As I’ve written elsewhere, the YouTube/Warner Music deal will likely the cause the reverse of its intended purpose. On the other hand, the buzz-rich, cash-poor web site looks poised to leverage their cool factor with YouTube Underground, the battle of the bands announced earlier today.
YouTube’s strength is viral; marginally talented, attention-starved kids, weaned on reality television and rap lyrics with more brand names than verbs, upload their personal “American Idol” auditions to YouTube and pray that someone, anyone, will care. Out of the millions, a few lucky ones creep to the top.
On the other hand, the YouTube revolution has breathed new life into a dying art form, the indie band video. The most ironic moment of the 21st Century thus far has to be the appearance of OK-Go! on the MTV Video Music Awards. The band NEVER HAD A VIDEO AIR ON MTV before that night. OK-Go! owes most of its success to YouTube.
YouTube Underground promises that kind of cult explosion to an unknown, unsigned band. Of course, keeping true to irony, the winner will play on ABC’s Good Morning America.
I’m noticing a trend here. Large media outlets, be they record companies, TV networks, publishers or studios, can’t seem to tap the underground on their own. They’ve lost the ability to locate and nurture new talent. So they wait for talent to nurture itself, and for hordes of cash, pick the low-hanging fruits of someone else’s labor.
Somehow, that doesn’t seem like a viable business model. At some point, these artists will raise their price too high, or decline to share their bounties altogether. But what do I know? I’m just a blogger.
YouTube, like MySpace and other online communities, is simply a great host who demands very little from its guests – and everyone wants to come to the party.
YouTube Underground is the perfect vehicle – original, undiscovered talent flowing like cream to the top.
Contrast that with Warner Brothers. By hoping to collect copyright royalty fees from vain teenagers, they’re preparing to shoot fish in an empty barrel.