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First YouTube Music Awards: Awkward but Endearing

In its ongoing attempt to fill its ever-growing shoes and be seen as a legitimate music access outlet (which it really is, by the numbers), last night YouTube held its first-ever music awards show, streamed live from Pier 36 in New York City.

As can be typical with first attempts, the show was filled with awkward moments and missteps, both from lack of experience and from the flawed execution of some very ambitious ideas. Creatively directed by filmmaker Spike Jonze, the YouTube Music Awards were intended to have a spontaneous feel (as host Jason Schwartzman affirmed when he admitted he and co-host Reggie Watts were operating without a script), but the spontaneity often translated into disjointed flow and what’s-next? moments. The “live video” performances directed by Jonze were among the most creative and ambitious parts of the night—for example, when actress Greta Gerwig danced onstage as the apartment backdrop behind her morphed into a forest during Arcade Fire’s performance of “Afterlife,” or when violin sensation Lindsey Stirling “flew” through a three-dimensional projection of a cityscape during her performance of “Crystallize.” But even then, it was apparent that these and other productions lacked spit-and-polish, and the visual effects often failed to “fool” the viewers.

And then there was the viewership of the awards show, which was predictably live streamed on YouTube. Even with all the advance advertising and multiple Internet outlets embedding it, the Internet broadcast apparently wasn’t able to compete with Sunday television, as Hypebot reports, total live streaming at its peak reached a meager 220,000 viewers.

Even so, the rawness and spontaneity of the show still led to some very endearing moments. As Macklemore and Ryan Lewis accepted the award for Breakthrough of the Year while the hosts carried a pair of crying babies (?) in their arms, Macklemore quipped, “I can’t believe we won these kids, man.” Likewise, Arcade Fire frontman Win Butler couldn’t help recreating the infamous Kanye moment by interrupting the group of cover artists who had just won the YouTube Phenomenon award for their rendition of Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble”:

“Not Taylor Swift, I’m gonna let you finish, Not Taylor Swift. The YouTube phenomenon of the year was definitely the ‘Harlem Shake,’” Butler fake-ranted. “I don’t know, no disrespect, but everybody knows that if you’ve ever been on YouTube or whatever.” The crowd ate it up.

Despite its foibles and missteps, though, the one thing the inaugural YouTube Music Awards demonstrated was promise. It already has garnered the support of some industry greats (when the likes of Eminem and Lady Gaga show up to perform on your show, it certainly lends credibility), and the overall production, while disjointed, definitely showed potential. This first attempt may have been a bit of a hot mess, but don’t rule this one out. All it will take to make this awards show a dominant industry player in upcoming years is to iron out a few kinks.


View highlights of the YouTube Music Awards here.



Artist of the Year: Eminem

Breakthrough of the Year: Macklemore and Ryan Lewis

Video of the Year: Girls’ Generation “I Got a Boy”

Innovation of the Year: DeStorm “See Me Standing”

YouTube Phenomenon: “I Knew You Were Trouble”

Response of the Year: Lindsey Stirling and Pentatonix, “Radioactive”


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About the Author


David Tillman is an independent composer/arranger whose primary work involves writing jingles for commercials for radio and television, with several film and television placements to his credit as well. David has a fascination for all things related to the music business and the music industry in general, an obsession which his wife finds to be mildly unhealthy at times. His personal tastes in music are in electronica and industrial rock, and include The Chemical Brothers, Daft Punk and Nine Inch Nails (he loves that Trent Reznor is writing soundtracks!). When not in his office or in his man-cave, David enjoys skiing, hiking, the occasional game of golf, and sometimes just lounging by the pool. David lives with his wife and three children in Los Angeles, CA.

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Posted in: Featured, Music Industry