February 24, 2012 at 12:32 pm

Radio on the TV: KCRW Curates Music on YouTube

We heard it again at the Digital Music Forum East conference earlier this week: YouTube, which most people consider to be a general video site, is where “the kids” go to hear music these days. It’s arguable the biggest music service in the world, even though it lacks a premium tier, and includes only fairly rudimentary playlist functions.

Our theory: Its success is due in no small part to video ads commanding more advertising dollars than audio or display ads. That also explains why the audio-only imeem — the would-be “YouTube of audio” — failed where YouTube succeeded, to the point where the site’s top brass believe free music can pay as well as “paid” music. However, YouTube also succeeded because it’s “YouTube,” with an audience so big that even labels like Warner that resisted initially eventually came around.

YouTube’s licensing deals, which even include The Beatles (not found on Spotify or any other on-demand service), have made YouTube not only a destination, but a platform, thanks to its API (application programming interface), which powers Cull.tv and other apps. Media entities don’t even need to use the YouTube API in order to make YouTube mash-ups. Take KCRW’s new initiative, “The Cue,” featuring YouTube playlists (below) curated by the respected public radio station’s music programmers.

“This is the next logical step in KCRW’s quest to discover music and share it,” said KCRW General Manager Jennifer Ferro. “Just like we’ve always done sifting through the great world of music and uncovering the gems, we do so now in the vast music universe of YouTube.”

This is old-school music curation (radio) mashed up with new-school delivery (on-demand streaming) — and it’s not using Spotify; it’s using YouTube. Part of the reason for that, according to The Cue creative director Betsy Moyer, is that KCRW wants to attract YouTube users. They might not listen to the radio in LA or use the station’s Music Mine app, but they already think of YouTube as a music service. It also can’t have hurt that it only takes a few minutes to put together a YouTube playlist featuring each DJ’s selections, once KCRW has produced and uploaded videos of the DJs introducing each song — with revenue-shared ads on each intro clip, of course.

Stay tuned as we continue to look into YouTube as a music platform. Now, on to the music!