A Desire to Challenge the YouTube Hierarchy:
PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash
The Music Vlog Vacuum in 2017
ONE way to make my prolific writing less tiresome on the fingers would be…
to visualise and video my ‘musings’. I feel the music industry is in an odd place where there is unparalleled growth in terms of artists and sounds: the nature and dominance of the media are going through troubled times. The printed music media is struggling a lot right now. There are established music magazines like MOJO but publications such as NME have been through a problematic last few years – declining sales and the need to be free to the reading public. It still puts out great articles and interviews but found it was unable to generate sales figures as lofty as once was. I look around newsagents and find far fewer music magazines than once was. As I said; there are established survivors who still have a loyal clientele. One of the issues seems to be the digitisation of the music press. I have raised concerns around the lack of working-class journalists at broadsheets and at music magazines – things seem to run deeper! The sheer viability and profitability of the music press are compromised. One sees a lot of blogs and music sites but these are run as inexpensively as possible. I worked for one, The Metropolist, a while ago and that had to close because it could not afford to run – offering tickets to reviewers but unable to make money back; struggling against the competition with those who worked there unable to balance it with their paid jobs. It seems music journalism, as with music itself, is being streamlined to blogs to writers who have to subsidise their passion with a full-time job – spending their free hours producing as much as possible. I feel the music media is having to adapt to the modern world and the lack of monetisation chances and profitability. We are buying fewer magazines and newspapers; we can get our content online but, those who run sites, can hardly justify charging people to read content.
IN THIS PHOTO: The popular YouTube vlogger/musician, Emma Blackery
I struggle to write enthusiastically because I know, deep down, I want to go to gigs and go more into live reviews. Travel, trains and gigs cost money – it is very hard attending gigs regularly and being able to afford that sort of pursuit. I, and many others, run blogs and sites with no overheads and as modestly as we can – relying on the written word for the most part. It seems there is a natural gap in the market for music media/journalism to move sideways. I look on YouTube, and their most-popular channels, and there is a dominance of very narrow markets. By that, I mean a few specific industries and sectors are dominating the channel. Usually, when seeing vlogs/YouTube channels they are split into three/four areas: beauty blogs; lifestyle writers and pranksters - video game vloggers are popular. Even popular YouTube talents like Emma Blackery – who is a successful musician in her own right - fills her channel with personal videos and content that is not exactly substantial. She talks about her music in the minority and posts performances here and there – that is outweighed by insignificant and common day-to-day videos; pieces that appeal to her pre-teen/teenage audience (mainly girls). Do a search of the best/most-popular vlogs and there is really nothing about music – in a practical and inspiring sense. We have a lot of music journalists working on radio stations – providing music news and content – but very few assimilate and integrate that talent/desire into YouTube/Vevo. I wonder why there are few/no music journalists and channels combining all elements of journalism into a channel. Look at the mass of beauty bloggers and few are offering anything distinct and different! One can get a similar flavour from most of them – one or two do stick out but they are in a heavily-saturated market. The same is true of pranksters/lifestyle vlogs which are filled with immature stunts, pointless commentary and insignificant crap – hooking viewers in and offering them very little in the way of meaningful material.
Elsewhere; there are more intelligent and inspiring vlogs/channels that talk about film and the arts – I am seeing more film vlogs and T.V. channels. This gives me a lot of encouragement but, again, where are the music commentators?! I hesitated entering that sphere because, I assumed, the field would be packed with aspiring D.J.s, journalists and musicians talking about everything in the music industry. Unless I am going blind…I cannot see that many out there. Buying filming equipment and shooting videos would not cost THAT much – it is a static cost and not prone to depreciation, taxation and inflation. I guess, for many, there is that initial fear of poverty. The reason so many beauty bloggers succeed is that they already have sponsors and marketable assets - enough money and supporters to ensure they can fund their ambitions and get an impressive revenues stream. Journalists, unless you work for a newspaper or magazine, are unpaid (or low-paid) so, when they try this sort of thing, they have to use their own monies – working full-time and finding whatever time they can to put together videos. I feel there is a gap and, if we want the music press to inspire and connect with the next generation, move laterally/unilaterally into places like YouTube. I am a traditionalist and prefer my music in print form but am not naive enough to ignore websites and blogs – they provide me with content, musicians and inspiration on a daily basis. So few journalists are innovating a drive of music-based vlogs. There is so much possibility and scope to start a new trend and add a kick and fresh impetus into music journalism. A channel – not sure what it would be called – could do weekly interviews with new artists (a one-on-one series that is a mix of Desert Island Discs and a traditional radio interview). It would put a face to the artist and be a chance for them to perform live and talk about music.
