Forty years after video killed the radio star, YouTube is transforming music. Here’s what brands need to know

It’s a good time to be a music fan. With streaming platforms, you can listen to any song, anytime, anywhere, as often as you want.

Yet for today’s consumers, listening is not enough. People’s passion for music is fuelled by video, and it is coming to life on YouTube in ways you might not expect. Beyond music videos, fans are watching everything from dance choreography to band interviews.

To find out more about how music consumption has evolved, we spoke to both fans1 and creators. Here’s what’s new and what marketers need to know.

Music fans expect access to artists 

When MTV burst on to the airwaves, it showed how powerful it can be to pair visuals with music. That’s still the case today, and official music videos are among the most popular content on YouTube. But music on the platform is about so much more than that.

Of course, there’s content that helps music fans connect with their favourite artists on a deeper level, such as concert footage and artist interviews. 

But in a world where anyone with a camera can create a video and share it online, we’re also witnessing completely new types of music content come to life, from cover songs and mash ups, to memes and parodies, to lyric and reaction videos. For example, over the past 12 months, we’ve seen over 3,100 years of watch time of lyric videos,2 where lyrics appear on screen as the song is played. 

“It’s not just official music videos. YouTube has interviews and live performances and footage straight from the band tour bus. It’s content you couldn’t find anywhere else.” Amelia, 43



It’s not just young people. YouTube music fans span all generations 

While teens certainly love watching music content on YouTube, audiences you might not expect are tuning in as well: 60% of Americans aged 35 to 54 and 29% of Americans aged 55 and up say they visit YouTube for music-related content at least once a week.3

Human-Story-Music-EN

Why? First, music is one of those mega categories that everyone loves. But we also found that nostalgia plays a role. Of the people who watch music on YouTube, 68% do so when they’re feeling nostalgic.4 And of course, visuals can pull on heartstrings more than music alone.

“They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and a video is worth an infinite amount of words.” Gage, 25

Music creators – from dancers to cover artists – are part of the promotion process, reshaping how hits are created

In the past, labels had a limited number of ways to promote their music: radio stations and press. Today, in a world where fan covers can drive just as many views as the official music video, labels are rethinking how they release and promote songs. In fact, artists and labels are beginning to go to YouTube creators for help promoting their songs, recognising their influence with fans.

Human-Story-Music-EN

The data suggests these strategies pay off: 91% of YouTube music users who have made music-related purchases in the past year have watched a related YouTube video beforehand.5

“Music labels are coming to people like me saying, these are our songs, and we want you to promote them because traditional methods are no longer working.” Kyle Hanagami, YouTube Creator 

What this all means for brands 

MTV may no longer play a lot of music videos, but the visual component of music is more salient than ever. No matter who you’re looking to connect with, they’re deeply engaging with music content on YouTube. Music is therefore an opportunity to reach consumers of all ages and backgrounds, at scale.

Brands should also think about how they can partner with different types of musical influencers, since few other genres incite as much passion.

Get more bang from your video buy: three tips for driving direct response