“I’m trying to be as objective as I can in my research,” says Piotrowski, who is also a graduate student in music management. The video for “One Big Happy Family” — a collaborative effort from the Misfits, Nine Inch Nails and the White Stripes — got more than 1.4 million views on YouTube alone, according to Piotrowski, who is writing his dissertation on the revenue potential of music videos. He is hoping to get his thesis done as quickly as possible. “I really don’t know how to tell the story because I don’t really understand why people are going to watch music videos,” says Piotrowski. While he has researched the topic at length, “it’s such a difficult topic to understand because it’s such a broad field,” he acknowledges. It’s also a topic of contention for the big music companies. They say that video-on-demand models are more cost-effective than traditional music sales, and the YouTube “community” is filled with people who want to make music videos, not music salesmen. If companies like Spotify, YouTube and Bleep got their way, all they would have to do is provide music videos by third parties — not from an artist or label, like music videos are usually funded through.
But the big companies see video as a way to increase their revenue by creating something that consumers are already watching on computers, smartphones or other devices. They are making billions of dollars off videos on YouTube.
YouTube is the first big place where it wants to be involved “in helping people monetize” their videos, says Mike Schur, VP of global product strategy and strategy for YouTube. Schur says that many companies have experimented with revenue models involving video. “It has been talked about,” and “we think there are things that are really going to help drive the next billion dollars in digital advertising.” For one, YouTube hopes to help companies reach people who cannot or won’t visit traditional TV, but can watch TV on devices like iPads, Android phones, Amazon Fire tablets and televisions. “TV is a huge revenue generator,” says Shur. But unlike television, which is mostly for adults, young people watch “TV like it’s still 1984,” says Schur. “They are watching Netflix” instead of “Soda or pizza.”
So far, however, the big music companies aren’t playing ball. YouTube has partnered with companies like the New York Times (“We want [them] to be
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