Youtube’s revolutions, big and small

It’s youtube’s tenth anniversary today.  Much will be written / spoken about the impact of this empowering channel and its imitators, the influence on political movements.  It’s played a role in uprisings & elections, actions both democratic and violent.

And there have been changes in how media are disseminated.  These too are revolutions, even if the changes are subtler.

I’m not troubled by the way youtube helped Justin Bieber, who is really just another teen idol after all.  When all’s said and done he’s a star on merit.

I was more intrigued by the appearance of Gangnam Style (2012) and other overnight video phenomena.   Who could explain the excitement?  People do attempt to explain, but that’s nothing new.  A long long long ago I can still remember how …Don McLean’s American Pie inspired many to try to explain. 

Culture is both the new created object and the conversation that surrounds such objects.

Youtube has impacted everything. Puppets, wrestlers, sports, and yes, even classical music.

A short time ago everyone was talking about Valentina Lisitsa, whose success is inconceivable without youtube, one of the canniest bits of self-invention I’ve ever seen.  What’s so wonderful to me about youtube is how the process has been simplified & democratized.  At one time great artists had to somehow get the attention of a Sol Hurok or a Rudolph Bing, usually with the help of their agents & a step-by-step progression from obscurity to eventual success.  Surely it’s a good thing when artists can reach their audiences without mediation or interference.

But there’s so much more to it than that.  I am inclined to seek the positives, to recognize the ways in which we’re in a golden age.  The internet is a colossal research library, where you can learn about anything at all, and how wonderful that you can also compare versions of your favourite aria or symphony or piano sonata.  Who plays the fastest finale & coda to the Apassionata sonata?  Youtube will help you find this out (and don’t listen to me, do the work yourself).

I did a play in February that included several songs that I couldn’t find in the music library.  The titles and lyrics were in the text, so I thought to look on youtube, finding almost all of them.  And so I notated the songs, which we learned for the show even if they sometimes represented deeply coded texts that could keep a person busy for a lifetime of exploration: which is hardly a problem when we’re speaking of drinking songs.

The fact it’s free is a key part of the equation.  What happens if google (that is, youtube’s owner)  begins charging for the service? Those of us who can’t live without it would adjust somehow, i guess.  I suspect if they do charge, free competition will appear.

In the meantime, I’m sure that things will change, as nothing stands still for very long.  It’s only ten years ago, yet it feels like such a long time.

This entry was posted in Personal ruminations & essays, Popular music & culture. Bookmark the permalink.

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