what the economic terms are with the split of the revenue that she might have agreed to with her label… I know that close to 70% of every pound that we generate gets paid to those intermediaries that represent artists.

Horacio Gutierrez, Head of Global Affairs and Chief Legal Officer at Spotify

Spotify appearing before the UK government coincidentally came just a day after the company’s Stream On event, a livestream of announcements with plenty of hyperbole about how Spotify has transformed their artist’s lives. Musicians don’t hate the streaming model, as Gutierrez stressed, for one thing because of the “ability of artists to find an audience on the service.” Payouts to artists continue to grow, he added.

What are the alternatives to the current system, then?

A common thread throughout the session was the fact that streaming is actually a relatively new beast, and a very different one to the old standard of CDs and radio plays. Isn’t it far past the time to rewrite the rules to readdress the balance?

The committee has been keen to investigate whether a stream counts as a sale or a rental. Deciding either way would change how royalties are divvied up. Or perhaps the answer is that streaming is neither – in which case it’s something new entirely and therefore needs a new categorisation and formula.

Campaigners meanwhile have been pushing for equitable renumeration – an equal split of recording royalities between labels and artists. This is especially applicable to the radio-esque features like autoplay that streaming services offer users.

All three companies argued that such radio features are more interactive than classic radio and it’s difficult to equate the two. Segal also claimed she didn’t know the “detail of the economics of broadcast radio”, despite the fact that Apple Music does have its own radio stations.

MP Kevin Brennan pointed out that by Spotify’s own admission, stated by their COO Dawn Ostroff, they seek to “suck listeners away from radio”. Shouldn’t the artists who would have been streamed on the radio but are now being streamed online be paid what they would have from the radio? Gutierrez admitted: “Yes, it’s not going to happen overnight, and there’s no guarantees it will happen completely.”

Are user-centric streaming payments the way forward?

The current system sees all revenue pooled before being allocated according to market share. In 2019 Deezer tested out the user-centric approach for payouts instead – giving money only to the artist whose song is being streamed by the user. SoundCloud are looking to implement a user-centric subscription model as soon as next month.

As long as the streaming companies still got their share, all three companies seemed to be up to at least discussing the concept in the future. Spotify were open-minded to the idea, although it would have to work globally. Whilst he claimed Deezer’s study didn’t show a “dramatic” shift, Gutierrez conceded that “if musicians and artists prefer the model, we would support moving on to that.”

Amazon’s Director of International Music, Paul Firth, said: “The time has come now for the UK industry to come together and openly model and analyse what other distribution models could look like… and Amazon would be willing and very keen to be part of that.”

Apple’s Elena Segal was more cautious, saying they’d be open to discussion and that everyone who supplies music to the services would need to agree on a method before it could be implemented, and all agreed that any changes would need to be modelled on data.

So, did we witness a turning point in the inquiry?

If a breakthrough were to come, this session would be the chance. The three biggest streaming companies faced the committee for the first time, in one of the last sessions of the inquiry.

It would have been easy for the notoriously tight-lipped mega-companies to dodge every question, not show up at all, or say nothing at all like Twitch. However there seemed to be encouraging signs that Spotify, Apple and Amazon would indeed be willing to sit down and discuss the eventual findings of the inquiry and make some changes.

We’ll have to wait and see what the government recommends in its report. Whether equitable renumeration or a user-centric model come into play, artists deserve a better deal when their art that they’ve given everything to create and promote is streamed by eager fans.

As a music distributor, RouteNote is following the UK’s streaming inquiry hoping the result will benefit artists. If you’re looking to get your music out onto the major streaming services, RouteNote will be with you every step of the way. Start selling your music today – for free.

YouTube’s new goals for the ‘next generation of video’

With making videos look better, making YouTube living room friendly for your TV, and making it a more profitable place for creators the future looks bright for YouTube.

YouTube’s Chief Product Officer, Neal Mohan has outlined how they’re going to be expanding on the world’s favourite video platform for the “next generation of video”. In a new blog post they touch on a number of areas that they’ll be looking at this year with promises to regularly update users on how they’re working to improve what they do and provide.

For their updates to YouTube Music, check out our recent article.

YouTube for Viewers

In their statement Mohan revealed a number of areas where they’ll be improving their user experience for general YouTube viewers across the board.

  • Easier Navigation: YouTube promises more updates across devices to connect viewers and new content. They’ll be expanding the recently launched and much-loved chapters feature to provide automatic video chapters to relevant videos. Additionally they’ll be making watching more intuitive, including a new design for tablets.
  • Support for New Tablets: YouTube will be redesigning their YouTube Virtual Reality app homepage to make it easier to navigate and search videos.
  • Expanding TV offerings: Soon viewers of YouTube on TVs will be able to watch shows in 4K and download them to watch later offline. Additionally, they’ll be making it possible for multiple screens to watch at once in the same house.
YouTube for Creators
  • More Ways to Create: YouTube have been testing a new feature called Shorts, essentially a TikTok style short-form video format powered by music. Following popularity in India, they’ll be expanding to the US in the coming weeks.
  • More Ways to Make Money: They promise to expand on their existing monetisation options like Super Chat and Channel Memberships. They’re testing a new applause feature that allows fans to show support to the creators they love.
  • Shopping: YouTube have been talking for a while about building on the merchandising possibilities on YouTube and they’re currently testing a new shopping experience with trusted creators. They expect to expand on this later this year.

