From Bathrooms to Stadiums

Justin Bieber

YouTube Launches Users From Bathrooms to Stadiums

Three years ago, if you looked up Justin Bieber on the Internet, you would find his YouTube page. Videos of him singing Brian McKnight in his bathroom were endearing, albeit a little embarrassing, and his way of perfectly emulating pop stars had viewers amazed. Despite plenty of interest, the success that now 15-year-old Bieber has is shocking. His YouTube page has been transformed into a teenage girl’s fantasy. Bieber’s photo covers the screen, and the old videos have been pushed back to make room for TV performances and shots of him hanging out with other teenage pop idols. If you look up Bieber now, thousands of fan sites and news reports come up. He was recently signed to Def Jam Records, and had to cancel a show at the Roosevelt Field Mall because the crowd was too aggressive to control.

With success stories from artists like Bieber and others, it becomes clear that a new trend is happening. Ten years ago, this kind of promotion didn’t exist, and now that it does, viewers are constantly provided with new material to enjoy. Something about YouTube puts musicians on the fast track to success with no apparent reason.

When musician Tom Goss first started off as an independent singer-songwriter in Washington D.C, he was not using YouTube. After hearing about the site from a friend, he decided to give it a try to see if it would draw larger crowds at shows. As he started getting positive feedback, he began to upload music videos and live performance footage to the site.

“I have been using YouTube for about 2 years now. In that time I’ve posted 17 videos…my video for ‘Till The End’ was promoted very effectively online,” said Goss. “In fact, I didn’t even bother to get it on TV until months later…when released it was promoted only to online sources—blogs, [Facebook], YouTube.”

The video ended up on MTV’s LOGO channel and was a Number One hit at the beginning of December. But with the increase in online promotion and faster, easier access to music through YouTube, is TV success even worth it?

“[The TV] is ‘old’ in terms of media. TV has been slow to catch up, and always will be from here forward. The boost, attention, sales, and continual revenue that I saw from the first three to seven days online has far surpassed anything that has followed,” said Goss.

Part of the YouTube advantage is the time limit on clips. Now that we have access to millions of forms of media at our fingertips, consumer’s attention spans have come to rival a gnat’s. Being able to click around and watch tons of short, different things at once lets people pick and chose what they like and don’t like. By continually adding material, artists keep the viewers coming back for more. With the rise in Internet came an interest in being interactive with others while being alone, which YouTube does perfectly.

“People’s consumption of media is continually changing…as a rule, people are consuming more media than ever before,” said Goss. “Conversely, the value per video or song continues to drop. People are generally spending less and less per item than ever before. To get someone’s attention you need a product that grabs the consumer and is on a platform that is easily accessible and familiar to the consumer and is low cost—or free. YouTube is a good combination of the two.”

Aside from the fact that YouTube is itself a promotional tool, there are people who use YouTube just to promote others. Users like Michael Buckley have gained international fame just for making videos that showcase interesting things he’s seen on the site. Getting recognition on a show like Buckley’s can end up being pivotal.

One of Buckley’s first fans on YouTube was Los Angeles musician Jake Walden. Walden has gained significant fame in the singer-songwriter genre through his videos on YouTube. On November 27th, his song “Alive and Screaming” was featured on Buckley’s show. Buckley sang Walden’s praises, saying he had a “beautiful voice.” It wasn’t long until Walden’s YouTube and Facebook pages were bursting with comments. Many of them included “sent by [Buckley]” in the subject line.

“It’s really amazing,” said Walden. “It all happens so quickly.”

Of course, YouTube certainly has its downfalls. As people’s attention spans shrink, the need for newer media at a faster rate rises. YouTube artists are forced to crank out tons of material of equal quality in order to stay on top of their game.

Listening to and watching videos does not have a financial benefit for the artist unless they eventually become famous enough to make it themselves. With websites that can rip audio from videos, the need to buy .mp3s disappears.

“Musicians will need to create more and more content, both audio and video, for increasingly lower costs,” said Goss.

YouTube gives artists the chance to compete with each other and vie for the approval of others through creativity. . Artists are expected to provide constant, good material, and the rest is up to the users. It functions like a marketing agency that does all the work for you.  Artists submit material from their own homes and come out famous.

It contributes to careers simply by launching them to their peaks in half the time it normally takes. There’s not another place where artists, promoters, and fans from all over the globe can talk and work together. The hassle of putting together press packets is deemed obsolete as marketing and booking agents just have to click a button. For Goss, he had more listeners and sales when his first music video was on YouTube than when it hit LOGO. In Walden’s case, getting a shout out from one person increased his fan base by the hundreds in less than a week.

This goes to show that acoustic/singer-songwriter and pop music seems to get the most attention. The business is dominated by those genres—YouTube forces those musicians to set themselves apart either by their music or their visuals. One would think that YouTube would put experimental or avant-garde music on an equal playing field to pop music, but that’s not always the case.

In general, acoustic and pop music is still universally accessible and prone to doing better. Michael Ghan, a New York University film student and ambient musician, has not had the same luck as Goss or Bieber.

“I upload [songs/videos] and it does absolutely nothing besides allowing my friends to see them,” said Ghan.

Obviously, not everyone finds success in YouTube. Flaming and low ratings can push a person to the depths of the site. Walden’s success from Buckley’s show shows that, like in the traditional music business, connections are key. Others get shunned despite their talent just because they aren’t interesting or creative enough—there’s a reason most YouTube celebrities have a gimmick or remarkable eccentricity—it sells. The balance between being talented and being quirky is sometimes skewed, and lackluster performers with zany personalities can get noticed before talented, but introverted musicians.

Luckily, this is not always the case. The entertainment industry has found a goldmine in YouTube that’s rich with talent and constantly growing.

YouTube success stories are unique because the people involved were made known because enough viewers thought they deserved it. Art appreciation is handle semi-democratically, and it gives listeners a chance to have a role in the creation of an established musician. A 16-year-old girl with 10 years of piano skills may not make it on American Idol, but she’s given a chance on YouTube.

The site is one of the few places left in the music business that talent and creativity can get rewarded over a big pocketbook. Despite the instances of corruption or misjudgment that comes with a public site, YouTube has taken on a critical role in deciding what art is popular or worth hearing. As long as the consumption of media continues to increase at such a rapid pace, YouTube will continue to launch new artists.

-K

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One response to “From Bathrooms to Stadiums

  1. Great piece Katy!

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