YouTube's Country Now channel launching new series starring the viral star
The music business is an ever-changing model. What the rules are might very well be old hat by next week. That novel approach to the business shines very brightly with this week's launch of a new partnership between Country Now, the first original country music-dedicated YouTube channel, and YouTube phenomenon Julia Sheer, one of the channel's best known and most followed artists.
The talented newcomer will be the subject of a six-part daily online series titled "Blackbird Sings," and will also include the premiere of Sheer's video, "Should've Run," which was produced by Country Now in association with the Blackbird Academy. The single will also be available at all online retailers.
Sheer says she is very excited to venture into new and uncharted territory for such a launch. "I think it's very exciting," she tells Billboard. "I've never been a part of anything that has been this big or had so many people involved. I can't wait for people to see it. It's been a long time waiting for it, but finally, it's here. I can't wait to share it with people."
She says recording a project outside of the typical arrangement of a label offered her a feeling of freedom that she might not have otherwise known.
"I don't think a lot of people have seen this type of thing on YouTube. I'm not working with a label or a publisher or anything like that, so there's a little bit of free rein to do what I wanted, and I didn't have a label telling me what I could or couldn't do."
Her manager, Irving Ronk, agrees with that statement, saying "That's been the cool thing about this project. She is truly an independent artist. She has built her career from the ground up. It's one of those things where she moved to Nashville a year ago with the hopes of putting this kind of project out."
Though Ronk says that traditional radio is not going to be ignored on the project, YouTube will be the leading piece of the puzzle concerning Sheer's launch.
"None of her original material has ever been played on the radio. She's never done any of that, but it's totally a different approach entirely that she's been able to do without a label and without publishing and a lot of the things that make the traditional wheels turn on a music career. I think this is exciting because it's going to give us an opportunity to do things like have her song played on the radio and that's exciting because that's a whole new group of fans that we'll be able to reach hopefully."
Dominic Sandifer, President Country Now/Greenlight Media & Marketing, says he feels that with Sheer's 450,000 + subscriber base and 72 million views, she's the perfect artist to launch the campaign with.
"We think it's a perfect match, and maybe a chance to change the paradigm a little bit of how country music gets created and marketed. We're certainly not going to change the traditional model, but maybe we can create a new one. She's had a lot of success on YouTube, but hasn't really crossed over into the mainstream of Nashville. We thought with her existing audience combined with what we wanted to do with Country Now and partnering with John McBride at Blackbird, we could put her into a studio with a professional environment, and work with not only professional engineers and producers, but also the next generation to see what we could create together."
And, though it is a new concept -- having a team that includes McBride and longtime RCA exec Butch Waugh in place offers some sage advice on how to work the new model.
"I think that is absolutely the key," allowed Sandifer. "Butch has been incredible to us for the past year. He's the one that introduced us to John and what he wanted to do with the Blackbird Academy. He's training the next generation of producers and engineers right there in his fabulous facility. We just thought it was an opportunity to do something unique and combine the two together and see if we could generate some great new music, and see if we could cross Julia into a new audience. We've played some of the content for the folks over at Sirius, and they're going to start running the single there. I think it's a great song, and so do Butch and John, so when you have great hitmakers like that that have heard so many great hit songs, well, we're just keeping our fingers crossed."