YouTube is huge for discovering and listening to music, as you’re well aware, but over the last couple of years, we’ve been trying to cover the other aspects of Google’s video service: the emerging ecosystem of multi-channel networks (MCNs), YouTube stars (‘YouTubers’) and new formats for web video driven by the above.
As time has gone on we’ve also seen more activity from what you might think of as traditional music figures and companies, from artists using their YouTube channels for much more than official videos, to the likes of Universal Music and the BPI getting into the MCN and original-channels space.
Every week brings more developments. For example, this week the BBC announced that its Radio 1 station now has more than 1m subscribers on YouTube, with 55% of its audience on the service under the age of 24.
It’s part of a wider video-focused strategy for the station, which announced last October that it was launching a “full audio-visual channel” within the BBC’s iPlayer service, to complement its YouTube expansion. “Radio 1 has to find new ways of finding new young audiences for the BBC and the best way to predict the future of radio is invent it yourself,” said controller Ben Cooper this week.
On the artist side, Pitbull and Courtney Love (separately, not ‘featuring’) have inked deals with production giant Endemol with a web-video focus. Pitbull is developing various TV and digital media projects including a YouTube channel with the company’s Endemol Beyond division, which launched in November with €30m of investment to build a new MCN.
Meanwhile, Courtney Love is working with Endemol on a web-video channel and series, which promises to be sparky viewing, to say the least. The emphasis here is not (just) on the music, but on traditional artists in shortform video formats somewhere between reality TV and YouTuber-style confessionals.
In both these news stories, the backdrop is ‘if you’re worried about being beat by ’em, join ’em’. Radio 1’s relevance with its young audience has been undermined in recent years by the way many of those listeners have migrated to YouTube, with SBTV and UKR just two of the emerging networks in the UK targeted at this age group.
Meanwhile, YouTuber-like formats are by no means suitable or even desirable for all kinds of musicians, but the connections between stars and fans being forged on YouTube – whether old stars or brand new ones – means we’re likely to see many more follow in Pitbull and Love’s footsteps this year.