The Youtube Music Awards: Why Artists Should Care

Yes, Lady Gaga and Eminem are performing and yes, One Direction and Justin Bieber are award nominees. Like in any awards show, mainstream tastes dominate. But the way the YouTube Music Awards calculate mainstream opinion is important. In this online awards show, nominations and votes are calculated from engagement across YouTube, Facebook, Google+ and Yahoo platforms. The YouTube Music Awards reflects a new, more interactive media landscape and proves interactive and inclusive online presences are valuable. Artists–mainstream or not–should take note of how this awards ceremony officially recognizes social media’s role in artist-to-audience relationships.The ‘Video of the Year’ and ‘Artist of the Year’ nominations don’t pack any surprising punches. Contenders such as Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber are as Top-40-friendly as any MTV Video Music Award nominee, but were selected for the YTMAs based on pageviews, shares, likes and comments. It makes sense that these three artists are also among the most-followed celebrities on Twitter. Booking the right radio stations, television broadcasts and concert venues once propelled artists to fame. Now, social media is an unquestionably important part of that equation.

The more selective ‘Innovation of the Year’ nomination criteria also reflects the new media landscape. An “international panel of musicians, YouTubers and creative luminaries” made nominations, but the list was finalized based on which innovative videos had the most views, likes, shares and comments. Nominations in this category include Anamanaguchi, “Endless Fantasy”; Atoms For Peace, “Ingenue”; Bat For Lashes, “Lilies”; DeStorm, “See Me Standing”; and Toro Y Moi, “Say That”. The demand for not just innovation, but also recognition from online audiences presents an important “If a tree falls in the woods..” question for digital-era artists. Creating great work is not enough. That work must elicit reactions on the YouTube platform and social media.

And even then, tallying views and shares doesn’t account for just how active some fans are in the new economy of entertainment. The ‘Response of the Year’ and ‘YouTube Phenomenon’ awards acknowledge how many videos fans create themselves. The ‘Response of the Year’ award goes to the best fan remix, parody or response video and nominees include Boyce Avenue (feat. Fifth Harmony) “Mirrors”; Jayesslee, “Gangnam Style”; Lindsey Stirling and Pentatonix, “Radioactive”; ThePianoGuys, “Titanium/Pavane”; and Walk Off the Earth (feat. KRNFX), “I Knew You Were Trouble”. The ‘YouTube Phenomenon’ award goes to ‘trends the world could not escape from’. Nominees are based on the phenomena that generated the most fan videos and include Diamonds, Gangnam Style, Harlem Shake, I Knew You Were Trouble and Thrift Shop. Doling out awards for creative and/or voluminous responses to music videos signals a more active viewing experience and suggests artists should be prepared to activate fans’ own creative responses to their work.

Reggie Watts Explains Social Voting In ‘How to Cast Your Vote for the YTMAs’

Social media stats informed nominations and social media shares will determine the winners. As Reggie Watts explains in How to Cast Your Votes for the YTMAs, fans vote by searching ‘YTMA’ on YouTube and sharing their favorite nominees’ playlists on Facebook, Google+ or Twitter. On November 3rd, millions will watch the  awards show live on YouTube, commenting on, livetweeting and liking the videos they see. Compared to the MTV Video Music Awards, which gives awards based on professional selections and audience voting, or the People’s Choice Awards, which recorded popular opinion through Gallup polls until 2005 and didn’t even look at viewing behavior statistics until 2010, the YouTube Music Awards brings a much-needed social media reality check to awards shows. Though nominations this year might not reflect YouTube’s full artistic bandwidth, the social media nomination and selection process is a telling snapshot of digital entertainment.