YouTube 100 sheepishly materialized this week. The feature itself is minor, a space in their music section listing the 100 most popular music vids. But for the future of the music video, the implications are HUGE. In the best possible way.
YouTube 100 not only lists the Top 100 vids, but lets you play them back to back automatically. (Roku and AppleTV need to get this on their boxes). YouTube 100 returns us to an era when finding and watching music videos isn't an arbitrary, single-serve experience. It makes watching vids less about personal discovery and more about the shared experience. And it's as populist as the MTV of yore: our clicks determine what hits the top of the list. It will make music videos relevant again, which they haven't been for quite some time.
When MTV cancelled TRL and decided they only wanted to show every form of reality TV under the sun, the music video basically died. I mean, specimens still existed (YouTube was coming into its own), but the music video universe had turned into a wasteland of cheaply made abominations that depended on viral distribution for views.
Gone were the days of Diddy's 10 minute, multi-million dollar epics, which featured big name actors and entire scenes that had little—if nothing—to do with the song. Gone was the video premiere as an event. Some artist (or if they were lucky, PR flak) would just upload a video to a YouTube unceremoniously. Gone was the focused, steady stream of music videos force-fed to us in 30 and 60 minute blocks. Instead, we watched what someone emailed to us, then went back to staring at animated GIFs. Also gone were the video countdowns—there's something to be said for coming to your own conclusions, but filters and lists always make things more interesting, amiright?
But then something happened. Musicians and labels learned how to market music on the internet (even if they still have no idea how to make money off of said marketing). They learned that a music video gone viral could be a crucial turning point for an artist. They learned how to make the music video an event again (have you SEEN Kanye's Runaway?!). And when this happened, videos started getting the time and money and care they needed to flourish on the internet. Many of the recent videos from the likes Beyonce, Lady Gaga and Kanye West have had TV-quality production values, but largely found their viewership online.
The problem has been that there's been no single, communal space where these videos are curated and discussed. MTV has had its MTV Hive site for a while now, but they've kept it far too obscure and feature-lacking to really connect with the masses. Vimeo, despite having a treasure trove of amazing content, is too niche in its scope to find a mainstream audience. And YouTube on its own is too chaotic to facilitate a sense of community.
But now that they've added the YouTube 100, we have a starting place. Something to talk about. Something to disagree with. It's a reason to care about music videos again. You know, just as long as VEVO doesn't ruin it all with those crappy, borderline intrusive ads.