By: AM Taylor
Imagine being a teenager on July 31, 1981. You have in your possession dozens upon dozens of vinyl albums in milk crates that have artwork on the cover. Some of them have paintings or still life photographs on them instead of the artist who’s name is plastered across the top. A band photo may be inside the gate fold, but for the most part, unless you’ve seen them perform on The Midnight Special or seen them in person, it’s hard to really get how a singer or guitar player behaves physically. The idea of seeing something called a music video was the most exhilarating thing imaginable. You could see Rod Stewart in his prime with the wide eyes and spiky hair singing directly to you. It was personal and yet could reach so many more people. In the same way that television helped John F. Kennedy secure the election to the office of president, music videos helped artists that could present a visually appealing product gain the favor of a broader audience. Imagine that same scenario, but now with the ability to watch whatever you wanted to, whenever you wanted to.
The choices on YouTube are literally endless. I can watch videos from any genre and any time period from my phone or computer. Rarities, bootlegs, interviews: Anything and everything to help me connect with the artist. MTV could only show what they wanted the audience to see, sort of a radio format, but with a new technological twist. The politics behind getting a band’s video on television were brutal. Independent artists really didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of getting their piece on MTV. Major labels would buy blocks of airtime, making sure that their rotation of the newest video was at a high level.
Rotation on YouTube is non-existent. Certainly there are ways to advertise on the website to get the number of views to point of a video going viral, but the best way to spread the message is still word of mouth. How many times have you been at a party and your friends are chatting about the newest video on YouTube? Whether it be musically impressive or an artistic masterwork, people want to have a shared experience. With smartphones upping their external speakers, it has increased the hits that a video can have to heights that were previously unimaginable. 2.5 billion people have watched “Gangnam Style” by PSY. Nothing on terrestrial or satellite television could ever reach that level of viewership.
Social media has also added to the popularity of YouTube as a go-to site for videos. In a single tweet, artists can create an avenue for their fans to see their most recent work in a quick and easy manner. It can also be used to post teasers or live event announcements for a sizzle reel. With the ability to do simulcasts from the site, it provides the viewers with an immersive experience with the possibility of high visibility for advertisers.
The internet is here to stay, as is YouTube. With Google owning the company, there is no telling how massive the website’s reach can be. It’s a democratic system which is policed by the masses. Anyone with a subscription can put up a video, but is subject to approval to stay on the site as long as there are no infringements legally or morally (according to their terms of agreement.) MTV broke ground on what videos can do for music, leading the way for YouTube to take the art form into new, uncharted territories.