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Liveblog: YouTube talks music with partners at Midem


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YouTube held its traditional press event at Midem this afternoon to talk about how artists and labels are using Google’s video site to further their careers. Senior director of YouTube Music, EMEA, Patrick Walker played host.

“We’re really just at the beginning of this massive transformation, and people are still trying to figure it out,” he said. “With music we have been experiencing and trying lots of different things.”

Walker also pooh-poohed the idea that YouTube is in some way changing music or marketing: “We’re only reflecting technological changes that are happening regardless of our own existence”. Devices being a big part of that. Walker had a warning for anyone focused on just one kind of device as a way to get their content to people.

If you make a bet on one screen, and a lot of people do, you have a massive chance of getting it wrong,” he said.

How big is YouTube right now? “We just announced recently YouTube is now generating 4bn views per day, and that’s a 30% increase in the past six months,” he said. “A big number getting bigger, and getting bigger very quickly.”

He noted that Justin Bieber and Rihanna have generated 2.2bn and 2bn total views on YouTube respectively from their videos.

More stats: YouTube now has 800m unique monthly users, and is now localised in 39 countries and 53 languages. Meanwhile, YouTube generates 500m mobile video views a day. “That’s tripled in 2011. That’s growing faster than the PC, and we think mobile will overtake PC-based access in a number of years.”

Meanwhile, there are 100m “social actions” every day, while 700 tweets a minute contain a YouTube video. YouTube has 20,000 commercial partners that it works with, including music labels. And 60 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. “People uploading videos of cats and people uploading videos of famous performances…”

Walker continued, talking about the speed with which YouTube can now speed the rise of new music stars. He pointed back in time, to The Beatles releasing Love Me Do in 1961, and it took them three years to then appear on US television.

For Susan Boyle, it took three months from her YouTube fame to appear on the Oprah Winfrey show. Meanwhile, Greyson Chance uploaded a YouTube video and was sitting on a sofa on the Ellen TV show within 48 hours. The process is getting faster, in other words.

What’s next for YouTube? “Livestreaming is now becoming a major thing on YouTube,” he said. “500,000 went to Woodstock; we had millions who went to Coachella via YouTube.”

He continued: “Another thing that’s coming up which you should keep a close eye on is original programming.” Walker cited the example of Pharrell Williams’ I.Am.Other channel on YouTube, as well as venue The Bowery’s channel. Meanwhile, magazine Vice is launching a new music-focused YouTube channel called Noisey this February.

“Madonna is launching her own channel as well, a dance channel I think,” said Walker.

Chris LaRosa, YouTube product manager for music, then took the stage to explain some new features that artists will be able to make use of on their YouTube channels.

YouTube has recently revamped the look and feel of channels on its website, with a cleaner design and tabs for ‘Featured’ content, a Feed of what the channel owner has been doing on YouTube, and Videos for a simple collection of all their videos. Different channel templates are available for artists and labels to experiment with.

“Channels now form the basis for the entire site experience, including the page where you watch videos, and the homepage,” said LaRosa, who then talked about the new YouTube Merch Store – a way for people to direct fans off to iTunes, Google Music, Amazon, Songkick and Topspin among other services, to sell them music and other products.

He also talked about YouTube’s Audio ID technology, citing the famous Numa-Numa video, where a man lip-synced flamboyantly to a song by Romanian band O-zone. Since it went viral, more than 40,000 other videos have been made in response by fans.

“Engaged music fans made more videos for one song than all the major labels made for recorded music in the two decades after MTV launched,” said LaRosa, pointing to YouTube’s Content ID technology as a way for artists and labels to claim videos featuring their music, and make money from it.

In 2012, the Content ID system is getting some improvements. Independent labels can sign up online to get an account, and there is now desktop software to upload the reference files for music to be matched against videos. Meanwhile, a tool called Melody ID, which matches more than just the original recorded music – it can match users singing a song, for example.

“2011 has been a huge year for us, we’ve more than doubled the money that goes to labels, publishers and other music partners from fan-generated videos,” said LaRosa.

Zofia Bajkowska, YouTube Partner Manager, talked about the benefits of being a partner for the audience of artists and labels, including the ability for them to dig deeper into who’s watching their videos, and communicate more with them to build a fanbase.

Some advice. Make playlists, shoot videos when touring, video-announce news like tour dates and releases, and collaborate with other artists. “The fact that you can have one platform and thousands of musicians who can talk and exchange ideas and create something is amazing,” said Bajkowska, who also suggested artists should cross-brand by annotating videos using Twitter and Facebook.

She also talked about how artists and labels can “influence the YouTube algorithm”. Uploading videos regularly is important – the YouTube algorithm favours consistency apparently. She also said uploaders should watch their attention scores – videos that keep people watching are rewarded.

“Engage and respond and set up playlists. Think about those things that you create,” she said. So sharing, comments, favourites, responses and embeds all matter in making a video score highly on YouTube’s algorithm, while playlists encourage users to watch more videos and stay involved.

At this point, some of YouTube’s partners took to the stage to explain how they’re using the service. First, Dan Duncombe, VP of digital for EMI Music UK, which has been a YouTube partner since May 2007, and is generating more than 1bn video views a month.

“We view video as probably our premium asset,” he said. “There’s never more of an engaged fan than a fan that’s listening and watching at the same time, especially around music.”

