With YouTube being a global website, the video site’s YTMA awards show was bound to be an international affair, but amongst the glamour was a controversy storm.
According to YouTube themselves, the current statistics of the video streaming and sharing site state that it’s localised in 56 countries, with it being optimised in 61 different languages, seeing user figures reach over the massive total of 1 billion unique users per month. In comparison, there are only around 7 billion people on the planet at all. Not only this, but 6 billion hours of video are watched by YouTube users month – “almost an hour for every person on Earth” – meaning that no matter what corner of the globe you’re in, YouTube is virtually unavoidable. Much of these statistics are unsurprisingly down to lovers of music; those who go to the site when the music video of their favourite band is released and those who want to have another listen of a track they loved in yesteryear. It makes sense then, that YouTube recently hosted the ‘YouTube Music Awards’ to celebrate the best music related content on the site, but, amongst the glitz, the glamour and fan support, the inaugural ceremony didn’t quite go as planned.
The concept of the YTMAs was as follows; there would be several categories, each with several nominees, such as Breakthrough of the Year, for the up and comers, YouTube Phenomenon, for the most meme-ified music video and, the big one, Video of the Year. Hosted by Reggie Watts and Scott Pilgrim vs The World actor Jason Schwartzman, the show was unscripted, meant to feel like a YouTube video, according to director Spike Jonze, but, like the creamiest cream cake with the flimsiest pastry, the entire show fell apart.
At its peak, the YouTube hosted livestream of the YTMAs reached about 200,000 viewers, with most of that figure being made up of fans, eager to see results for the awards given that they have spent the better part of a fortnight voting on the winner. I, was also one of those 200,000 viewers, having to sit through one of the most uncomfortable viewing experiences I’ve ever been put through. The point of the New York-hosted award show was to be funny, there were cameos from actresses Vanessa Hudgens and Rashida Jones and, strangely, there was also a cameo by two babies in diapers who promptly started crying. Me too babies, me too. I say that because the ensuing show was a literal mess of explosive paint powder (used to decorate an on-stage drama performance), cakes that had to be smashed by the hosts to reveal the winner and a collection of live music videos, put together there and then on the night. It even featured a live performance from Lady Gaga, in her usual eccentric and unexplainable style, which makes you wonder why, with such performers as herself (along with appearances from rockers Arcade Fire and hip-hop duo du jour, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis) the YTMAs turned out so poorly. But, what the YTMAs lacked in entertainment value, they made up with in cold, hard controversy.
Much of this stems from the other big winners of the night, Kpop group, Girls’ Generation. A 9 member multi-lingual band based in South Korea, who sing in Korean, English and Japanese, the female chart-toppers are one of the single most viewed music acts on the entire web. With hits like Gee, The Boys and one of their latest hits, I Got A Boy (which saw them nominated in the Video of the Year category) all well over the 50 million view mark on YouTube (Gee has over twice that much) the band have dominated the charts and garnered fan love from those who don’t even speak a word of the language. So, when Girls’ Generation were revealed as the winners of the inaugural YTMA for Video of the Year and member, Tiffany Hwang, went up to collect it, the ensuing reaction was an entire slew of unwarranted hate from fans of the other nominees, such as Demi Lovato, Justin Bieber and the aforementioned Lady Gaga.
Most, if not all of it, came in the form of racial abuse, with many tweets and comments stating that she needs to ‘go home’, despite the fact that Tiffany is actually American-born, with plenty of abusive comments being slung at her and her other band members’ skin tone, language and general appearance. Other instances of disgruntled fans asked if this particular award had been rigged, with others simply asking ‘who the hell are Girls’ Generation, do they even have fans?’ with the answer being ‘they are one of the most popular female groups in the world, with more fans than you can shake their 4 gold and platinum certified albums at’. But on a statistical level, they did deserve to win, racking up over 3 million votes via Twitter, Facebook and several other social media channels thanks to fan voting, with the runner up, Demi Lovato, just about reaching 300,000.
What the YTMAs does say about YouTube is that the Google-owned company may not have a place in the music industry. If Lady Gaga has over 40 million Twitter followers and Justin Bieber too has over 45 million and only 200,000 people watched the YTMAs, what justifies YouTube’s need to host a show like this, when the MTV VMAs, an embarrassing yet much-watched stalwart, exists? Too, what can YouTube do to improve how multi-cultural it is and to make things a more pleasant experience for fans of all groups and musicians from all ethnicities alike. And finally, the other question that needs to be asked is whether or not YouTube needs to diversify and be professional, when most of us seem perfectly happy with watching cat videos, comedy shorts and, quite clearly, we seem perfectly happy watching kpop music videos too.
Source: Statistics from the YouTube Press Site
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