“If it got your eyes wide, I call it highbrow” sings Noel Miller, in his song ‘Motor Yola’. This exemplifies what I love about Youtuber music. YouTube has become this petri dish for a new demi-genre of music created by Youtubers who have taken up music. Not all this music is good, but YouTubers have a unique platform that has potential, style, and character which can lead to incredible music. YouTubers are nestled in a particular culture that encourages freedom and lyricism not found elsewhere.
Their greatest strength is in artistic freedom. A successful YouTuber has a unique opportunity when creating music: that of a dedicated audience and professional recording equipment and skills. YouTubers can take risks and make mistakes that other artists would not be able to; they are free from both label and the need to find a new audience. They can take risks and find their niche with relative ease, with YouTubers like Corpse, Anna Akana, and Wilbur Soot all creating music that directly ties into their YouTube brand. The channel itself works as an incredible marketing campaign, already created through years of work. This ease of creation leads to lazy cash grabs (see Jake Paul’s All I Want for Christmas) but also to the genesis of incredible artists like Dodie, Noel Miller and Tessa Violet.
YouTuber music has its own flavour, often lyrically focused with the intent of critique, commentary, or interaction. This style has developed organically from the origin of such music. From Tobuscus singing about Minecraft, Ryan Higa writing about nice guys, to the sidemen writing about each other’s faults, Youtubers’ use of music as a tool primarily to communicate has built it into this particular lyrical niche for so many YouTubers-turned-musicians.
You may not enjoy Youtuber music. Not all of it is good. However, the platform has catalysed a new wave of artists that have significant cultural and artistic merit.
I have discovered most of my favorite music on YouTube, so in theory, I should not be against YouTubers making music. I am not against people making music and distributing it through YouTube--after all, artists such as the Fiechter Brothers and Jonathan Young make excellent music as their main content on the platform.
I am against people becoming YouTubers, building a following, and then, suddenly, deciding that they could increase profit and market their brand further by making music. This is a widespread phenomenon that has been popular for the past few years, including YouTubers as varied and controversial as PewDiePie, SMOSH, the Paul Brothers, Jacob Sartorius, Tana Mongeau, JENerationDIY, and the Odd 1s Out. Their musical endeavours range from a few singles to multiple albums, usually with videos.
Although the question of what constitutes art is contentious, art that is made solely for the purpose of marketing and profit is typically low-quality. In our capitalist society, most artists must sell their work in order to survive, making this line blurry, but I think it is usually clear when a work is a money grab rather than a passion project. Music made by YouTubers is often a money grab--heavily-autotuned songs with unimaginative lyrics, produced by people with little to no musical training or experience, so that they can rebrand themselves as musicians and reap the financial benefits.
Music quality is complex, mediocre music will always have fans, and I can't condemn YouTuber music for simply not being to my taste. The main problem with YouTuber music is the target audience. YouTube's target demographic is young--in 2018, 81% of US parents allowed children 11 and under to use the platform (Source: Pew Research Center). YouTubers are aware of this, and hence market themselves as figures to whom children should give attention, admiration, and, ultimately, money. YouTuber music preys on children's desire to support people whom they have been misled into viewing as peers or idols, who have already made thousands, if not millions, of dollars off of their young audience. Although artistic criticism is subjective, business ethics is significantly less so.