It’s likely the one-hit wonder writers of “Video Killed the Radio Star” had no idea how prophetic they would actually be. The Buggles, the band name that no one remembers or cares about, released their seminal work in 1979, and, in 2014, video has all but made radio a passing fancy. Of course, the song was written at the advent of MTV and at a time when televisions had become quite common. Video was the new medium and it was clearly here to stay.
So, it’s probably ironic that, in this day and age, the easiest way to access a quick (and free) listen to the 1979 classic is by going to YouTube, a website full of over 800 million videos. Indeed, you can likely find an illegal download of the song or just purchase it on iTunes or Amazon, but if you just want to listen to it, there’s no better place to go than YouTube. Obviously, the Buggles couldn’t have predicted the rise of the internet or how popular video would become in this new medium, but they seem like geniuses now.
The Real Power of YouTube
While music execs and recording artists are trying to figure out a way to curb illegal downloads and increase music purchases, YouTube has consistently been a source for music since its inception. In fact, more American teenagers get their music from YouTube than anywhere else according to a Nielsen study in 2012. YouTube is frequently becoming a place for recording artists to make names for themselves. For instance, Psy’s “Gangnam Style” likely would have never received such a global audience without the pervasiveness of YouTube. With views numbering in the billions, Psy is certainly thankful for the video streaming site.
For some artists, a YouTube view is more powerful than a music download or even an album purchase. Indeed, Billboard and Nielsen reached an agreement to add a US YouTube video streaming category to their music lists. One study by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) even indicated that 90% of the most-viewed videos on the website were related to music in some way. The allure of free streaming music is almost impossible to pass up.
Becoming Famous Overnight
There is no doubt that this is a world of instant stardom. Ordinary people can literally become household names in a matter of hours, and it’s almost all thanks to websites like YouTube. Recording artists can ply their trade via the streaming website, gain a following, and the next thing you know they’re on MTV. This is the path that global superstar, Justin Bieber, took to achieve his fame. He was recruited based entirely off of his YouTube videos and presence and turned into one of the most famous pop stars in the last several years.
But, Justin Bieber isn’t the only YouTube success story. Plenty of other artists have hit it big (and rather suddenly) just by posting videos online. Ukrainian singer, VERONIKA, had spent much of her life in the background. Although she worked as a model and television personality, her name recognition wasn’t that great. She was perhaps more well-known for her other jobs as a tour guide around Ukraine’s capital city of Kiev and an English to Russian or Ukrainian translator. But, in 2012, she decided to make a concerted effort in the direction of a music career, and she decided to use YouTube to help.
Her single, “Ain’t Russian Doll” reached 2 million views within the first month of posting. Months after deciding she wanted to be a singer, she was already being viewed by millions of people across the globe. This is the power of YouTube in a nutshell and it’s something that helped kick-start the careers of perhaps hundreds of recording artists. VERONIKA, Justin Bieber, and Rebecca Black all have something in common: they are part of the all-encompassing “video” that killed the radio star. They have taken an aural medium and turned into a visual one. And, more than that, they’ve garnered fame for their musical talents. Maybe this is the dream world that The Buggles had imagined in 1979, after all.
Trent Lockhart is an avid music writer for multiple online websites and magazines. He enjoys all genres of music and can be see attending shows around the Grand Rapids, Michigan area. He is a graduate of Kalamazoo Christian and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Liberal Arts from the University of Michigan.