This guest post from INDMUSIC co-founder and CEO Brandon Martinez takes a look at the YouTube app's removal from iOS 6. The views presented in this article do not represent those of Billboard or its staff. Billboard.biz welcomes responsible guest commentary.
There's much speculation about the fate of the YouTube app in light of its removal from the recently announced iOS 6. However, this move should only be considered as one of many in a process for Google to take back control of its own product. In doing so, Google is able to build back in the tools that allow the YouTube site to succeed in terms of monetization and discovery. These tools, when applied appropriately, can tremendously impact the success of independent musicians.
Google SVP and Chief Business Officer, Nikesh Arora, recently announced on a July company earnings call that YouTube has "found our model." The model that Arora was addressing is the monetization of more video content on the site. Through its Partner Program, YouTube now has thousands of content creators making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year; and there's also the Originals Program, where top creators from Hollywood and the YouTube community itself have been churning out top notch videos week after week. But, as more viewers watch more content, they are turning to smartphones, tablets, and set-top boxes to do so. These views, by and large, are not monetizable because they do not have ads running on them, and thus, do not generate any revenue for the content creator or license holder. As Jim Louderback posts, Revision3 has seen an 11 percent drop (from 57 percent to 46 percent) in total number of monetizable views over the same time last year. The numbers for independent musicians can be even more staggering. Throughout my company's Network of channels for unsigned and independent musicians, artists may see only a third of their total views being monetized, mostly due to mobile views.
Nielsen released a survey this week where nearly two thirds of teens (13-17 years old) and almost half of the adults (18 and older) polled claimed to listen to music via YouTube. Yet, if we look at Zoe Keating's six month study of her earnings as an independent artist, there is no mention of YouTube at all. Keating is one of countless artists not taking advantage of (by choice or lack of information) an extremely large revenue stream. If Keating represents a current successful independent musician, then it would seem to me that there are millions, if not billions, of music streams not being monetized at all. We are each leaving thousands of dollars on the table, even before YouTube can reclaim its app and place ads on mobile videos.
One of the biggest reasons for Google to take back its YouTube app is in order for all products "to work seamlessly across screens," says YouTube VP of Product Management, Shishir Mehrota. The " full YouTube experience" applies to the mobile app, as well as the brand new native PlayStation 3 app. In order to apply the look and feel we're all used to on the YouTube.com site, Google had to take back ownership of its iOS application as well. This is also good news for artists looking to make money on all possible platforms as mentioned above! We've all seen "art tracks," wherein an artist posts a static image of album art along with an accompanying track. The savvy musician will also create a playlist of the full album so that as fans discover one track, they end up staying and listening to more songs. These tricks also help an artist's official video be found, as opposed to a bootleg version. The current YouTube app limits discoverability and is more likely to show a video that does not support the artist.
As YouTube moves more towards high quality, original content, especially in the music space, I, for one, am fine with less grainy concert footage with poor audio. I am also more than happy to sit through a few ads customized to my browsing habits, knowing that I am supporting an independent artist. And I look forward to enjoying the "full YouTube experience" on my laptop, my AppleTV, and my iPhone 5 (hopefully).
Brandon Martinez is the Co-Founder and CEO of INDMUSIC, a YouTube Network for unsigned and independent musicians.