Some examples of what EMI is doing. Electronic music producer Deadmau5, who recently played a headline show at a big arena in Toronto. The gig was broadcast live on YouTube. “This was 120,000 streams on the night. For someone like Deadmau5 playing a 15,000 seater arena is pretty extensive.”

Meanwhile, 15,000 people signed up on Deadmau5’s website to watch extra content, as well as the show itself. “That also included nearly 10,000 clicks to retail,” he added.

Second, Swedish House Mafia, who played Madison Square Garden in December 2011, selling 20,000 tickets in 10 minutes. This, too, was livestreamed. “Nearly half a million people watched on the night with an average dwell time of 13 minutes… 100,000 comments, over 50,000 fans talking about Swedish House Mafia on Facebook, and the hashtag we created trended globally for well over an hour,” he said.

Finally, Coldplay’s Mylo Xyloto album, who held a Coldplay Unstaged event with American Express, with a live show directed by Anton Corbijn in a 20-camera shoot. “There were 19m streams of the show including the replays. Live on the night it was just over 13.5m,” said Duncombe.

Next up, Denis Ladegaillerie, president of independent digital distributor Believe Digital, which has been working with YouTube since 2009. It does 600m views a month on the service.

His example: Colonel Reyel, a French artist who’s been a huge success on YouTube – more than 47m views of his ‘Celui’ video alone. “20% of my time over the past year has been focused on how to use YouTube, how to monetise, how to create better assets, and how to manage the artists channels,” he said.

“This is something you need to dedicate specific attention to. YouTube is not just a receptacle for offline promotion: radio, TV. It needs to be specific work and specific expertise on how assets are being managed… How do we build a media hub where a fan of the artist will come so we can get them to subscribe to the channel, and address them and re-address them?”

Believe spends a lot of time taking down unauthorised videos featuring Colonel Reyel – “curation of the videos” to drive people to the official videos in other words.

“We were able to drive radio promotion with YouTube,” he added. “We reached a peak of about 1.5m views daily on the first music video. Once we started after a couple of weeks, we saw the views were starting going down, so we felt it was right to switch to single number two of the artist.”

That video included the lyrics, and links to the single on iTunes and Amazon. Seven hours later, it was number one on iTunes in France, and on most other download stores. This without any radio airplay or TV exposure.

“Yet we managed to take it to number one in digital single sales here in France. On Monday at noon, all of the French radio stations had started playing the single. That’s the power of YouTube,” he said. “The key message for me is making the most of YouTube requires a dedicated attention. That’s an asset that you learn to use correctly that will work wonders in building up audiences and sales.”

Finally: Jamal Edwards, one of the rising stars on YouTube who started in May 2007 by filming friends rapping on the street, and now has his own SBTV lifestyle channel with 157,000 subscribers and nearly 90m video views so far, including some videos featuring the likes of Ellie Goulding and Nicki Minaj. He’s 20 years old, by the way.

“Every single thing that I did off-cuff, I would then go and take it to the YouTube, and take it back to the labels and show them it got hundreds of thousands of views,” he said. This led to him going on tour with Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, among other exploits.

Edwards also talked about how he interacts with his audience. “I’d do a video asking people what they wanted to see on the channel, then I’d go out and make that video. That’s the kind of connection that I have.”

The session finished with a Q&A section. Are videos that are more natural and less produced getting a better response on YouTube, versus more produced videos? Edwards talked abotu a video he did with Ed Sheeran in a “dingy studio with a mattress that was ripped apart” in the background. “It’s my most-viewed video!”

But he said that every now and he does make something a bit more produced. Even so: “My demographic like the raw feeling of it,” he said.

Duncombe chipped in: EMI does still do big, produced videos for some songs. But it has also been experimenting with spreading a video budget across four or five videos for the same song, released one a week to maintain blog buzz and momentum around a track.

“There isn’t a correlation between budget and success any more for us,” he said, while stressing that this involves getting out of this “three-minute promo video mindset” that ruled the roost a decade or so ago.

Believe’s Ladegaillerie agreed that there needs to be more thought put into the frequency with which videos are put on YouTube, with such budget-spreading one solution, while Walker noted that professional artists and users are converging, in terms of quality.

“You’ve got professional organisations reproducing a user-generated feel, and you’ve got users who have come through and got better equipment [to make more produced videos],” he said.

The panel were asked about monetisation – how much money they’re making from YouTube. Edwards now has 12 people working for him on SBTV. “It’s going good!” And he has a Nando’s ‘black card’ to get free chicken, after he held a launch party at one of its restaurants and posted some ads on his channel for the chain.

Free chicken! It’s not something you hear about in the debate around Spotify’s artist payouts…

Duncombe: “It’s changed the way we commission videos, the number of people we have in our creative department sourcing content… There’s obviously significant incremental revenue, and it’s revenue we never had before.”

What could YouTube do better? Duncombe: “External annotations. We want to be able to capitalise on the interactivity, and some of that is unavailable in order to keep you in the ecosystem… I wanna push my video commissioners to create something beyond that static or light interactive video.”

Ladegaillerie suggested improvements could be made for the Content ID service: the less time Believe has to spend taking unauthorised videos down, the more time it can spend making more videos of its own.

Stuart Dredge

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