Negotiations between Warner Music Group and YouTube over renewing the licensing agreement for the record label's music videos broke down Friday. Early Saturday, Warner, the third largest record label, removed videos from the Google-owned video site.
The impasse comes at a time when all four major labels, including Universal Music Group, Sony Music, and EMI, are renegotiating their licensing deals with YouTube.
"We are working actively to find a resolution with YouTube that would enable the return of our artists' content to the site," Warner said in a statement. "Until then, we simply cannot accept terms that fail to appropriately and fairly compensate recording artists, songwriters, labels and publishers for the value they provide."
YouTube has become an important revenue stream for at least one of the top labels. This week, Rio Caraeff, Universal Music's digital chief, told CNET News that YouTube has generated "tens of millions" of dollars for the recording company this year, up 80 percent from last year.
Caraeff said that Universal and YouTube enjoy a strong relationship and that the companies are trying to expand their relationship beyond music videos. A source close to Universal said that the label will likely book nearly $100 million in video-streaming revenue--most of it from YouTube.
The blog All Things Digital reported this week that while the labels are starting to make money from the deal with YouTube, the video site is not. YouTube has to pay the labels each time someone views a clip, regardless of whether it's generating any revenue, according to the blog.
By pulling out of the deal with YouTube, Warner loses access to the Web's No. 1 video site, which topped 100 million visitors in October. The site has increasingly become one of the Internet's favorite ad-supported jukeboxes. Of the top 10 YouTube channels, 7 are music related. Warner Bros. Records is the 11th largest channel.
"If we can't reach acceptable business terms, we must part ways with successful partners," Google said Friday on its blog. "For example, you may notice videos that contain music owned by Warner Music Group being blocked from the site.
But YouTube's growing prominence in music could change if the site were void of music.
Some of Warner's most popular artists, who will no longer be available on YouTube, include Led Zeppelin, Madonna, TI, Eric Clapton, REM, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and the Grateful Dead.