For the past few years, Youtube has been in the power position when it comes to dealing with artists. It is the one of the most popular sites on the web and certainly the biggest music destination. Every once in awhile, an artist will try to fight it, as well as the industry, but generally the music business knows that pulling songs and videos off YouTube is a losing proposition overall.
No other site offers as much music as YouTube and even though much of it is poor live footage and bootleg content, this is stuff that fans can’t find anywhere else. YouTube also has the stickiness of a video and the ability to engage two senses if you want, but you can also just let the users click open to another tab and just let the music run in the background.
However, there are signs that YouTube’s domination in music may be coming to an end. The big hit is that other streaming sites are finally starting to engage with video. Yes, I’m talking about Spotify. They’ve gotten massive raises recently and it’s pretty likely that they’ll spend at least some of that money increasing video offerings. The other threat is SoundCloud’s launch of its long-awaited streaming service, Go. Even Apple Music’s deal with Dubset to license mixes is a threat. YouTube’s ownership of the UGC and unofficial content space might finally be disrupted.
In reality, YouTube won’t lose artists tomorrow and frankly, it might never cease to be the site where the vast majority of the world comes to listen. This is an awakening though – that they need to begin stepping up their features to prevent any further losses. What could they do?
First, YouTube could market itself as a destination for music and create its own class of music starts within their ecosystem. When the NYC subway was wrapped with YouTube ads, all of the ads were for YouTube stars – none of them were for recording artists, even though they are a huge driver to the site. YouTube stars feature people who make videos about makeup application, cooking, video games and other topics. While YouTube has invested heavily in them, they could also invest heavily in the ready to be recording artists. Why not start their own record label and keep them in house?
YouTube could also help artists solve the big problem of monetization. Last year, they rolled out more e-commerce options, but they could allow artists to make money on everything. Any time Beyoncé wears a dress in a video, I need to be able to hover over it and see a link where I could theoretically buy it, once I won the lottery. More realistically, any time an indie artist wear a cool piece of clothing from an up-and-coming designer, I could hover, buy it with one click, and the artist would get a cut, along with YouTube. Everyone would win.
One last suggestion I have is to harness some of Google’s power. Some of the smartest data scientists on earth work there, and could surely help artists comb through all their information and route the most effective tours or plan great marketing campaigns, and some of those AdWords gurus could assist artists in figuring out how to get in front of casual listeners who just want to hear something that sounds like their favorite band.
What do you think that YouTube should do?