YouTube: The catalyst for demonstrating the revolution of digital media convergence
By Isabel Pamatmat 428520
Since the emergence of the ‘digital revolution’, media convergence has been academically discussed and critically examined by many media scholars and sociologists (Keith 2012). Dwyer (2010) and Jenkins (2006) define media convergence as the ‘coming together of technologies for media consumption, production and distribution and how this leads to new forms and patterns of media use’ (Keith 2012). YouTube is a significant example of an online video-sharing service that demonstrates how media convergence has reconfigured the way that media practices are accomplished and how content is vastly disseminated across various media platforms (Jenkins 2006:2). Three important points will be discussed to demonstrate how media convergence has impacted the way that music video is distributed in the digital world through YouTube. First, YouTube has the widespread capacity to extend time and space when distributing media content to a mass audience (Thompson 1999). Second, YouTube has facilitated an environment where media access has made it possible for amateurs to create their own music videos (Jenkins 2006; Hilderbrand 2007; Burgess and Green 2009). Finally, media convergence has blurred the boundaries between the producer and the consumer, enabling viewers to be more interactive in the way that they approach content in a participatory culture (Thompson 1999, Jenkins 2006). These ideologies are integral aspects that need to be considered when discussing how digital media convergence has impacted the way that music video is distributed today.
In Thompson’s account of his five imperative characteristics of mass communication, he argues that media convergence enables symbolic forms to transcend time and space when distributed online to a mass audience (Thompson 1999:19). This is particularly evident through YouTube, where ‘instantaneity is one of its primary virtues’ (Hildebrand 2007:49). The music industry today promotes music artists and music videos online as the product is able to transcend landscape boundaries (Thompson 1999:19). Audiences today are constantly in the demands of instant gratification and this is predominantly beneficial for the promotion of online music videos because the message is able to get across on a more immediate scale (Hilderbrand 2007:49; Guiffre 2012). The winner of 2011’s triple j’s hottest 100, Gotye, and their track ‘Somebody That I Use To Know’ are renowned for their user-generated body-painting video that reached more than two million views in the first three weeks it was originally uploaded on YouTube (ABC 2010; Facebook 2012; GotyeMusic 2011). Previously, Australian music was promoted through public service broadcast television (e.g. Countdown) as a way of transporting new music to audiences all over the country (Guiffre 2012). However, with the development of digital media, analogue media is found to distribute content that is restricted and bound to local areas. Now consumers are provided with a broader access and availability to content online (Keith 2012; Hilderbrand 2007).
'Within three weeks of its striking, stop-frame, body-painting video being posted on YouTube, the song had received more than two million hits and made it to No.1 on the Hype Machine Twitter chart. Hear it once and you’ll be haunted by it for weeks.' (Facebook, 2012)
YouTube is considered as the ‘central portal of web video clips’, occupying a large amount of ‘cultural capital’ and the ‘go to place’ to discover new music (Hilderbrand 2007). Australian music video programmes are now gradually becoming part of the ‘television-computer convergence’ movement (Hilderbrand 2007:48), where shows have begun incorporating YouTube into their programs.. Channel 11’s music video show “Looptube” broadcasts popular music videos from YouTube itself. This development represents how broadcast television is much slower to promote ‘new’ music, as television music video is now re-promoting new bands and artists that have already been promoted online. The emergence of media convergence has therefore enabled music videos and media content to transcend time and space when uploaded online.
Henry Jenkins (2006) defines convergence as ‘both a top-down corporate driven process and a bottom up consumer-driven process.’ This concept is widely observed through YouTube, which introduces an innovative model of media accessibility as YouTube provides an online culture for amateur historiography (Hilderbrand 2007:54). New media technologies and media platforms have delivered an enhanced accessibility for users to engage with and create content of their own (Burgess and Green 2009:23). An example that demonstrates this is OK Go’s home-made music video ‘Here It Goes Again’ where the band recorded themselves performing a routine on treadmills (Guiffre 2012; Burgess and Green 2009:22); now citing 14 million views on YouTube (EmiMusic 2009). Musicians are now being discovered through amateur produced recordings of covers, compositions and DIY music videos, with other success stories such as Birdy (Jasmine van den Bogaerde), Justin Bieber and Terra Naomi (Club 977 2009). The revolution of media convergence has witnessed YouTube as the catalyst for a musician’s stepping stones ‘into fame and fortune’ because of the greater access that users have to new media technologies and platforms (Burgess and Green 2009:23).
The digital revolution has blurred the boundaries between the producer and consumer. Jenkins argues that convergence occurs within the ‘brains of individual consumers and through their social interactions with others’ (Jenkins 2006:3). YouTube in particular, has enabled viewers to be more interactive in the way that they approach content in a participatory culture that is fostered online (Thompson 1999:17; Jenkins 2006). Burgess and Green (2009:54) deliberate that ‘many user-created music videos also adopt a conversational mode’ where YouTube users are able to comment on videos, voice opinions, perspectives and feedback ratings immediately with the possibilities of engaging in an online participatory culture (Hilderbrand 2007:54). This movement demonstrates the cultural shift and dichotomous logic between old and new media, where new media is prone to an audience who is more ‘active’, ‘predictable’ and ‘socially connected’ rather than previous audiences ‘passively’ and ‘silently’ watching the ‘top hits’ on television music video programmes (Keith 2012; Jenkins 2006; Guiffre 2012).
Media convergence has revolutionised the way that music video is distributed, produced and disseminated across various new and digitized media platforms (Jenkins 2006:2). YouTube plays an integral role in establishing the functions that media convergence plays in today’s world of technological advancements. Convergence has expanded the possibilities of transcending time and space and music videos are not limited to an isolated audience, but are rather transmitted to a larger mass audience because of YouTube’s ‘viral phenomenon’ (Thompson 1999; Hilderbrand 2007:48). YouTube has achieved an environment where media access has made it possible for amateurs to create their own music videos, therefore allowing consumers to be an essential part of driving the media convergence process (Jenkins 2006; Hilderbrand 2007; Burgess and Green 2009). Finally, YouTube is a catalyst for demonstrating how media convergence has reshaped the relationship between media producers and consumers. These boundaries have now blurred due to the formation of a participatory culture that is found online (Thompson 1999, Jenkins 2006). In conclusion, digital media convergence has impacted the way that music video is consumed, produced and distributed because the flow of content through new media technologies and new media forms, such as YouTube, has made it available for individuals to be flexible in the way they accomplish and perform media practices (Jenkins 2006).
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