Music 4.5: The YouTube Paradox – How YouTube Has Reshaped The Entertainment Industry
Today’s YouTube stars – PewDiePie, Zoella, Emma Blackberry – have larger audiences on the Google-owned platform than most of today’s biggest celebrities. Such is their reach and popularity that many now have lucrative careers outside of YouTube’s confines – from publishing to beauty products. What can the music industry learn from these creators?
Plenty, according to the variety of speakers and panelists at Music 4.5: The YouTube Paradox on 26 January 2016 at Lewis Silkin in London.
“YouTube stars are more popular than mainstream celebs among US teens,” said Tristan Lillingston of 1983 Management, one of the seminar’s speakers, who just signed YouTuber Emma Blackery to PewDiePie’s newly launched Revelmode. “The music business as we know it is over.”
Part of the appeal YouTube’s stars comes down to pure accessibility – or at least, the perceptions of it. “Ask a YouTuber why they’re so popular, and they say that fans literally think of them as their friend,” said Nic Yeeles, founder and CEO of Peg.
“Talent is talent”
But YouTube success isn’t down to perceived accessibility alone. Old-fashioned talent plays just as crucial a role in YouTube success, as does timing and hard work.
“YouTube stars may use the platform to connect with fans, while social media helps them to keep the audience and connect,” said Dominic Smales, founder of social talent agency Gleam Futures. “But talent is talent, no matter what the medium.”
He cited the entrepreneurial characteristics of YouTube stars as lessons for the music industry. “Most [YouTuber’s] don’t have a boss or editor,” he said. “Their audiences are their editors and commissioners, dictated by a new world pecking order that’s driven by engagement and influence, and how fast views are amassed.”
“Take your fans on a journey”
The afternoon’s presentations were full of advice on what music industry can learn from successful creators.
“YouTubers speak language differently,” said Mark Mulligan of MiDiA Consulting. Some of YouTuber’s success is down to volume, alongside posting “something new every few days” and inviting fans to participate. “Musicians need to recognise that the song itself is just part of the story. Take your fans on a journey as you make the music,” he said.
The music industry also needs to embrace YouTube’s worth as a social network.
“YouTubers are interacting with fans in the comments section below their videos,” said Lillingston. This interaction further feeds the perception of accessibility.
Creative collaboration is key
Many at the seminar cited examples of artists (sometimes politicians, and even Mary Berry) having successful collaborations with a YouTube creator. The music industry, said Chris Cooke of CMU in his ‘story so far’ at the start of the seminar, noted that “[YouTube] stars are both customers of music and champions of music,” suggesting there is a natural symbiosis between the two types of artists where collaboration can be mutually beneficial.
“If you do a collaboration you will see sales,” said Nick Freeman, Video Operations Manager of Kobalt Label Services.
But collaborations are not the only way to monetize content and increase brand awareness. Camille Moussard, Director of Video at TuneCore, noted that while YouTube is definitely a platform on which to be seen, it is increasingly a platform where musicians can make money. “It doesn’t matter if you’re small or big,” she said. “There’s a chance that [user-generated] videos out there are using your music and sharing it. [YouTube] is still a very good platform for earnings.”
“Truly creative people make technology work for them”
Looking to the future, there was agreement that the current “Golden Age” of YouTube and its stars had reached its peak.
“There’s a misconception that one can start a channel tomorrow and shift albums and books, but it takes hard work, tenacity and determination to get to that spot,” said Smales.
“Everyone is going to need to rethink YouTube,” said Lillingston. “The initial wave of stars is over, so what’s next for all?
“Google are investing in developing native talent, but can they turn it into long-term proposition?” asked Yeeles. “A very small minority are making money, with the vast majority struggling to make a living.”
Lillingston was keen to stress that while YouTube was a great platform, without artists and creative YouTubers populating it, it would be an empty site. And while the platform’s universality made it a strong place to make one’s mark in entertainment, artists that embrace disruptive tech opportunities as they arose would be the ones to maintain lasting careers.
Music 4.5: The YouTube Paradox was conceived, organized and executed by 2Pears, the team creating opportunities and events to inform, educate and connect entrepreneurs and startups in music, media and technology.
The first TechPitch 4.5 of 2016 will take place on 3 February 2016 at Pinsent Masons in London. Get your tickets here.