By Oliver Whitehouse
As a director I’ve had plenty of success on YouTube; Giggs ‘Monsta Man’ has had over 1.5 million views, Giggs feat. Example ‘Look Over Your Shoulder’ has recently reached 1 million, and Krept’s Paranormal remix is over 650,000. But not many in the rap circles know that 5 years ago I uploaded a ‘pool trick shots’ video solely featuring myself which has since received 3.7 million views, from there the video went on to be seen on TV in Germany and the US. The tricks in the video were decent and it was amusing at the time, however I haven’t been contacted by sponsors or given a rent paying cheque as a result… I made the video in the earlier days of YouTube; (which then had a large audience, but not nearly as much content) knowing that videos of this nature were susceptible to receive interest. Once my video went viral, being featured on the homepage and received over a million hits in one day I looked to hook a minor percentage of the viewers onto my more serious and personal videos.
I understood the need to appeal to the masses in order to get some attention, however once the initial hype has been created it is essential to convey personality through original expression and to begin selling your product; otherwise you are pressured to continue delivering hype and generic content to an audience whose tastes may change at the drop of a hat, and you have failed to convert those who like your product to those who love and are willing to pay for it.
YouTube is home to some very entertaining content; sneezing pandas, laughing babies, backflips gone wrong, cute kittens, etc. The related videos column ensures that many of us have started off watching one video, then ended up sidetracked for an hour.
It is surprising that so many of us as artists have chosen this as the platform of choice. We are leaving ourselves open to the decisions of a platform which is so general that it needs to appeal to all ages, nationalities and sexes. Clearly it is not catered to independent industries or genres, or allow customisation to an extent where the platform can properly function or represent the content, we are leaving ourselves open to having irrelevant Justin Bieber banners being promoted millimetres from content we may have taken months to complete. If this is not a sobering thought, it should be.
The platform revolves around numbers; views, likes & dislikes, comments, subscribers, etc. In the UK scene it seems there is often far more attention placed on view counts than the actual substance of the music and visual content. Viewers race to write ‘1st’ to achieve the title of being the first person to write a comment. The emphasis should be to interact with the piece with an opinion on the content or to ask a question about the video; either to content owners or other viewers.
My opinion is that the numbers have become a distraction and this mentality has spread to the extent that bragging rights are no longer based on lyrical ability or quality of the music, artwork and video, but based on how many views your latest video has received; as a result the quest for gimmicks and cheap talking points are beginning to outweigh the necessity for quality.
Urban Kingdom is immensely different to YouTube, it is a channel rather than a platform and more will be revealed in time, but of the many differences for now I will stress the importance of the removal of numeric distractions (i.e. no view counts, etc.), in doing so has placed the emphasis back onto the art. The reason I stress the importance of this is that you wouldn’t expect to go to the cinema and underneath the picture see a stream of feedback or spoilers, non relevant advertising displayed to the right of the film whilst playing, etc. We take the piece more seriously because we become engulfed by it, if the film doesn’t entertain we are free to leave the building but if it does our experience is interrupted and altogether more satisfying. To put this to the test try watching one of my earlier videos which appear on both YouTube and Urban Kingdom and see if you enjoy watching one more than another.
Follow Oliver Whitehouse on Twitter: @Oliwhitehouse