A story was recently in development that looked like it would have everything a great story is made of: a secret conspiracy, some very major names, and even a little skullduggery to spark things up. Throw that into the generally dull period ahead of Christmas and it's good news indeed.
But the truth behind what happened with nearly two billion views on YouTube (News - Alert) for a handful of videos is a much stranger thing than anyone may have seen coming.
Just ahead of Christmas, a group known as SocialBlade caught a look at something very unusual; specifically, the folks at YouTube had adjusted the view counts for channels owned by Universal Music, Sony Music, SonyBMG and RCA Records. Universal had lost about a billion views from their channel, and the Sony losses mounted almost as high.
But what happened? How does a channel – especially one as popular as that owned by a major record label where people no doubt come on a daily basis to hear their favorite songs and see the accompanying videos of same – lose a billion views overnight?
Naturally, one of the first ideas to show up around this massive loss of views was that of hacker involvement. Given that recently, a user known as "Tapangoldy" was actually seen selling YouTube view counts before seemingly getting out of the venture, it wasn't exactly a far cry to suggest Universal and Sony had been caught with hands in the metaphorical cookie jar.
But there was no evidence to suggest that such was the case.
What was known, however, is that Google (News - Alert) has indeed gone through one of its standard cleanup phases in which it goes forth to scour the system for views that don't comply with its terms of service, and remove them accordingly.
So suggesting the two were linked wasn't out of line, until Billboard stepped in with an explanation of its own: a mass migration.
Sony and Universal have been steadily moving their music videos out of YouTube and over to Vevo, a process which has been going on since 2009. Since the videos aren't actually still on the channels – and gone to Vevo from there – it only made sense that a big cut would be coming as soon as Google did its review and found there weren't nearly the number of videos on the channels that there were previously.
Meanwhile, Vevo is putting up about four billion views a month at last report, which is giving them not only some impressive advertising revenue, but a better deal in regard to percentages since the music firms own the site.
This likely came as a disappointment to many who were hoping for a much bigger deal involving corporate chicanery, but the real explanation appears to be not only much more rational, but a bit duller; why would music companies even need to inflate view counts anyway?
We've only heard the RIAA scream for years about people getting music for free, and now that studios are actually offering it for free with ad support, why would the music companies want to inflate the proof?
It's a juicy story, but one that ultimately makes little sense, neither of which can be said about the real story.
Edited by Braden Becker