How YouTube has Changed the Music Industry

Video views of Psy's Gangnam style on YouTube
The most popular hangout spot for many netizens is the YouTube. With the ease of availability of online music, the music industry has taken a backseat! So, has it been influential in changing the music industry? Let's find out.
Did You Know?
Justin Bieber has a total viewership of over 2 billion on YouTube! He was signed by Raymond Braun Media Group (RBMG), and his debut release was given a platinum certificate in the United States!

A new chapter in the history of music was added with the launch of the online music-sharing website, YouTube. It was launched in the year 2005 by three former PayPal employees (Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim). Prior to YouTube, there was no website that enabled users to share their favorite videos on a website. This website gained instant popularity due to its friendly user interface and the wide variety of music that was available. Not only can users upload music videos, they can also add personal videos. This feature of YouTube added to its popularity, and thus began the era of online music.

Today music is everywhere -- on our computers, mobile devices, cars, public places, etc. This increasing demand of music has put ample pressure on the availability of music. This requirement has been met by the numerous videos available on YouTube. It breaks all regional barriers and contains videos of every language, thus catering to a huge audience base. But the flip side to this cozy story is the declining dependence on music industries. This Buzzle write-up highlights the various angles of this debate.

The Old Scenario

Our films demanded the inclusion of music, as a result of which the music industry was born. This industry has been the prime focus of the entertainment industry since ages. In the initial days of the entertainment world, music was heard only at concerts, or in the movie theaters. There was no other source towards which people could turn to, for getting their dose of music. This, however, changed over a period of time when individual music companies were formed. These companies were the official distributors of film and private music albums. Thus, we were introduced to LPs, audio cassettes, CDs, DVDs, and the latest microSD cards.

This was the time when independent artists made their debut in the industry. These artists, in order to get noticed, joined the existing music labels, or launched their own labels. In short, they had a parent firm who would promote their album, send across the cassettes/CDs/DVDs to the retail outlets, and give the artists a share of the profit (in a few cases). This helped many artists to find their foothold in the industry. The artist was happy and so was the music company, but the customer had to buy the entire album to listen to a single song. Thus, began the customer share of problems.

The Audience Perspective

You have just watched a video of the album that is recently launched and loved one of its songs. Now, in order to listen to that particular song, you will have to purchase the entire album. This, despite the fact that the rest of the songs didn't appeal to you. Then, why will you spend a few dollars just to listen to a single song? Thus, the music industry was already suffering from this scenario. Most people preferred not to buy the album in the first place. This was the triggering point that led music fans to look out for other options.

Rise of Alternate Music Sources

The need for music increased and thus, the online music libraries came into existence. Few individuals launched websites where individual songs from a particular album could be downloaded. These songs were mostly free of cost, and many websites allowed downloading them, without the users having to register on the website. This was the easiest and most feasible option available for downloading music.

However, due to so many websites offering free music, the competition increased, and the music quality was compromised upon. Many websites started offering high-quality music download on payable terms, i.e., you needed to pay for the single song that you wished to download, in addition to the Internet browsing charges. While many users were ready to compromise on the music quality, few others weren't. They demanded high-quality music that was available free of cost. With many websites failing to meet these demands, the gap between demand and quality supply widened. Here's where YouTube came into the picture.

YouTube Seizes the Opportunity

YouTube owners jumped to grab the opportunity after realizing that the demands of the music-frenzy fans weren't being met. They created a website that met the customer demands, thus gaining instant popularity.

This was one such platform that had music videos, which one could view and upon registration, could download these videos by using dedicated software.
The registration is an easy process that takes less than five minutes to sign up. Due to the ease of registration and readily available music, the audience was attracted to the website, and its viewership increased.
With YouTube, the audience had an advantage of watching their favorite song. These videos were of superior quality and needed less downloading time.

The Brighter Side

Though it is true that YouTube has taken away the business from the music industry, it is also true that artists are tasting success like never before. They are able to interact with their fans and keep a count on their popularity. Forget about artists being number 1 or 2 on the chartbusters list, the new number game is that of the "FFF numbers" -- friends, fans, and followers. These numbers are now considered to be a measure of one's success. Thus, the popularity of artists increases, if their videos are shared on YouTube and viewed by users.

Platform for Lesser-known artists: YouTube has brought the world together by providing a single platform for music from across the world. This has also encouraged traditional folk artists to use this medium to showcase their talent. You can't expect a folk artist to approach a music label to launch them! The next option is to record a video of the artist and upload it on YouTube, and if the video becomes really popular, the chances of the artist making his way into the mainstream music industry increases profoundly.

Easy Approachability: Today's life has become a bit more convenient, thanks to all the technology that we have. When you are using your smartphone or your iPhone/iPad/iPod, you will not go to the music player and load a CD to listen to a song. You will simply tune into online music websites and listen to the song. This ease of accessibility has made YouTube popular. You can watch your favorite videos even while you are lazing around.

The Issue of Piracy

The videos that are available on YouTube are the ones that have been shared by users. This means that you and me can go to any random website, download a video from there, and upload the same on YouTube in our name. The best part about this is that no one will ever question the source from where the video was taken, and you will have "hits" in no time. Your video gains instant popularity on YouTube. Here lies the biggest problem with online music, or YouTube in particular. Lot of content that is available on YouTube is pirated. These videos have no authentic source and may sometimes be a source for malware.

Apart from this, many users record videos while they are being played on television or DVDs. Thus, they are illegally copying the content of the video and uploading the same on YouTube. Doesn't this affect the revenue generated by the music companies? Their main source of income is from sales of the CDs/DVDs/microSD cards. If such content is already available on the most famous website, why would you go in for such stuff? You might as well download them.

Music Companies Find a Solution

Most of the music labels have realized that online music is the future of the music industry. So, many have found ways to woo listeners by using this medium. When YouTube was initially launched, the only source of revenue, as perceived by music labels, was the music video downloads. However today, these companies earn a lot of revenue from video streams.

The video streaming has a number of ads that show up before or after the video is played. However, a few text-ads are shown while the video is playing. Whenever the viewer clicks on one of these ads, the music label earns a share.

Until recently, these ads were not allowed to be featured on the cover songs. However today, YouTube allows ads even on these videos.

The Problem: With so many versions of the original song being made and uploaded, it is difficult to predict which song will get the maximum hits.

The Solution: Music labels have allowed the artists to have licenses to run the advertisements on these cover songs. So, with this option, the ads are artist-chosen, and all the clicks on these ads will eventually lead to the music companies and the artists making money.

Music companies still hold the original labels of many artists. These songs are unheard of in today's generation. With the popularity increasing progressively, music labels are using this window to reintroduce some of the unheard tracks. This way, listeners will be introduced to original music, which they have not heard in the recent times, and the music companies will make money due to clicks on these videos.

Launching individual artists is no more an uphill task. The online music world is the safest bet that these companies have. They can launch music videos of new artists on YouTube, measure their online popularity, and then go in for real-time media launch. Thus, there is little to lose on either sides, and both will be benefited by the online success.

Though it is true that YouTube has eaten the market share of many music labels, and the issues of piracy are on an all-time high because of the online medium, it is also true that YouTube has indirectly helped many labels and artists. With very little to no investment, the artists are able to gain popularity and so are music companies, thanks to this website. Both parties have their share of pros and cons due to the website, but the bigger picture shows that it is a win-win situation. Whatever be the case, until music emerges as the ultimate winner, I don't think anyone's complaining.
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