The connection between music and the world of online video is becoming increasingly obvious. The inclusion of YouTube statistics in the Billboard formula last year only formalized what most music industry observers already knew — a video success on YouTube can be directly correlated with radio play and album sales. With that in mind, label giant Universal Music is partnering with TV producer Brian Robins, Steve Rifkind of Loud Records, and hip hop renaissance man Russell Simmons to launch the boutique, youth-focused label Awesomeness Music Partners.
Universal CEO Lucian Grainge is no stranger to the world of YouTube or its multi-channel networks, which brings together content creators from across the platform in hopes of finding larger audiences. Grainge sits on the board of DreamWorks Animation, the studio that owns massive teen-oriented MCN AwesomenessTV. As such, he and his partners in the Universal venture are well aware of YouTube’s ability to help up-and-coming artists develop a large and passionate fan base without ever releasing an album.
The label, which has been quietly operating within Universal for about a year, already counts popular YouTube performers like sister-act Cimorelli and 19-year-old pop chanteuse Niykee Heaton among its signees. The label is preparing to release EPs for Heaton and Cimorelli in August and September, respectively. AwesomenessTV already manages the YouTube careers of up-and-comers like Austin Mahone and British boyband The Vamps. Rifkind also told the New York Post that the label is looking to sign two additional new artists by the end of August and will be looking to youth-focused MCNs to identify worthy new talent.
The news comes at a time when online video powerhouses like YouTube, Yahoo and Vimeo have all been making moves to deepen their ties to the music industry. It’s no surprise that YouTube can radically change the trajectory of a music career. It was a stylish music video, released on YouTube, that turned niche Aussie artist Iggy Azalea into a hip hop it-girl. Music artists who have been incubated on YouTube come up with a built-in social following that lends strength to their initial releases. The site has already changed the way traditional labels find talent. YouTube native labels are nothing new. The Vlog Brothers’ DFTBA Records has already found success with releases from YouTube stars like Charlie McDonnell and Carrie Hope Fletcher. Awesomeness will be the first such venture by a major music brand, but it’s unlikely to be the last.
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