IN THIS PHOTO: The immensely popular fashion/lifestyle/beauty vlogger, Zoella/PHOTO CREDIT: Zoella
We could have a series dissecting classic albums and how they made an impact on music – playing videos/tracks from the album and interviewing people regarding their love of said record. There could be a weekly review segment and a daily news section – keeping people abreast on all the music happenings from the mainstream and underground. Uniting the unsigned and famous is something few blogs/sites do so that would be a niche – featuring new and under-the-radar musicians but blending that with the elite and best from the charts/mainstream. I worry journalists and music writers are overlooking the financial and creative possibilities of YouTube and Vevo. The only reason beauty blogs and lifestyle vlogs have taken over is that they saw a market desire and got themselves out there. Music is more popular and widespread than beauty and food, for instance – the huge number of food vlogs is troubling and utterly baffling! Music is this universal language, I feel, would benefit from more exposure. There are a few music vloggers but nothing that comprehensive and all-under-the-same-roof. I have suggested a few possible ideas and regular features but there is so much more that could come in. That lofty platform deserves depth and serious content. Talking about issues musicians face would attract people in - addressing anxiety and small venues closing; the struggle to make money from music and the issues of sexism and racism in the industry; the lack of working-class journalists and other imbalances. This, paired with lighter content, would broaden the demographic of subscribers and offer something real and inspiring. Before you know it; there is a stocked and varied channel/vlog that would draw punters in! The fact the channel would start on modest foundations might put people off – the risk that, unless they are trending and noticed right away, they cannot afford (in terms of money, effort and time) to maintain a channel.
IMAGE CREDIT: NME
It seems like such an obvious idea but makes me wonder why so few are doing this?! If they are then it is rather quiet and needs supporting channels – to challenge the prolificacy and dominance of beauty, lifestyle and food vlogs. Those channels offer useful advice and inspiration to many but, when you look closely, there are so many doing very similar things. It is hard knowing who to follow and what to believe. The biggest stars command absurd sponsorship backing and rake-in millions a year. The biggest YouTube stars – two more nauseating words have not been put together! – make bucket-loads and get huge brands following them. If they have a talent and are changing the world then you would not begrudge this success and richness. The truth is very few – who get big money and are stars – actually warrant that kind of pseudo-celebrity. Music journalists do not want to be famous themselves: they are more concerned with music and the artists they feature. Perhaps that is an issue: where do they get sponsorship and finance from?! Their channels, given an adequate promotion drive, would get people in but how do you monetise that?! Subscription fees might be unreasonable because people can get music content for free. It seems there is a chance for tech. giants and record labels to get involved – those with a lot of money to put funds into something worthwhile! The new iPhone has just been launched - it whipped up the usual circus of technology-obsessed zombies and appeals to those who want something shiny and new – but they used a few musicians (Blackery included) in their marketing and promotional video. The link between technology/Smartphones and music can be linked to platforms like Spotify and Apple Music – where many musicians are featured and are integral to iPhone/Smartphones. A music vlogger could pair with Apple or another giant and, in exchange for financial backing; the commentator/vlogger could promote the brand or find a way of incorporating iPhones/technology into their features.
IN THIS PHOTO: Chilean YouTuber Germán Garmendia (with Lenay Olsen) is one of YouTube's biggest stars - but is more noted because of his video game videos (even though he is a musician)/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty/Frazer Harrison
The same goes for the big record labels – they would pay the ‘star’ money for featuring their artists and running a bit of advertising on their behalf. That may sound unethical and a bit corporate but, for a site like this to expand and succeed, one must make moral compromises. It would not be too questionable: simply a bit of business so a music vlog could strengthen and rival the biggest vloggers out there. More importantly; music is there to inspire and compel the generations – journalists are, with musicians, the arbiters and spokespeople responsible for getting the messages to the people. I think a comprehensive and fun vlog could, in time, draw millions in and get international recognition. It could work with mainstream stars and huge acts; build popular features and provide every sensible music-lover everything they need under one roof! I will end this but have spotted a market and opportunity that has not been filled. Now, more than any time, music journalism (and music itself) has a big voice to play and has so much to say! There is so much going on and wonderful music in all corners: issues that need tackling and the desire to preserve legendary/classic music and ensure it is bequeathed carefully to new generations – a lot of it is in danger of being overlooked as streaming platforms put more emphasis on what is trendy and new. I have merely scratched the surface but there is a chance to build something new, inspiration and, yes, profitable! I would like to see not one but several music vlogs and journalists challenging the biggest fashion/beauty/food vloggers - that provide YouTube/Vevo’s ‘most-popular’ lists a rather homogenised and samey feel. Music is much more powerful, worthy and fascinating so, my hope is someone – I will do it if I can – fills a gaping void and makes a difference. The fact is the music press is struggling in printed form. A lot of blogs and websites are not getting people hooked and are there is a consensus to conserve the sacred form without compromising ethics. A YouTube channel would not need to make many modifications in order to provide a more financially-lucrative and multimedia channel for music fans. I predict it would start a mini-revolution but it requires that originator and pioneer. So, with that said…
PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash
WHO is it going to be?!