MTV and VH1 might be confused by this title at first: The Beatles invented the music video to promote Paperback Writer way back in the days of the Ed Sullivan Show. Nowadays, however, the concept has evolved. YouTube and its massive audience grow at a sprint and are en route to overtake traditional TV countdowns of a given week’s musical hits. Bent Pixels’s Statfire database shows that Vevo – a top channel on all of YouTube, let alone the music category – boasts 2.65 million views per month and is on track to hit 8 million subscribers by November or sooner. Music and YouTube have found their groove and aren’t slowing down anytime soon.
Over the past week, Weird Al Yankovic came back (…did he ever leave?) in a big way with a slew of 8 videos in 8 days to promote his newest album “Mandatory Fun.” The success of his online video campaign surprised even the legend himself: in his 30 years of catchy parody creation, this album is his first ever to hit #1 on the Billboard 200. The last time a comedy album achieved this level of greatness? Allan Sherman’s “My Son, the Nut” – in 1963. The New York Times explained how Yankovic’s music videos were funded not by the RCA label but rather “various partner sites that brought their own audiences, like Nerdist, Funny or Die, and College Humor.” Results of the campaign included a 785% increase in streaming of Weird Al’s music on Spotify as well as a hearty viral explosion across social media. Of course, the content is stellar and hilariously entertaining, but the commercial success of the album is due largely in part to its calculated debut on digital video outlets.
Despite his exclusion of a Beyoncé lampoon on “Mandatory Fun,” Weird Al and Queen Bee have online video strategy in common: Beyoncé’s self-titled album, dropped sans any promotion whatsoever in December of last year, was composed entirely of 17 music videos. With shock value in its surprise release and impressive production quality, “Beyoncé” sold 80,000 copies in its first 3 hours on the market – the fastest selling album in the history of Apple’s iTunes store. Dubbed a “visual album,” the record made waves on charts and newsfeeds alike.
These musicians have already seen the value in using the digital video realm to promote what was once audio-only content. With YouTube’s music streaming service on the horizon, who knows how much longer the likes of Weird Al and Beyoncé will seem like pioneers. In short: music finds success on YouTube, especially when paired with clever marketing and quality visual content. Eager audiences, social media shares, and the “viral consciousness” of online culture take care of the rest.
by Maggie Altergott