Lady Gaga, Eminem and Arcade Fire to headline new YouTube awards

Lady Gaga is has a reservation at Berlin's Berghain nightclub, where she will host an "Artpop" release party. She is seen here in her appearance at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards.
(Rick Diamond / Getty Images)

Pop phenomenon Lady Gaga, rapper Eminem and indie rock darling Arcade Fire are among the mainstream acts to headline the inaugural YouTube Music Awards.

YouTube will host its first live-streamed music awards show Nov. 3 to honor top performers and songs. A day of musical performances from Seoul, Moscow, London and Brazil will precede the 90-minute show, to be live-streamed from Pier 36 in Manhattan.

“It’s our chance to really celebrate the artists and the songs that have become hits on YouTube over the past year,” said Danielle Tiedt, YouTube’s vice president of marketing.


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The awards show would seek to capitalize on the site’s growing clout in the music space. YouTube has eclipsed radio as the way teens listen to music, according to Nielsen research. And its power to influence popular culture is hard to miss, as the wildfire popularity of videos like “Harlem Shake” illustrates.

“There’s no question that YouTube is one of the premiere sites for where people go to consume music now,” said Dave Bakula, Nielsen’s senior vice president of insights.

The site won’t divulge how many people come to YouTube to watch music videos. However, online viewer data for the Vevo and Warner Music channels offer a rough proxy. Each music video attracts around 200 million global monthly viewers, according to measurement firm ComScore.

YouTube recruited Hollywood talent to stage its awards show, including Spike Jonze, veteran director of many music videos and of films “Being John Malkovich” and “Where the Wild Things Are,” as its creative director. VICE Media and Sunset Lane Entertainment will serve as executive producers, with actor Jason Schwartzman, best known for his role as Max Fischer in the comedy “Rushmore,” will host.

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Jonze said music always has figured prominently in his work, starting with his breakthrough video for the Beastie Boys’ song “Sabotage.” He directed music videos for R.E.M., the Breeders, Puff Daddy, the Chemical Brothers and Bjork. His longtime friends who make up the band Arcade Fire scored his forthcoming film, “Her.”

The director said he’s looking forward to working with Eminem and Lady Gaga, and the other artists — and making music videos live.

“Instead of bands performing to an audience on a stage, we’re going to have a warehouse with all these different sets and try to make live music videos throughout the night,” Jonze said. “The idea is let’s get a bunch of interesting artists together and have a night that’s all about making things.”

Tiedt said YouTube plans to announce its list of nominees in mid-October. Users can cast votes in six categories until the start of the live show, which is expected to feature performances from mainstream recording artists Lady Gaga, Eminem and Arcade Fire as well as other musicians that have risen to prominence on YouTube, including dubstep violinist Lindsey Stirling and Collectivecadensa (CDZA).

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YouTube’s awards show will join a crowded music awards field, which already includes the Grammy Awards, which attracts the largest television audience (28.4 million viewers in February, according to Nielsen), the MTV Video Music Awards (about 10.1 million viewers, Nielsen estimates), and more.

The Google Inc.-owned site will seek to launch an awards show targeting this audience — much as MTV did for a generation that was prompted to demand “I want my MTV!” YouTube already has attracted a brand partner: Kia Motors Corp.

“You could make the argument that YouTube is to youth music what MTV was in the ‘80s, and we all know the kind of place that MTV mapped out with their music awards,” said NPD analyst Russ Crupnick. “Does the world need another awards show? That’s a whole different conversation.”


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