To promote its new song from platinum-selling country-music artist Hunter Hayes and Grammy winner Jason Mraz on Tuesday, Warner Music Group didn’t book its stars on “Good Morning America” or “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon.”
It made a video for YouTube.
YouTube has elbowed out radio, MTV, Yahoo and Myspace as the leading way to reach young music listeners, and some of its personalities have emerged as tastemakers.
“For teens through age 24, YouTube is where people listen to the most music,” said David Bakula, a senior vice president at audience-measurement firm Nielsen. “It’s ahead of radio, it’s ahead of things like Pandora (and other forms of) streaming radio or any other apps that they might use to listen to music.”
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Its power is hard to ignore. Robin Thicke’s summer sizzler “Blurred Lines” received 464,000 spins at U.S. radio stations tracked by Nielsen and generated 6 million digital song sales through last week.
The two official YouTube versions of the song drew 217 million views worldwide over the same period.
Although YouTube doesn’t sell music, it can expose a song to its 1 billion monthly users. If the song is a hit, some portion of the viewers will spring for a download from iTunes, Amazon.com or a similar service. And even if they don’t buy the song, YouTube and the record company share in the revenue from ads that accompany the video.
The idea for the collaboration was hatched last March by executives of Warner Music and YouTube, a unit of Google, who were attending the South by Southwest music and media conference in Austin, Texas.
Warner Music executives were looking for ways to reach consumers known as Generation C — a term Google uses to describe people ages 18 to 34 who watch online video, visit social networks and blogs, and use tablets and smartphones.
“We were trying to figure out this new concept of how to reach Generation C, how we connect with fans on a much deeper level,” said Jeremy Holley, Warner Music Nashville’s senior vice president of consumer marketing.
Working in partnership with YouTube, Warner Music embarked on a rare musical joint venture between its recording artists and the musicians who have cultivated their fan bases on the site.
Warner contacted seven YouTube creators whose musical styles were compatible with those of Hayes and Mraz.
It invited Tyler Ward, Kina Grannis, Peter Hollens and other YouTube notables to record cover versions of “Everybody’s Got Somebody but Me,” which were incorporated into the original song to produce a new track.
The resulting musical collaboration served as the soundtrack for a music video, “The Hunter Hayes YouTube Orchestra featuring Jason Mraz,” which debuts exclusively on YouTube, before the anticipated release of the official music video this month.
Warner even relocated the official music-video shoot to Los Angeles from Nashville, Tenn., so Hayes and Mraz could accommodate the project, which is directed by filmmaker and YouTube music producer Kurt Hugo Schneider.
Warner Music executives hope the musical-mashup music will introduce the song to a generation of fans who rely on YouTube personalities as tastemakers.
“For some kids, people like Kurt Schneider and Tyler Ward are people that they trust,” said J Scavo, senior vice president of interactive marketing for Warner Bros. Records.
“We took a natural jump into getting our artists in front of a demographic that’s tough to get 100 percent through traditional means.”