I’m writing this as I finish up a studio session with a British YouTube sensation, whose latest music video has over 4 million hits, and still climbing. If I want to make the cut for their next music video, I figured I should start showing more enthusiasm for the online music scene!
On my recent trip to Mumbai, I found the city’s fascination with the West remaining strong; despite the depth of traditional art, music and literature the city has to offer. I went on a voyage to get my periodic cultural fix, but instead, my Uber was playing, ”Shape of You”, by Ed Sheeran. With YouTube in the hands of every smartphone user; popular videos are readily available for every listener to access anywhere, anytime. The YouTube view-count metric has become a universal currency for artists; measuring one’s wealth, synonymously. Success used to be measured by what car you were driving, but those days have long been forgotten.
We should be considering the type of content this is forcing artists and media houses to create. Are we moving towards material that uses something as sinister as click-bait to entice viewers?
We should be considering the type of content this is forcing artists and media houses to create. Are we moving towards material that uses something as sinister as click-bait to entice viewers? So long as views are catalysts for advertisements; revenues will flow. It’s a cyclical model which has proven lucrative and it works; albeit, at the cost of genuine art being sacrificed.
If artists are expected to monetise from online music sources, then they have to start thinking about how they’re going to sell to that market. Fortunately for a few artists; online viewership numbers and what the latest analytics are saying will not be of any worry to them.
Okay, so viewership is increasing, but we need more artists! With 500 million people watching videos on Facebook everyday, we are catering to a diversified market. The only way to appeal to everybody is to create monotonous content relatable to every user. Of course, it can be argued that an artist is required to be more innovative by putting together material that is more creative and marketable. Rather than producing art for the sake of personal expression, the challenge for the artist now is how one can get more views than their previous video. Algorithms now mean we exist in an artificial bubble; thus an audience is fed with content similar to what they have engaged with previously. If the creator fails to reach a viewer’s platform, then they are kicked off the ‘radar’ and fed content that is governed by what software calculates that they would prefer. How can you introduce new music if you are not even showing up on their radar? – Catch 22. Are we limiting people’s choice by feeding fans repetitive material that we predict they will like, instead of pushing boundaries, introducing new content, or, dare I say it; something unique?
Based on what I’ve been listening to recently on Spotify, it even believes it knows what I would ‘like’ to listen to next – overwhelming. The novelty of going to a record shop and finding the dusty CD rattling behind the shelves, has been replaced by a digital refresh button. The joy of discovery has been left to software.
An online concert cannot take away the experience from a live concert. If an artist is getting hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube, this does not necessarily mean that they can persuade the same audience to pay for tickets. We need to create a transferable medium for this to happen (I haven’t quite figured it out yet, but feel free to send me your ideas to on a postcard). You may ask why we need to do this. The audience is the fuel for an artist. Yes, YouTube views give us that dopamine hit we crave, however, artists want to share the feeling that spontaneity brings to live music. There is no substitution for this.
On the flip side, performers are geared to rehearse more in the fear that any erroneous move will more than likely be filmed by internet trolls, waiting to turn it into amusing content for their own benefits – increasing their page views.
We are faced with so much content, that we have to be particular with how we use our time to pick and digest. Let’s face it, we are constantly surrounded by distractions. if it’s not the family WhatsApp group pinging, or your Outlook mailbox overflowing, we are forced to run around just to keep up with the next-door neighbour’s cats Instagram account.
Music is a universal language. It does not matter what genre of music is being played, or which country it originates from. What we need to stop doing is glamourising the arts for the online world and re-ignite the theatre going culture (and that’s not just for the elite).
Anyway, I must get back to checking if my shiny new music video has finished uploading.
Rekesh Chauhan, a pianist and composer, performs Band on The Wall, Manchester on 27th February 2018. Tickets now on sale. Visit www.rekeshchauhan.com