You’ve surely heard of One Direction, Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus. But how about Jenna Marbles, Tiffany Alvord and Dave Days?
The Orchard’s founder Scott Cohen challenged the Music 4.5 conference audience and found that the last three names were new to them, even though they’re three of the biggest stars on YouTube.
Marbles has more than 11m subscribers, $4.3m dollars in YouTube revenues in 2012 alone, and is on course for $10m+ in 2013). Alvord has 1.7m subscribers, and is also “making millions of dollars from YouTube” and without radio, press or TV sells plenty of records. And Days, with 1.6m subscribers, actually got Miley Cyrus to appear in one of HIS videos three years ago “because he had the audience”. He was the bigger star.
“What are these kids teaching us that we’re missing? Because they’re doing things very differently to the way the music industry’s doing it,” said Cohen. One lesson: “YouTube is their social media platform. It is how they’re getting their message out. That is how they’re engaging with their audience. And it’s their revenue platform. When was the last time you saw an artist that had a really popular tweet that went viral: how much were they paid?… On YouTube, you’re making money.”
Here’s Tiffany Alvord in action:
Cohen also said that these YouTubers can teach the music industry about what kind of video content to make. “Now we’re in a world of micro-content: 15 seconds, 30 seconds… Four minutes long? Fucking hell, is that too long! Who has got enough time to stop and check out something that is four minutes long. But 15 seconds? Yeah. And it’s not all dogs on skateboards… What we’ve got to learn is what can artists do with this format?”
He added that it’s the micro-content that’s creating the bond with fans, comparing it to addiction and cigarettes: “Those small doses all day long rather than one long dose. You don’t get home and think ‘I’m going to smoke a pack of cigarettes!’,” he said. “What you wanna do is get people addicted to your stuff by giving them stuff all day long, so that they must check in, that they’re feeling this compulsion.”
Cohen talked about the established theory of the “Attention Economy” – thrown around quite a bit, but actually even more important in the current media landscape. “The idea is attention equals money. No longer are we in a world where we’re selling products in units of things,” he said, noting that YouTube has changed its key metrics: it’s more important to know how many minutes on average a subscriber spent on a channel per week, rather than just counting individual views.
“We now have to get our heads around that we’re not actually in the attention economy, and those YouTubers totally get it: they build their audience, feed them all week long, and that’s how they get their money,” he said.