Biz Buzz: YouTube Ups and Downs

The other day we were talking to an independent country artist from Florida whose new video is getting from 2,000-3,000 hits per day on YouTube, and it’s changed his life.

For the artists and managers these days,” he said, “it’s all about that number.”

Any artist – whether on a major label or on no label at all, like this one – whose YouTube video is attracting several thousand hits and views per 24 hours will in short order get lots of attention. The Florida artist, who’s never toured the Midwest, tells us that he is now getting significant radio airplay in that part of the country as a result of his YouTube success.

This is what we’d all hoped for when the Web began massively impacting our lives. We dreamt that the Web could become the new radio, a way for country artists big and small who have neither the millions of dollars nor the Nashville connections it takes to be heard at mainstream country radio to get their music heard and to reach new and existing fans.

That’s the upside of YouTube. There’s also a cost of the free file-sharing technology.

First of all, who are they?

YouTube is a relatively new company, started in 2005, and purchased the following year by another software giant – Google. Here’s the company’s own statement of its history, courtesy of LinkedIn:

YouTube, Inc. is a consumer media company for people to watch and share original videos through a Web experience. It allows people to upload, tag, and share personal video clips, browse original videos uploaded by community members; find, join, and create video groups to connect people with similar interests; and customize the experience by subscribing to member videos, saving favorites, and creating play lists. YouTube also operates as a destination on the Internet for video entertainment. The company was founded in San Bruno, Calif. As of Nov. 13, 2006, YouTube Inc. is a subsidiary of Google, Inc.”

Okay. San Bruno is a San Francisco suburb. Google stock, which has traded at more than $700 per share in the past, was at $569 a share in mid-July. Facebook, by contract, just began trading as a public company this summer, and on July 17 cost $27.68 a share, after never surpassing its Initial Public Offering price of $38.

So Google and YouTube are partners in a massive software company, one which costs you and your band not a penny to appear in (unless you elect to purchase paid ads, which the companies also sell).

Sounds great, right? Especially YouTube, where your new video or an exciting recent showcase or concert performance can be shown worldwide, and hopefully “go viral” in short order.

That famously happened with Los Angeles teen Rebecca Black’s catchy Pop song “Friday,” which within weeks had been either enjoyed or ridiculed by millions worldwide. Rebecca soon was signed to a major label.

On the other hand, just as many artists have stubbed their toe big-time on YouTube, when they’ve performed a terrible show, stumbled on stage drunk or wasted, or gotten into a fight with a fan in a bar or backstage.

Those YouTube videos, often grainy images captured on a cell phone’s camera, tend to be every bit as popular – if not more so – than the official video releases from artists and labels. We live in an extremely cynical society and time, and fans take great enjoyment in seeing stars of music, movies, or sports make fools of themselves publicly.

Back in the 1970s, it used to be considered cool or funny for artists to show up drunk, stoned, or not at all for concerts. It helped build their vibe back then. But times have changed. The economy’s lousy. Fans work damn hard for the money to these shows or buy the drinks at the bars.

If you act like an idiot on stage or at a meet-and-greet, that video may be 10 times more likely to impact YouTube than the actual video your label or management wants to release. And it doesn’t take long.

Ten minutes after you leave the stage, the video’s likely already been posted. And during the show, disgruntled fans are probably already Tweeting about it.

So be careful what you sing, say, and do on stage or any time you’re out in public. Cameras are everywhere. If you’re smart, you’ll use them and use YouTube to your advantage.

If not, it may take just microseconds for you to regret what you said or did.


By Phil Sweetland

July 17, 2012






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