YouTube has signed a crucial licensing deal for its long-in-the-works streaming music service with Merlin, an agency that represents thousands of independent record labels. That's according to a report from the Financial Times, which claims the newly reached pact didn't come quick; it took "months of acrimonious negotiations" for both sides to hammer out a deal that could bring music from artists including Adele to YouTube's subscription offering. (Adele was signed to indie label XL Recordings before also coming under the Columbia Records umbrella.)
In June, the Financial Times reported that YouTube would pull down videos from artists attached to Merlin as talks between the two appeared to stall. But that hardball negotiating tactic never materialized — largely thanks to a wave of criticism from musicians upset that YouTube would dare to take things so far and prevent fans from watching their videos. Fast forward a few months and it seems an agreement has been reached, with FT describing it as one that's more favorable to Merlin than previous offers.
Last month, CEO Susan Wojcicki again confirmed that YouTube is still "working on" delivering the oft-rumored premium music service. "I remain optimistic that you can see it soon," said Wojcikci at the Code Mobile conference. It's believed that YouTube has come to similar licensing terms with all major US record labels, so the company will likely launch with a large song catalog whenever its service finally does get off the ground. Millions of people are already using YouTube to hear music for free, but YouTube's eager to monetize all that listening. The big question is whether those same consumers are willing to pay YouTube for a wider (and more legal) music selection instead of switching to Spotify or finding a new way to listen on the cheap.