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How one company is helping small musicians find 'buried treasure' in YouTube royalties

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iPad YouTube
iPad YouTube

One of YouTube's longest-standing problems is attribution — with the huge amount of user-generated videos being uploaded, it's a major challenge to keep on top of what has been licensed properly and what hasn't. This extends to audio, as well; plenty of videos are shared with unlicensed soundtracks. That's a particular problem for smaller artists without the backing of a major record company or publisher, so a New York startup called Audiam is filling the gap. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, Audiam just completed a test case with composer Scott Schreer, a musician who has written some 1,700 instrumental tracks that he licenses to film and TV producers. Thanks to Audiam, Schreer's catalog is now bringing in about $30,000 each month — 25 percent of which goes to the company as a fee for handling the intricacies of licensing.

According to Audiam founder Jeff Price (who co-founded TuneCore in 2006), the company will act as the middle-man between small artists and huge companies like YouTube, helping them "find" money that they already should be getting. "It's magic money," said Price. "It's buried treasure." The service will launch in full in the US this month; once an artist signs up with Audiam and shares their catalog, the company essentially has the right to license it on YouTube. The company scans videos with YouTube's content ID software as well as a custom piece of "audio fingerprinting" software, and then authorizes YouTube to serve ads against the videos. While most artists won't benefit to the same level as Schreer, small artists won't exactly turn away from additional revenue — and if a song gets used in a video that goes viral, that artist could be in for a pretty good payday.