Thoughts on YouTube and the Music Industry

Since it's debut and popularity explosion, there's been some controversy over YouTube. Much of the debate stems from more copyright infringement issues and problems with people uploading material from ripped DVDs (copyrighted) etc. To be honest, I never really was into YouTube when it first debuted, maybe because I had no desire to watch "regular" people's videos. When I discovered it's wealth of concert footage though, I was hooked, as I'm sure you can tell by how many great concert clips I've shared on the Soul of Rock 'n' Roll. There are lots of great uses for YouTube, but I think it really shines when involved with the music industry and see this outlet as a major force in helping to revolutionize the way music reaches the masses.

In terms of illegal content and the issues that stem from it, YouTube also has a pretty wide selection, but I don't really see that as a bad thing. Sure, uploading copyrighted materials is illegal...BUT, just like with downloading I think that YouTube clips have actually increased the amount of music (both in album and DVD format that I've purchased over the years and will continue to increase it further. Being able to watch a clip from say... a Rolling Stones concert DVD set, might just be the difference between adding that set to my collection or not.

There is also the "rarity" factor. A lot of concert footage on YouTube, although copyrighted, is rare enough that many fans might otherwise never be able to see it. Take footage I shared of the Velvet Underground, or better yet Leadbelly and Woodie Guthrie. These bits of film are rare enough that the audience who might otherwise get to see them is minuscule when compared to the people who can view it on the Internet. If copyrights had immediately caused that footage to be pulled, or had prevented it from being uploaded at all, then a huge swatch of people would never get to see and enjoy it. The same is true of the clips of the recent Led Zeppelin concert I shared, many of which have recently been pulled from the site and is what sparked me to take this look at YouTube and the music industry. Only a few thousand people were able to attend that show, but more than a few million wanted to, and to be able to have even a few clips of such an amazing event online right away (so we don't have to way for the DVD release), even for as short a period as they were, provided a huge service to the fans that cannot be overlooked.

What is the point of having great concert footage, or music or music videos if the people who are interested in them, can't enjoy them easily?

This rarity factor is one of the way's I think YouTube has really started to revolutionize the music industry, by hosting some of the rarer music moments that might otherwise not be available and would be lost to history. This is not the only way through, as there is still plenty of legal content hosted and uploaded for promotional purposes as well. In terms of legal content, YouTube (and related sites) has virtually become the next MTV as the place where bands can display music videos, both professional and otherwise, with a few major distinctions.

Even during it's heyday, there were some videos that were shown repeatedly over and over again to the point of excess on MTV... usually causing people to become sick of the band and probably crippling their career (or maybe not). Because the user gets to choose what they watch on YouTube, the repetitiveness only comes into play if you decide to watch the same video until you're sick of it, in which case you deserve what you get. The other is a far bigger and better distinction between the two, namely that literally anyone can upload their music videos, concert footage and have it viewed potentially by millions. That has really opened the doors for up and coming talent making YouTube quite a force in discovering new bands. I know I always check out a band's videos if they're embedded in their webpage, myspace or whatever and I have found bands via YouTube as well. This is really where I can see an exciting future for the music industry and the shift is already in full swing with a number of YouTube-esque sites up and running that are dedicated to nothing by music videos and concert footage.

I guess in terms of both some of the more illegal clips, as well as the legal clips, I see YouTube as a fantastic thing for the music industry. It's great as a place for rare footage of artists and as a promotional tool for bands both large and small. I understand all the legal issues with copyrights etc, but really think that embracing a media like YouTube is a far better option than condemning it and campaigning to get all copyrighted clips removed.

The debate will surely rage on (there is a legal suit going on with Viacom and YouTube still, I believe). Which ever way it goes, I'm going to continue to share some of the clips I find interesting from YouTube for as long as I can, because I believe in sharing those music related moments with people I think will enjoy them.

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