YouTube: The new cultural barometer

If you’re not keeping up with YouTube, you’re not keeping up with our culture. Watch all The Daily Show and Colbert Report you want, but you’re not keeping up. And if you’re one the the lackluster souls stuck on Leno, Letterman and SNL or the nightly news casts, you might as well be watching Ed Sullivan and Milton Berle.

YouTube is taking over.

Here’s an NYT piece on Funtwo, a guitarist who performs a stunningly remarkable rendition of Pachelbel’s Cannon. See it here.

I am becoming increasingly aware that YouTube is so vast, that it really contains multiple tribes/cultures, from video bloggers, viral videos, highlights from pop culture video and aspiring filmmakers, YouTube is documenting and expanding culture at a rate no other site can match. It’s just just a matter of uploading MSM video clips or out-of-focus home movies. More and more people are creating content — and some of it quite good — just for YouTube.

There are new stars being born and often these people have no other ambition other than to be heard. YouTube is on the verge of doing to MSM video what craigslist is doing to print classifieds: replacing paid, well-packaged content with amateur, peer-to-peer content.

Between YouTube and other video online, we might soon find our television sets nearly superfluous.

As for the Funtwo phenomena, I’ve stumbled across a few instructional type of guitar videos, some videos of people performing their own guitar instrumentals, but until I read the Times piece (hat tip to my wife), I didn’t realize that a whole community has sprung up around teaching each other guitar and critiquing each other’s work.

When I popped on YouTube this morning, I found this featured video — no kid, but an old man with an old guitar doing some Travis picking that is certainly worthy of study and emulation. Watch it and you’ll find links to to others.

Personally, I’ve enjoyed YouTube for its long tail of old rockabilly videos (I need to get back to posting some of those again soon). But I’ve also randomly checked out the homemade videos, the video bloggers, and the stupid, silly, unartistic things people upload for no redeeming reason whatsoever. But it’s clear that for those who completely immerse themselves in YouTube, there is a wealth of entertaining, educational and socially significant content being posted every day. It’s a content cavern so vast that no MSM outlet can match it — and the site isn’t even a year old yet.

If I were a musician or a music label, I wouldn’t dream of releasing a song without an accompanying video to place on YouTube.

If I were an aspiring filmmaker, I would create videos just for YouTube, such as this one by the son of one of my former professors (If you’re not Nazarene, you may not appreciate all the humor of Nazbo Rap, but it’s a well done piece and reasonably popular on YouTube).

There isn’t much caution in my pronouncements about the ascendancy of YouTube, but I think all the trends are in its favor: Expanding broadband capabilities, greater acceptance by people to creating their own content, the growing availability of inexpensive and easy to use production tools, and a market domination that isn’t likely to be challenged any time soon. I think we’re a long way from seeing YouTube crest in its popularity.

UPDATE: More evidence of YouTube’s cultural significance:
Jon Fine of Business Week spends
an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out who Lonelygirl15 is.

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