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Industry Spotlight: YouTube Music

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6 minute read

YOUTUBE MUSIC is a new music streaming service made for music: official songs, albums, thousands of playlists, and artist radio plus YouTube’s tremendous catalog of remixes, live performances, covers, and music videos that you can’t find anywhere else - all simply organized and personalized. For the first time, all the ways music moves you can be found in one place. We sat down with the Head of Music Products, T. Jay Fowler, to learn more about their origin story and plans for the new year.

What is YouTube Music’s origin story?

Music has been knit into the fabric of YouTube since the very beginning. The obvious aspect is the highly produced videos that we license from our Music Partners -- think MTV-like videos -- it's the kind of content that YouTube users love, packing a lot of narrative into a short and visually arresting video But early on YouTube’s music story went far beyond those videos.

Early on we saw fans and creators pair music with cherished memories, slideshows, and more. And as the years passed we’ve seen a creative mix of music and video expand to covers, viral moments/memes, behind-the-scenes interviews, tour promos, tributes, dance instruction, mashups, and more.

We’ve also seen artists post their first cover, find their audience, post live performances, and build a career. And increasingly, we’ve witnessed the Music Industry lean in and use YouTube to break new Artists (and Songwriters), launch albums, singles, and tours, and  create shared cultural moments with massive impact like Ariana Grande’s recent record-breaking (55.4M views in 24 hours. Fastest video to reach 100M views!) Live Premiere of “Thank U, Next.”

We are both thankful and amazed at how YouTube Music has evolved to become a living, vibrant music community that covers nearly every genre and movement in music culture.

More recently, with the YouTube Music standalone app, we saw an opportunity to take the best of this content and create an experience that prioritizes the listening experience and exploring the world of recorded music. By bringing the team that built Google Play Music into YouTube to join forces to combine contextual listening with YouTube's unique music library to make a uniquely YouTube experience for music fans -- blending audio and video for a complete experience.

What is the biggest way that YouTube Music helps and impacts current music creators’ careers?

YouTube is the world's biggest stage. Every single day music fans are discovering their favorite new Artist on YouTube. We are continuously connecting Artists and Fans. We help Artists reach their existing audiences on the platform when they have a new video, album, or song. We also help grow their audience by engaging large-scale fanbases through various channels -- our recommendations (80% of music plays are driven by our algorithms), our platform that allows nearly anyone, anywhere to access and Artists priorities via sharing/embeds/etc. We’ve also built a home for Artists (the Official Artist Channel) which allows fans to see the Artist’s complete set of works (albums, videos, songs, performances, interviews) and we’ve given full control over to the Artist allowing them to showcase fan-created covers/tributes, other related videos from across the platform, and the ability to edit their bio, pick the photos they want to show to fans, and provide access to the direct-to-fan engagement tools that we provide (Premieres, Community, etc.).

What opportunities does YouTube Music provide for up-and-coming, DIY music creators?

We have unparalleled fan reach and easy-to-use tools to begin building an audience. Nearly everything that is available to Superstars is available to aspiring and up-and-coming artists. As Artists, progress in their careers and build their audience, we have other programs that become available - like our Artist on the Rise feature that showcases Artists that are showing great fan growth and/or engagement on the platform.

For artists that are active in touring - we’ve made investments in helping them sell tickets to their live shows and sell their merch directly from the video watch page.

What value do music creators get by putting their music on YouTube versus just distributing to a streaming service?

The fan reach is a key value. Artists can reach their existing fans and find new fans -- YouTube is a ubiquitously accessible platform that’s made for discovery and sharing. The scale of fans is unmatched -- and because they are an engaged community -- they advocate for and share their favorite songs and videos via playlists, and social networks bringing even more fans. And YouTube amplifies this via WatchNext and home recommendations to find even more fans, creating a network effect.

What makes YouTube so unique from other video platforms?

