Video Killed the Radio Star?
We live in a world consumed by entertainment and media. From what we know from earliest recorded history, we humans have always sought ways to entertain ourselves and others. Entertainment has come in the form of music, art and storytelling, and we are still enthralled with these; the only difference is that the medium we use has changed. For example, listening to each other tell folk tales by candlelight has been replaced by popular radio shows such as The Phantom and The Lone Ranger. Radio was replaced by television so that instead of listening to shows and imagining what was being described, we were able to watch the scenes being played out. And now, over the last few years, music has begun to make a similar transformation.
Several years ago, a study came out that the top 10 most played songs on MySpace also had a tremendous amount of plays on their YouTube counterparts. The hypothesis was that the ability to quickly pull up YouTube videos on a mobile phone (the iPad did not exist) was changing the way we searched for and consumed music. A similar study was recently released a few weeks ago from Nielsen, which found that 64% of teens listen to music more via YouTube than any other source. These latest stats raise a few questions. Is listening to music via YouTube helping the artist or hurting the artist? And will we see rising stars that have lasting A-list careers solely brought on by YouTube fame?
We love viral videos in the US. However, most obscure artists with no prior fame are not able to turn their newfound fame into a viable career. Success in other forms of media is still required to supplement a viral video in order to generate a lasting career. In Rebecca Black's case with her video "Friday," she went viral because of the ridiculousness of the video. Nobody actually expects her to be an artist who is taken seriously. Instead, we all just laugh at the bad lyrics, singing and cheesiness. Can anyone remember the last time they saw a video go viral for a completely unknown artist that led to a successful debut album, tour or much else? And when you think about that question let's remember that the artist must be a household name for this to have meaning, like Matchbox Twenty or My Morning Jacket. I know what you may be thinking right now: "What about Gotye?" But remember that Gotye already made a name for himself in Australia and New Zealand before he went viral in the US. Another thing to note is that his US tour that was thrown together to quickly capitalize on the viral fame has not been selling as well as everyone involved hoped.
So, how can an established artist take advantage of YouTube being the main hub that teens search for music? The most common method is still to create a music video. But, that takes a lot of time and money and generally is released six weeks after the radio release to extend the life of the single. A few artists have taken a cue from fan-made "lyric" videos and are creating their own to draw searches for the song on YouTube or Vevo to their pages versus a fan's page. Matchbox Twenty, Grace Potter and Taylor Swift all released lyric videos almost immediately with their recent singles. I believe that this will become a common practice over the next several years and will help market both established and indie artists to new fans across the globe.
Oh, and if you want to see the next viral video craze... It's K-Pop "Gangnam Style": http://youtu.be/9bZkp7q19f0