Looking for a good example of music artists finding big audiences outside the traditional music industry structures? Try UKF, the bass-culture brand belonging to UK firm AEI Media. UKF has just notched up its one billionth view on YouTube since its first channel launched in April 2009.
UKF focuses on dubstep and drum & bass, and now has 2.5m people subscribing to its network of YouTube channels – majoring on audio playing over a static logo, rather than full videos. It’s also active on Facebook, where its page has more than 1.9m Likes.
“We’ve just been very lucky with the support labels and artists have given us, to help build a strong brand,” says Luke Hood, who set up the original UKF channel, and now runs the brand within AEI.
“It’s been really nice to help make careers when artists have a UKF moment: we’ll put them on the channel, then book them for our shows, and then they’ll go on our compilation albums. It’s an all-encompassing thing really!”
UKF sold out London’s Alexandra Palace last year as 11,000 people attended its Bass Culture event. More recently, it sold out gigs in 42 US cities, and has also spawned a series of compilation albums, with its UKF Dubstep 2010 and 2011 albums mainstays of the Billboard and iTunes charts.
AEI has been conducting a survey of UKF fans to find out how they’re accessing its content, and music in general. The research focuses on “Generation Bass”, which is a young audience – 39.1% aged 13-17 and 51.7% aged 18-24 – and skewed male (76.2% men to 23.8% women).
UKF found that 89% of its fans listen to music on their PC or laptop – this includes YouTube – 60% on an MP3 player and 46% on a mobile device. 95% of UKF fans said they use YouTube for their main music discovery platform.
But Generation Bass does buy music: 27% spend more than £10 a month on music downloads, 18% spend more than £10 a month buying CDs.
“We had a lot of speculation when we released our first album about whether people would buy it, but the compilations have gone on to sell hundreds of thousands of units,” says Hood.
“It completely debunks the myth that people only listen for free on YouTube. Actually, they’ll then support an artist they really like, to get that package of music.”
Meanwhile, 4% spend more than £10 a month streaming music – a slightly awkward stat, given that the most popular monthly subscription price for streaming services is £9.99, and many have a web-only tier for £4.99.
Generation Bass also go to club nights – 58% go to dubstep events and 41% to drum & bass – but they’re also keen on the idea of livestreaming gigs when not out and about. 36% say they’d be extremely interested in this, and would be willing to pay £3-£5 for the privilege.
“We’ve not put it into practice yet, as there are a few things that need to be sorted first,” says Hood. However, the demand is certainly there: a recent UKF livestream from a club night in Amsterdam attracted nearly 50,000 online viewers.
The point of all this? UKF – and AEI Media more generally – has a finger in all these pies, running YouTube channels, selling compilations, and running club nights. It’s just as inspirational an example of nimble new-music-industry thinking as, say, Radiohead or Amanda Palmer.
What next? “We have got an app in the works for iOS and Android, although it’ll be a while before it’s released,” says Hood. There is also finally a UKF website – launched two weeks ago. Which may sound surprising, but until then, Hood says UKF’s content was on YouTube, and its communications with fans on Facebook.
“It’s brand new and a lovely-looking site that brings everything we do into one place,” he says.