Just in time for its 10th birthday, YouTube announced Tuesday that it’s entering the feature-film business with a new venture with AwesomenessTV, the popular Web network owned by DreamWorks Animation. But if that deal promises to affect the movie industry, music fans know that the video-sharing site began remaking the record industry long ago. Here, in chronological order, are five important music moments from YouTube’s first decade.
1. OK Go, “Here It Goes Again” (2009) More commonly known as “the treadmill video,” OK Go’s “Here It Goes Again” became one of the first viral music clips of the YouTube era after the proudly nerdy power-pop group posted it in 2009. At that time, singer Damian Kulash and his bandmates felt they weren’t receiving the attention they deserved from their record label, so they conceived the homemade video as a way to attract eyeballs on the cheap. The ploy worked, and six years later OK Go is still cranking out elaborately staged videos that rack up tens of millions of views.
2. U2, Rose Bowl concert YouTube users are accustomed these days to streaming concerts online – even the prestigious Coachella festival, much of which is viewable every year without trekking out to the desert east of Los Angeles. But the practice was less familiar in 2009, when U2 streamed a sold-out concert at the Rose Bowl to an estimated audience of 10 million viewers, paving the way for countless vicarious experiences to come.
3. Rebecca Black, “Friday” Humanity needs novelty songs, and YouTube provided a digital-age place to put them, including this still-delightful 2011 ditty by a California teen whose mother paid a full-service production company to write and record the song. “Kickin’ in the front seat / Sittin’ in the back seat,” Black sang, invoking an age-old dilemma. “Gotta make my mind up / Which seat can I take?”
4. Psy, “Gangnam Style” Most Americans hadn’t heard of this Korean pop star before his video for “Gangnam Style” landed on YouTube in 2012 -- and most probably haven’t thought about him since. But with more than 2 billion views, Psy’s left-field smash clearly demonstrated that a hit song could be born outside the traditional power structure of MTV and Top 40 radio.
5. Miley Cyrus, “Wrecking Ball” Cyrus didn’t need YouTube to make a name for herself, of course; the Disney Channel (and a certain foam finger) established her stardom well before this willfully provocative 2013 clip. Yet “Wrecking Ball” – in which the former Hannah Montana takes a naked joy ride atop the object in the song’s title – felt like an embrace of the idea that some music, rather than using YouTube as a launching pad, is experienced at its fullest on the site.