In the world of digital media, virtually everyone is a creator – a fact that has significant implications for the music industry.
According to the 2023 edition of the YouTube Culture and Trends Report, which the Alphabet-owned video streaming service released to coincide with the opening of the VidCon 2023 conference in Anaheim, Calif., last Wednesday (June 21), fully 82% of the 18-44-year-olds surveyed said they had uploaded video content to some service – be it Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat or YouTube – over the previous 12 months.
What’s more, 40% of the people surveyed described themselves as content creators.
That paints a clear picture of the world the music industry, along with all entertainment industries, are heading into — one where a monopoly on talent and attention can no longer be taken for granted.
For its report, YouTube partnered with pollster Ipsos to carry out a survey that included 25,892 respondents aged 18 to 44 in 14 countries, those being the US, UK, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and South Korea.
Among the survey’s revelations: Fans are increasingly the mediators between media events and the audience. A majority of those surveyed – 54% – said they would rather watch creators commenting on a major media event than the event itself.
As an example, the YouTube report cited Brazilian YouTube channel CazéTV, which brought more than 6 million viewers to its live stream of the FIFA World Cup in 2022.
“Viewers increasingly expect personalized experiences, and use different formats to meet different need states — viewing long-form, short-form, live, and pre-recorded content across mobile and connected TV screens,” the YouTube report stated.
The same appears to be increasingly true when it comes to audio streaming as well. In the past few years, we have seen digital streaming providers (DSPs) and other music companies increasingly work to engage fans more directly – both as a way of attracting and retaining subscribers, and potentially to find new ways to monetize music fandom.
The direct-to-fan business model has been blossoming of late. Bandzoogle, a company that offers ecommerce tools that enable musicians to market and sell products directly to fans, recently surpassed $100 million in sales through its tools, and now powers some 60,000 websites.
On that front, YouTube itself is a leader. For instance, YouTube Premium subscribers were given special access behind the scenes at this year’s Coachella music festival, allowing viewers to see the goings-on backstage as artists prepared for their sets.
The Coachella livestream was also integrated into YouTube Shopping, allowing fans to buy artist merchandise directly from their screen during the show.
“[AI] has already begun reshaping the intersection of self-expression and fandom, allowing viewers to expand the meaning of cultural entities that they find resonant.”
YouTube Culture and Trends Report
The YouTube report also addressed the emergence of generative AI in every corner of media over the past year, taking an optimistic approach to the subject.
“Amid an explosion of AI-based tools, creators are adapting technologies to extend their individual creative capabilities,” YouTube’s report stated. “Ambitious and complex ideas can be executed with greater speed and higher production value than would have been possible previously.”
It went on to say that generative AI is “democratizing complicated forms of self-expression, introducing us to a world where unique ideas are the foundation of what breaks through online.”
The report noted that AI is breaking down the language barrier, making it easier than ever for consumers to view content created in a language they don’t speak. It noted the rise of “silent vlogs” that use closed captioning in multiple languages.
And it also noted the barriers this could break down in the music world. As an example, it cited Korean singer MIDNATT, who released a single earlier this year, Masquerade, in six different languages.
MIDNATT recorded the song in six languages, but record label HYBE used AI “to further refine the artist’s pronunciation and intonation.” That was done using technology from Supertone, the fake voice AI company that HYBE acquired in 2022.
In YouTube’s survey, 60% of respondents said they are open to watching content generated by AI, and 52% said they had watched a Vtuber (virtual YouTuber or virtual artist) over the past year.
“Amid an explosion of AI-based tools, creators are adapting technologies to extend their individual creative capabilities.”
YouTube Culture and Trends Report
This trend among media consumers might go a long way to explaining why major recording companies like Sony Music Entertainment Japan (SMEJ) and Warner Music Group’s Whet Records are investing heavily into creating a roster of virtual artists, while others, like HYBE and Tencent, are developing new AI technologies for their artists to use.
Tencent, for example, revealed late last year that it had created more than 1,000 AI-generated songs, including one that had already racked up 100 million streams.
And it also explains why many tech companies are jumping into the AI-generated music game. Just last week, MBW reported that Microsoft is developing an AI rap generator called DeepRapper.
That news came just days after Facebook and Instagram parent Meta Platforms released an AI text-to-music generator called Music Gen. It can take text prompts like “upbeat acoustic folk” or “pop dance track with catchy melodies” and turn them into newly-generated 12-second music clips.
And last month, Google made available to the public an “experimental” AI tool called MusicLM, which works in a similar way to Meta’s music generator – type in a description of a type of music you want, and MusicLM will generate a track for you.
In MusicLM’s case, it will create two versions of the requested song, so that the person requesting can it can vote on which one they prefer, something Google says will “help improve the AI model.”
The AI revolution “has already begun reshaping the intersection of self-expression and fandom, allowing viewers to expand the meaning of cultural entities that they find resonant,” the YouTube report said.
“The speed and quality of AI-supported creativity can result in a diversity of executions that can be consumed alone, but really exist in dialogue with one another.”Music Business Worldwide