Imagine a world where the biggest nights in TV are hosted on the web, not on cable. It would take a blockbuster show to set the precedent, wouldn’t it? Well, YouTube’s upcoming Music Awards show on November 3 might be the perfect storm to totally upset broadcast TV. Here’s why.
By featuring high-profile entertainers, the YouTube Music Awards will have instant credibility. Lady Gaga, Eminem, and Arcade Fire are the first performers announced for the show, while Spike Jonze will direct the event.
But there will also be smaller artists who’ve primarily gained their audience from YouTube, simultaneously giving the event a grassroots feel. It’s rare that any televised event can feel both commercially viable and "crowdsourced," but there’s also some real mystery here. Like Tosh.0, the YouTube awards will give viewers a chance to see people they only know from YouTube live and in the flesh.
YouTube already is a place people discover music. Because there will be smaller performers there, the awards show will act like a de facto music discovery event. Sure, you’ve already heard of Eminem and Lady Gaga. But you’ll also be introduced to newer faces you might not hear on the radio.
Watching the Grammys via Twitter is a great way to see and verify that the mainstream world still doesn’t know about a lot of the web’s most popular artists, let alone mid-tier ones. When Arcade Fire won the Grammy for album of the year two years ago, there was a collective "Who is Arcade Fire?" in the media. And Arcade Fire is a popular band—it’s just not Lady Gaga popular.
Whether or not viewers care about the unknown artists, the novelty of this experiment will be enough to draw plenty of viewers. Discovering new music isn’t something you can force on someone, but you can make all the conditions conducive to it.
Whether people actual tune in live or watch the show later, YouTube still wins.
Danielle Tiedt, YouTube's vice president of marketing, has said that about 90% of the total views for live events come after the event has happened. YouTube has already capitalized on this, but as Twitter has proven, live events still provide a gathering point for those heavily interested to talk and share related links.
However minor an Internet broadcast music awards show may seem right now, it has the potential to contribute to TV’s eventual shift to a more digital-first foundation. This event might put pressure on other, more traditional awards shows to up their game, or at least co-broadcast on the web. Plus, it’s time MTV’s VMAs were replaced by a company or platform that actually promotes music.
Apple’s biggest musical asset is iTunes, and each year they use it to promote a wide range of artists with the iTunes Festival, a month-long concert series. This year saw the biggest push to get in front of more viewers, but its impact still feels underwhelming—had you ever heard of the iTunes Festival before this article?
Still, live events are the biggest money-maker in entertainment, and far more profitable (and repeatable) than a televised event. If the YouTube Music Awards go off well, you might see a concert series to come, giving Google’s video arm even more gravity in the music world.