YouTube has announced a new program at the South By Southwest festival in Austin, TX, designed for aspiring musicians. Called "Musicians Wanted," the program is intended to lure more up-and-coming bands and musicians to YouTube for their video distribution needs by offering some of the same monetization options and other features extended to YouTube's partners.
Up until today, YouTube only allowed certain musicians behind the Partner curtain—those with signed recording contracts at major record labels. So, in other words, you had to have already made it in order to take advantage of the Partner Program's many benefits. That always baffled me a bit, as YouTube seemed like the best fit for unsigned and unknown acts to establish a following.
Well now YouTube has leveled that playing field.
This new program will come as a welcome bit of news to struggling bands and singers all over the globe. Unsigned musicians are a huge part of YouTube's content producing army. Don't believe me? If you spent any time browsing the top videos of the week you would.
Lost amongst all the deals YouTube has made with major content producers and record labels is the fact that there are a large number of "average Joe" stars on YouTube. I'm talking about people whose weekly broadcasts get hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of views. It's easy to overlook such videos in our race to applaud the latest Hollywood movie trailer or Lady GaGa video. Quietly and without much fanfare, amateur musicians and other unsigned talent have become some of the most-subscribed channels on the entire site.
Here are two such stars—unsigned musicians with large followings—to tell you more about the Musicians Wanted program in their own words:
I'm sure many of them have even felt slighted by how much better YouTube seems to treat the major label stars. Musicians Wanted is like a gift-wrapped olive branch from YouTube to a group that it wants to keep as a core part of its user base. Now unsigned bands can make extra income via the ads that get placed using the Partner Program. That means more musicians will flock to YouTube as their delivery system of choice (bad news for MySpace). That means more viewers will flock to YouTube to see the wider variety of new music videos. Which, of course, means more ad revenue will flock to YouTube's bank account. Everyone wins.
With programs like this—and in light of OK Go's recent decision to fire their label and strike out on their own—it's increasingly likely that we'll soon see a future where record labels aren't needed for an artist to achieve fame and fortune. Who will the RIAA sue then?
New partners under the Musicians Wanted program will also get access to the channel enhancements and all other features that current members of the Partner Program enjoy.
I'm seriously surprised it took this long for them to make a move like this, and I think it's long overdue. This move comes on the heels of the recent Filmmakers Wanted event, which extended a very similar offer to aspiring screenwriters and directors, and is a natural continuation of that philosophy of putting more power in the hands of the masses. If I'm an unsigned musician trying to develop a following online, I'm jumping for joy today—oh, and heading to YouTube to sign up for the Partner Program immediately.
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