“Even though we felt teaching popular songs for free on YouTube would benefit the original artists, a few labels felt otherwise,” says Next Level Guitar cofounder Tim Gilberg in a press release. He and fellow guitar teacher David Taub launched the local company in 2006, uploading guitar-instruction videos to YouTube that feature songs by Boston, Aerosmith, ZZ Top, Kiss, and others.

RIAA members responded with lawsuit threats, and the pair was forced to remove more than 100 videos from their YouTube channel.

“[It was] because of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a United States copyright law,” says Gilberg. “[We] decided to form partnerships with the publishers.… There were no fines levied, so I have no idea what the potential penalty would be. We chose not to fight, even though we could have claimed fair use.”

Subsequently, Gilberg secured licensing rights to songs found in the Guitar Hero and Rock Band games.

“It costs several thousand dollars to license a song so we can produce a lesson on DVD format,” says Gilberg via email. “To simply make a song request costs several hundred dollars. We tried to gain approval for songs by the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Green Day, and those were declined, but we still had to pay fees just to process a request.”

“We’re only licensed to teach the songs on DVD,” says Gilberg. “The YouTube lessons no longer have specific copyrighted songs.” Next Level Guitar has around 51,000 “Rockongood

people” subscribers on YouTube, with many lessons notching up to 30,000 views per month.

Gilberg reports the two most-viewed lessons – “Beginner Slide” and “Velvet Revolver Slash” (“inspired by…but not from a specific song”) – have each garnered over 500,000 views so far this year. The instructional DVDs featuring hit songs from Guitar Hero and Rock Band can be purchased at NextLevelGuitar.com.

– Jay Allen Sanford

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Beginner Slide lesson: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TIueII...

Slash Lick lesson: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dgeX8C...

The RIAA members who sent Next Level the DMCA warnings were ABKO (Rolling Stones' older hits label, Brown Sugar) and Cal IV Entertainment (Keith Urban music).

Gilberg explains why their licensing efforts centered on the Guitar Hero and Rock Band artists: "The younger generation are exposed to the classic rock hits via the games, so it gives name recognition - Sweet Home Alabama and Freebird for example - and the older generation loves to learn and play these, as well songs from their youth. These classic songs are much easier to get approval for than current hits...We have contracted a licensing agency in Los Angeles that processes our requests."

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