Record-Breaking Premieres & Billion-View Videos: How Billboard's Women In Music Are Dominating YouTube

Taylor Swift, "ME!" ft. Brendon Urie of Panic! at the Disco
Courtesy Photo

Taylor Swift, "ME!" ft. Brendon Urie of Panic! at the Disco

'You have women who are fearless in their willingness to take risks.'

This year, the artists being highlighted at Billboard’s 2019 Women In Music event broke music records, pushed the boundaries of genre and reshaped the narrative around female artists' role in music. That included on YouTube, where they -- and many other female acts -- led the way on the platform’s year-end figures.

“I’ve seen more female artists rewriting the script [this year] in ways that I don’t think we’ve seen so profoundly, or with as much scale, in the past,” says YouTube global head of artist services Vivien Lewit, who is featured on Billboard's 2019 Women In Music executives list. “I think that you have women who are fearless in their willingness to take risks, and go the distance with their music, and with the way they interact with their fans.”

Billie Eilish, Billboard’s Woman of the Year, gained more than 17.8 million subscribers on her official channel in 2019, the most of any artist on YouTube this year -- making hers the No. 22 most-subscribed-to artist channel on the platform (as of today, Dec. 12). She earned more than five billion views on the platform in 2019, and had the No. 4 most-liked and No. 9 most-viewed music video release of the year with her brooding smash “bad guy.”

“Her music resonates not only because of what it sounds like, but she’s also making statements through it,” Lewit explains; for example, Eilish confronts climate change in the recent clip for "all the good girls go to hell." “The option of streaming across ad-supported and subscription platforms has enabled discovery at new levels, and opened the door to continued experimentation” from pop rule-breakers like Eilish, she adds. 

Meanwhile, Billboard’s Woman of the Decade, Taylor Swift, used the YouTube Premieres function to transform the June release of her music video for “ME!," a colorful tribute to the LGBTQ community, into a global event. “ME!” -- the lead single from her August album Lover -- claims the second-biggest 24-hour music video debut in YouTube history by a solo artist, with more than 65 million views. Swift’s fan engagement strategy helped drive eyeballs, Vivien adds: “Taylor was [streaming] live with her fans, hanging out and commenting."

And Swift -- who has the No. 6 most-subscribed-to artist channel as of today, with 36.5 million subscribers -- isn’t the only woman to have dominated on YouTube Premieres over the past year (or so). In fact, the two biggest YouTube Premieres of all time are both from female artists: BLACKPINK’s glossy, futuristic “Kill This Love” in April (979,000 peak concurrent viewers) and Ariana Grande’s Mean Girls-inspired “thank u, next” (829,000 peak concurrent viewers), released in November 2018.

On the Latin front, Rosalía, the Rising Star honoree, conquered the male-heavy reggaeton world with her bouncy, rhythmic “Con Altura” with J Balvin and El Guincho -- the No. 2 most-viewed music video release of the year, and one of only two music videos uploaded this year to reach the Billion Views Club (the other: Daddy Yankee and Snow's "Con Calma"). She has amassed more than 3.9 million new subscribers this year alone.

In 2019, Megan Thee Stallion (Powerhouse Award) earned more than 327 million YouTube views, hitting her peak daily videos on Sept. 4 -- the day after the debut of her “Hot Girl Summer” music video -- when views reached up to 5.9 million in a single day. And the music video for Brandi Carlile’s (Trailblazer Award) motivational breakthrough hit “The Joke” has raked in more than 4 million views, in part thanks to a spike in views after her performance of the track at the Grammy Awards in February.

Lewit says that YouTube’s slate of programs to lift up both emerging and established artists -- including its Artist Spotlight mini-doc series, Artist on the Rise program for emerging artists, Foundry indie artist development program, original content series and YouTube Premieres -- have also been key to helping female acts rise on the platform.

This year, YouTube partnered with more than 50 female artists around the world through these programs, and Lewit says that promoting a diverse roster of artist participants is top-of-mind. “Inclusion and diversity are important to me, so whenever we look across our programs, it’s certainly something that gets considered,” she says. “We’re working with artists [who are] on the rise, and we believe we can propel them to the next level.” 

Legacy female acts continued to dominate on YouTube, too: Videos of Alicia Keys’ (Impact Award) music earned more than 540 million views in 2019; Nicki Minaj (Gamechanger Award) has accumulated 20 million subscribers overall, and appears in four music videos with more than 1 billion YouTube views ("Bang Bang" with Jessie J and Grande, "Side to Side" with Grande, David Guetta's "Hey Mama" with Bebe Rexha and Afrojack, and Jason Derulo's "Swalla" with Ty Dolla $ign); and Alanis Morissette (Icon Award) has collected 128 million views for her “Ironic” clip.

Asked what all these women have in common, Lewit adds, “These women wear themselves on their sleeves. They are authentic. And YouTube has always been a place where authenticity reigns.” 

2019 Billboard Women in Music

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