YouTube is not just a hosting platform like some other services in the market. It’s also a direct-to-fan platform. We’re extremely proud of the communities that have been formed via comments, sharing, and tastemakers. It’s a dynamic and diverse community of fans, and bringing those fans together creates a culture that ranges from the embodiment of the history of music to a direct reflection of the zeitgeist of what’s going on in music culture right now. It’s all here.

In your most recent initiative, you focus on teaching creators how to maximize their careers by fully utilizing their channels - what are the top ways creators should be focusing on in their channels?

We encourage artists to use their channels first and foremost by ensuring that you’ve uploaded current imagery (a current bio image and a strong banner image), have your bio current, and begin customizing the content that you want to showcase. Creating shelves of videos that showcase covers, fan tributes, and other appearances in addition to creating playlists that show your influences or give new fans an intro to your career are great options to round out a fan's view of you and your creative works.

We encourage artists to think about how frequently they’d like to interact with their fans -- determining the right video upload cadence is critical. It doesn’t have to be a produced music video -- artists are finding success by uploading “ask me anything” style videos, behind the scenes, sketches of songs, and other videos that give fans a glimpse of who you are and what drives you creatively.

If there are opportunities -- collaborate with other artists and YouTube creators. Joint projects create network effects and can grow both artists' audiences. And don’t forget about the fans -- get them to participate. Ask them to create playlists that feature your songs, send in covers or help create great video companions to your songs.

And if you are reading this and are an expert-level user of YouTube  -- we’d love to hear your suggestions.

How has video changed the music industry, and what do you think still needs to change so that it can more fully benefit music creators?

I think it’s already changing -- over the last few years we’ve seen access to high-quality, creative tools for video creation are now within the reach of the average user. Highly produced videos with almost no budget are possible and increasingly common. Additionally, we’re seeing a scaled creative force (the YouTube audience) taking the initiative in creating tributes and creative versions of songs and sharing that work with others. We’re also seeing Artists directly connecting with creators (who have amassed large-scale audiences) to collaborate and bring that Artist and their song to new audiences.

But it isn’t just the format, it’s the social component that’s changing as well. We’re already seeing a blend of approaches from the industry - in addition to traditional music videos, we’re seeing Artists and Labels creating shared cultural moments via live streaming and Premiers, connecting with fans via our Community features, engaging in comments, and selling merch and tickets and more.

The Music team at YouTube is driven to create new methods to share video and create fan connections -- and we’re equally excited to see how artists, songwriters, and their labels are innovating on our platform and connecting with fans in ways we couldn’t anticipate.

What does 2019 look like for YouTube Music?

We’re very excited about 2019!

We’re going to continue to build on the foundation of our previous investments and expand our offerings. We’re going to make it easier for Artists to get the full value of YouTube and YouTube Music -- by giving them insights into their fans, how they are interacting with the videos and music posted on YouTube, and providing actionable insights that help them better reach and communicate with them. We’ll continue to evolve our ticketing and merch features -- accommodating more providers and expanding coverage into additional regions.

We’re also investing heavily in our Music App -- expanding to new countries and bringing more fans into our subscription. The product feature set is evolving as well: we’re excited to bring more of the artist's voice into the experience.

It’ll be a great year for YouTube Music.

This interview was answered by T. Jay Fowler, Head of Music Products at YouTube. Fowler manages teams that are focused on creating amazing experiences for music fans, helping artists grow and engage with their fanbase, and helping them drive revenue on and off the platform. Prior to YouTube, T. Jay was the Head of Product at the award-winning music subscription service, MOG, which was later sold to Beats Electronics in 2012. T. Jay stepped into the role of SVP Product & UX at Beats Music, the streaming music division of Beats Electronics.

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As part of Songtrust's continued mission to support and supply songwriters and artists with insights and resources to be successful, we're collaborating with like-minded companies globally to discuss relevant topics in the music industry. These interviews are purely for educational purposes and do not indicate a partnership or exchange of services. 


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