Last February, YouTube celebrated its 10th anniversary as the most popular video-sharing website on the internet. YouTube has provided entertainers, teachers and creators of all types with a platform to connect with, inspire and be inspired by billions of people around the world. The website has completely changed the way companies advertise and interact with their customers, and even had a measurable effect on presidential campaigns and politics. There is very little that can’t be learned on YouTube. From lessons on how to use Microsoft Excel to preparing the perfect cheesecake or picking the locks to the front door of your home—someone, somewhere, has uploaded a video that can help.
Inevitably, YouTube has transformed the music industry in ways that were unimaginable prior to its inception in February 2005. In the past, fans had to purchase CDs, listen to the radio, or tune into music channels like MTV, BET and VH1 to watch music videos, listen to their favorite artists and discover new ones. Now, anyone with a smartphone, tablet, laptop, TV or computer and a decent internet or Wi-Fi connection has 24/7 access to almost any song or music video one can think of, both new and old—legally, and at no cost! As a result, television channels that began as music channels have largely phased out playing music videos and instead air reality shows, but thanks to YouTube, music videos haven’t lost much of their popularity with fans. Vevo, a video hosting service owned by Universal Music Group, Google, Sony Music Entertainment and Abu Dhabi Media, publishes high-quality music videos. Through the purchase of annual performance licenses and profits from hosting advertisements, our favorite artists still benefit profit-wise from the views they receive on YouTube.
Before YouTube, it was expensive to upload and host personal videos. This made it difficult for passionate musicians who needed an outlet for sharing their talents with the world. In 2016, artists can upload videos of themselves singing, playing instruments or dancing, and quickly embed the links to their videos on virtually any website they choose!
YouTube also benefits up-and-coming artists by providing them with a huge network and potential audience base. Justin Bieber, who was a normal Canadian boy who showcased his skills for his fans online before his manager discovered him and flew him to Atlanta to meet Usher— is probably the most well-known YouTube-made pop star, but artists like Lana Del Rey, Gotye, Karmin and Soulja Boy have YouTube to thank for their viral success as well. Now, huge labels like Universal Music often look to YouTube to discover new talent. And, to aid in the process, YouTube launched a new service in 2015 called “YouTube for Artists,” where artists can use various resources that will help them grow their fan base, generate revenue and get discovered.
Though YouTube has had a fantastic effect on the fans, artists and labels of the music industry, some still argue that the website has done more long-term damage than good. Music stores, CDs and cassettes have virtually been deemed irrelevant. Stores that once gained a majority of their profit from music purchases have suffered as a result of YouTube’s free listening capacity and media players like iTunes that allow fans to download single tracks directly to their computers. In addition, many users are able to download music illegally by using MP3 converters, and there isn’t much that can be done to stop them.
Whether you frequent YouTube or not, there is no denying that the website has altered the dynamics of the music industry and most other popular culture and will continue as technology advances and other companies catch on to the many advantages that come with using YouTube to promote, interact with customers and advertise