How digital natives are shaping the future of music content production

beyonceOnline video platforms are now the primary source for watching, listening, discovering and sharing music. With one billion unique monthly users, YouTube leads the way, eclipsing Spotify, iTunes, and now even TV and radio.

Today, if an artist or record label wants to promote a new single or album, YouTube is the first port of call. They do not necessarily wait for a slot on primetime TV or radio – an important behaviour change for the music industry where we are consuming media in much more visual ways.

Take a look at any recent big music release and you can see evidence of this trend in action. One Direction used the platform first to promote their latest album with a seven-hour take over. Not to mention PSY’s ‘Gangnam Style’ drawing a staggering 1,842,399,099 plays to date – the most viewed video of all time. Not bad for South Korea’s first global popstar singing in a language not widely spoken. And just today, Beyoncé has used the site to trail videos on her brand new visual album (pictured).

TV is no longer the cultural influencer it once was and in turn, we have seen a clear shift in the music media space over a relatively short space of time. As opportunities on traditional TV have diminished, new game-changing technologies have irrevocably altered the media consumption patterns and behaviours of music fans that want content when they want it. They are in the driving seat and want the keys to the Ferrari!

YouTube is where today’s music audience is, and especially the all-important digital natives or ‘Generation C’. This demographic has been defined by the Internet era – the constantly connected 18-34 year old group who are never without their mobile devices.

YouTube is the now, and the future, and anybody producing, distributing or promoting music content must embrace it or face losing out to those that use it to their advantage. YouTube is not TV, however, and must not be treated as such. Its audience is a very different beast and demands a specific viewing experience.

Generation C are not passive viewers and are looking for immediacy and authenticity. They expect connection, interaction, collaboration, curation and community to be involved in their music media consumption – something which is becoming an integral part of their everyday lives.

As a consumer group, they are demanding more and more from content – it must be original, innovative, snackable, driven by social media and delivered in high quality across all devices and platforms – where and when they want it. Not only do they respond positively to a sense of ownership in the process of breaking today’s upcoming acts by sharing content across social media, they actually demand it. The industry is coming to realise this and is handing over some control to the ones that engage. It’s important to remember that Generation C are also followers – quality music and authenticity of voice is a hugely influential and effective means of promoting new music and channels.

An inspiring example of this is the new music sensation, Lorde. She actively seeks to engage with her fans on YouTube, encouraging cover versions, remixes and mash-ups, ceding control and providing opportunities for involvement. The buzz she has generated has helped her become the youngest solo artist to reach number 1 in the UK.

Moments are created for YouTube – to watch live, to share, or watch back – rather than shows, in the traditional sense. The recent intriguing and chaotic first YouTube Music Awards epitomised this – the content would never have made it near a TV set but online allows for a certain level of creative freedom away from wider controls, adding to the appeal. The live online broadcast never received more than 250,000 views but in the weeks that have followed, various moments from the ‘show’, such as Lady Gaga’s live performance, had a much greater reach and have generated millions of views.

Taking heed of the evolving nature of music media consumption, we recently launched Transmitter – a music channel for the digital age, specifically designed with today’s music fan in mind with the number one online video platform. Backed by the BPI and serving up a selection of innovative formats, which facilitate fan-artist interaction, the channel offers viewers original shareable moments and the opportunity to shape show outcomes. We believe it has the potential to become the new global voice of British music and a key music influencer of today.

The YouTube audience is the key tastemaker on popular culture today and is becoming a powerhouse within itself. The music industry must tap into this transition and adapt its content design and delivery processes along the way to fit new audience’s demands. As the industry readjusts to a changing landscape, this symbiotic relationship will make it stronger – get it right and Generation C can become one of the most powerful promotional tools in your arsenal.

Will McGillivray is Head of Content & Programming at LoveLive.