So I’ve been posting loads of Youtube clips in the last couple of days, and have thus been thinking a fair bit about what youtube does for a musician and where it fits.
Firstly, it’s another huge ecosystem to inhabit – so much of the ‘social networking’ scene is about self contained ecosystems. Which can be good and bad – for example, Myspace friend acquisition is largely its own currency – the seeming failure of Snocap to make any real dent in the online sales world seems fundamentally to be because ‘what goes on in myspace stays in myspace’ by and large – the bit of it that extends is gigs. So you build an audience, and some exposure, but that’s through interaction not friend requesting. I saw a page today of a guy with 77,000 friends but only 90 plays today. Contrast that with Lobelia’s page, where she trimmed her friends list down from 4000 to 300 (it’s crept back up to 400 now), but reguarly has 50 plays in a day. 50 plays isn’t a huge amount in myspace terms, but they are more likely to be people actually listening, and the idea that to double that requires another 76,600 friends is clearly laughable.
So, sorry, back to YouTube – it’s another ecosystem that people inhabit. A heck of a lot of people use youtube for ‘one shot listening’ – you think of a classic tune and want to hear it. chuck it into youtube and there’s more than likely a version of it up there, possibly a live one, or one that’s been coupled to a new video, or a bootleg, or often the original video, perfect for nostalgic moments. There are also cover versions (more on that in a moment).
So what do you get? First up you get the ‘human face of music’ – watching a video of someone playing a song live has way more human impact than just downloading an MP3 – you see them react to their own music, you see them smile, frown, close their eyes, twiddle their fingers etc… it’s a secondary level of engagement beyond just listening. Also, there’s the really simple equation that if you watch someone play live, you’re more likely to want to go and see them play live.
For me, the single biggest disconnect between what I do on stage and my records is that my records are generally not noticeably silly or funny. On stage, I talk a lot of bollocks, which most of the people who come and see me play like (I’m sure it’s pissed off the occasional person, especially in london where ‘jazz face’ or indie-indifference are the order of the day, but hey, fuck ’em.) Youtube allows people to see some of that – I can post videos with me talking before the song, or just mucking about mid song…
the other great thing for musicians with youtube is that it’s built to be viral… it’s made for sharing. The videos can be embedded and linked from anywhere, there are widgets for it on every other site, they can be stumbled and digg-ed and facebooked and myspaced, and there’s social capital in sharing cool vids.
For the most part, the marketeers suggest keeping your viral vids to 30 seconds, but that’s the adverts, we’re not interested in selling holidays or washing powder here, this is about connecting with real music… So the viral element will be curtailed slightly, but the quality of the response will no doubt be higher…
The last thing about youtube that’s useful is that extracting the (already massively compressed) audio and ripping it as an MP3 is both time consuming and due to the quality drop, largely pointless, so it’s a great way to dish out low res promo material that is very unlikely to impinge on sales. Unless your videos are purely information-based (I wonder what youtube has done to sales of tuitional DVDs given that so much of that stuff is ripped an uploaded. If I saw something really cool on youtube, I’d be more inclined to head off and buy it. I wonder if they’ll ever incorporate a ‘related link’ option for sales, downloads, websites etc? I guess that would break the wall of the ecosystem…
anyway, please do go and check out the new vids I’ve posted, and go viral with them (or if not viral, at least mildly bacterial) – the video below is getting a lot of traffic, and was up to #14th most viewed UK music video earlier today… so watch it, pass it on, rate it, stumble it, and help me out. :o)
and these are the most recent two that I’ve uploaded. MMFSOG –
and People Get Ready –by