YouTube Shorts will make it easy to create short-form videos over music

A new button under music videos on YouTube will make it easy to capture short-form dancing and lip-sync videos on YouTube Shorts.

Since the explosion of TikTok, especially since the start of the pandemic last year, YouTube have been heavily focusing on short-form videos. This includes a new feature called Clips, allowing you to cut and share 5-60 second segments of videos, as well as YouTube Shorts. YouTube Shorts is the video sharing platform’s competitor to TikTok. Currently in testing in India, users will be able to create and share vertical videos up to 60 seconds in length.

YouTube are continuing to improve the feature as testing continues. The latest news says YouTube are experimenting adding a Create Button below select music videos. The button will open your camera, where you can choose a start point for the music and record a 15-second Short or import pre-recorded videos to play over the music.

YouTube Shorts has many of the same features as TikTok, where you can choose a song from YouTube’s library and edit videos such as annotating with text, before publishing to the user’s channel.

YouTube Shorts is still under testing in India, with the Create Button only appearing under a limited number of music videos, likely due to licening. Where TikTok was huge before being banned, India has been a great country for apps such as YouTube, Triller and Instagram with Reels, to test their short-form video competitors.

Amazon are rumoured to be working on a wall-mounted Echo smart display

Image Credit: Amazon

Amazon’s reported wall-mounted Echo device will act as a smart home command centre, integrated right into the wall.

The report comes from anonymous insiders via Bloomberg. The details say Amazon’s hardware division Lab126 are in the process of designing the new digital command centre. None of the details have been confirmed by Amazon, who have declined to comment.

Echo Shows are the companies smart displays that can show anything from video calls and smart home cameras to movies and TV shows. Echo Show displays are touchscreen or can be voice controlled via Alexa. Think a stationary iPad. Since launching Echo Show in 2017, Amazon have released various versions in different sizes. Rumours say the next Echo smart display intends to be more integrated into the home.

The upcoming Echo device will feature a large touchscreen display that attaches right to the wall. As with previous Echo Shows, the device will have a microphone for Alexa commands and a camera for video calls. The primary selling point will be as a smart home panel for controlling accessories such as lights and locks, but will also be able to do all the usual Echo Show things such as media playback and show upcoming calendar events.

Amazon are considering multiple variations of the device with a 10 or 13-inch screen. 10-inches would match the largest size display Amazon currently sells. The new device will be much thinner, so not to protrude as much.

The display will compete against professionally installed devices from the likes of Control4 and those with iPads framed into walls. Some already wall mount Echo Shows and Echo smart speakers using third-party mounts, but these are far from integrated, usually protruding several inches. This won’t be Amazon’s first wall device. In 2018 the company launched Echo Wall Clock, an analogue clock that showed timers set up via Alexa.

New Alexa devices usually launch towards the holidays. Bloomberg say we can expect to see this device towards the end of this year or the end of 2022. The prices currently being discusses are between $200 and $250. As these are only rumours of designs, the product could be scrapped altogether.

Instagram will stop promoting TikTok videos on Reels

Instagram have announced that videos with the TikTok watermark will not be recommended on the Reels tab.

Launched globally in August last year, Reels is Instagram’s TikTok competitor. Following the launch, many creators exported their TikTok videos and uploaded them to Reels. After essentially copying TikTok’s app, Instagram are unhappy users are copying their videos from one platform to the other. This is due to the watermark that places itself on exported TikTok videos. Instagram will still allow you to upload Reels with the watermark, but have stated they will not recommend them as often on the Reels tab to users not following you.

Along with the announcement, Instagram have provided other tips for the best ways to get promoted on Reels, suggesting videos that are fun, entertaining, new and experimental trends, with creative tools, vertically shot, and containing music from Instagram’s music library. Steering users away from uploading low-resolution videos with logo, borders or too much text.

Since Instagram made Reels more accessible to its users, the feature has started to gather an audience. Instagram are clearly stamping out these videos to stop advertising TikTok on their own platform. Unfortunately for creators, this will require some extra effort when copying content between platforms.

Are Instagram Stories Changing?

Image credit: Jakob Owens

Instagram is currently at war with Tik Tok for dominance and this may lead to some drastic changes on the app.

It’s no secret that Instagram is currently trying to battle short-form video apps such as TikTok. Recently Instagram released Reels into the digital realm but they’ve perhaps not been utilised how they wished. Although Reels are popular and creators do use them you’re more likely to stumble across a TikTok that has been cross shared. It’s no surprise that Instagram has recently confirmed that they will be testing a vertical layout for the stories feed. 

On paper this may sound like a minor tweak but it has the possibility to totally re-shape the image sharing app. The first major change would be removing the ability to share feed posts on your stories, a function the app isn’t keen on. Which is pretty obvious to how clunky it looks in comparison to other functions on the app. 

So, what does that mean to you as a creator or user of Instagram? 

Well, basically if you’re not making video content now is the time because soon Instagram is likely to shift its focus towards video related content. 

Instagram knows it has image sharing locked down and people will continue to use it for that purpose. However, engagement with video content is much higher and as tech advances it’s becoming more accessible and popular. Instagram knows that to stay relevant it must adapt towards video content and make it a better platform for said content. 

Check out this brilliant infographic from Somewhere Soul (click image for link):