YouTube Music Awards Stirs Social Buzz, Negative Comments Dominate Twitter

Loved it or hated it, the YouTube Music Awards generated a significant amount of social buzz during the live webcast of its show in New York on Sunday evening. 

The bizarre, unscripted anti-awards show, where hosts Jason Schwartzman and Reggie Watts were handed live infants, garnered 336,161 Tweets during a three-hour period around the 90-minute event, according to data from Timeline Labs, a social media analytics firm in Santa Monica, Calif. That's more than the Billboard Music Awards, which aired in May on ABC and generated 307,115 Tweets. Still, the social media impact of YouTube's award show is probably less than the Grammys, which triggered 15.5 million social interactions, including not just Tweets, but also shares, likes and posts on other social networks such as Facebook and Instragram.

But unlike most award shows, YouTube's Tweets peaked at the start of the show, then took a sharp drop right when it kicked off at 6 p.m. eastern, reviving twice during the show when Girls' Generation received its award for Video of the Year and again when Eminem was announced as Artist of the year, according to Timeline Labs. By comparison, most award shows have a more evenly distributed volume of Tweets, said Alejandro Cantarero, head of data research at Timeline Labs.

"The YouTube awards had a very short peak," Cantarero said. "Part of that could be because not as many people think of YouTube as a place to consume an entire TV show. And because it's YouTube's first such event, it doesn't have the same amount of brand built into it as some of the other shows."

Finally, because the event was webcast, many viewers watched it on their mobile devices, likely the same ones they would use to Tweet had the show been on television instead. "If you watch it on a mobile device, it would be more difficult to Tweet," Cantarero said.

As for the quality of Tweets, the number of negative comments appeared to outnumber the positives as its anything-goes format, directed by Spike Jonze, baffled and irked viewers. With so many award shows already in existence, Jonze prior to the show had told Billboard and other media outlets that he wanted to create a new type of award show, one that was less predictable and more spontaneous -- reflecting the spirit of YouTube and many of the accidental stars the online platform had created over the last eight years.

Audiences used to the scripted choreography of traditional award shows found the results of Jonze's experiment jarring. Some savaged the show with Tweets calling the event "sad," "disappointing" and "a hot mess." Others, though fewer in number if Twitter's traffic is representative, embraced the chaos and Tweeted that the show was "genius," "like one giant party" and "chaotic but history in the making."

If YouTube was dissappointed with the negative reactions, it did not show it. 

"It was incredible to see such a broad range of artists creating innovative live music videos for fans across the globe during tonight’s first-ever YouTube Music Awards," the company said in a statement about its first crack at a music award show. "We want to congratulate the winners, and to thank Spike Jonze, VICE, and all the artists involved for daring to create an awards show that was as spontaneous and unexpected as YouTube itself."

And now for a final category of winners from the evening -- the top artists mentioned on Twitter during the YouTube Music Awards: 

1. Justin Bieber (65,465 mentions)

2. Lady Gaga (40,728)

3. Girls' Generation (24,386)

4. Demi Lovato (17,531)

5. Taylor Swift (11,995)

Source: Timeline Labs.