Back in April I wrote about YouTube channel karminmusic, whose cover of Chris Brown's "Look At Me Now" had gone viral. That same video went on to land in the top ten most viewed videos of the entire 2011 year, but was far from the musical duo's only hit. After a few more hits, they hit the bigtime, as evidenced by their gig this past weekend as the musical guest on Saturday Night Live.
Karmin Rides YouTube Fame To Recording Contract
Karmin--as the duo is now known--is about to release an album from Epic Records, and you might say they're on their way to following in Bieber's footsteps. By the way, they are only the third musical guest in SNL history to appear prior to their debut album coming out (the other two, according to this article, were 1998's Natalie Imbruglia and then Lana Del Ray--also from YouTube--earlier this season).
Imagine that... last Easter they were relative nobodies. Just under ten months later they've moved to LA, have a record deal (complete with their own VEVO channel), and served as musical guest on Saturday Night Live. None of which would have been possible if it weren't for the power of YouTube.
YouTube Is Slowly Killing The Labels, With Their Assistance
The A&R man is a dying breed. Who needs to go out into the clubs and bars and discover hidden musical talent when the boys and girls of the YouTube audience are more than happy to do the job for you... without even asking to be paid?
I guess the day we'll really be impressed is the day that a Justin Beiber or Karmin gains YouTube fame... but then doesn't need the record labels in order to grow that fame and make money. Because the fact of the matter is, Bieber and Karmin (and others) owe their fame to YouTube... but as impressive as their feats have been... they're still dependent on the system--the labels. Nobody's breaking the model yet, and to their credit, neither musical act ever said they intended to.
But it's coming.
Look at a guy like Freddie Wong, who recently said he's not interested in TV or Hollywood deals because not only is he doing okay on YouTube... he actually believes the future of entertainment content is online, and that's where the real envelope pushing is (and he's 100% right, by the way).
And once we have a YouTube music star that is willing and able to make the same kind of statement about the future of music, the labels will continue to hang around and cherry-pick the very best of the talent offered by the medium they seem to hate so much. I know why they do it, but I wonder if they realize how greatly their contributing to their own downfall.
And even though the labels are still part of the mix, the real story--the real lesson--is in the increasing power of YouTube to create new stars and damage entire industries all at the same time.