By Emma Barnett, Difital Media Editor
16 Aug 2012
A new study shows that YouTube has replaced both MTV and the CD shop for music-loving teeenagers’ looking for their next musical hit. Emma Barnett examines the ramifications for the music industry.
The majority of American teenagers now prefer to listen to music via YouTube over iTunes, radio and CDs. Nearly two-thirds of 18-year-olds and younger US teens say that they prefer the Google-owned video platform ahead of all other music mediums.
The report, Music 360, compiled by the research company Nielsen, is hardly ground-breaking – YouTube has been a very popular music platform for some time – but it confirms that the MTV generation is no more.
Gone are the days when most of the discovery and enjoyment of music happened via TV stations, radio programmes and buying CDs.
The study also underlines that teenagers do not see why they need to own music, or even pay for a digital music service such as Spotify.
These findings come as Google begins a crackdown on internet piracy by relegating websites that often host unlawful copies of films and music, in what is being seen as a victory for the entertainment industry.
From this week, the main Google search engine will take into account the number of copyright infringement notices it has received in relation to each website when it determines their rankings.
Google’s concession to copyright holders follows years of criticism that it was turning a blind eye to blatant piracy by including rogue websites high up in search results. The entertainment industry has been lobbying governments, including Britain’s, to force Google’s hand.
However, somewhat hypocritically, YouTube, itself often accused of infringing copyright, is not expected to be relegated in the rankings.
But the incredible success of YouTube in the music arena will have wider ramifications for the music industry.
Mark Mulligan, an independent music analyst, believes that the music experience on YouTube is “too good” – and its functionality (such as the recent addition of a playlist function) needs to be scaled back if the record labels are ever to see young people return to buying music.
“YouTube has transformed what the music buyer’s expectations are of what the digital music experience is. In a way it’s too good,” he says.
“In the UK since 2008, five million buyers have disappeared from the music market. This is because more people have stopped buying CDs than the number who have started buying digital tracks.
“It is totally understandable that people don’t want to pay for MP3s when the experience is poorer than what they get via YouTube.”
Mulligan goes a step further, advising record labels to “up their game” and create a new “next generation music format” which has all of the audio visual, interactive and social elements of YouTube – in other words, make a product worth paying for.
Right now young people both discover and enjoy music on YouTube for free and with great ease – either via laptops or mobiles.
There is no clear pathway from watching music videos on YouTube to actually paying for a track – whether that’s via a subscription or a direct download service.
YouTube has become both the MTV and CD shop for teenage music-lovers and only Google will really reap the long-term commercial benefit.