The Dangers of
YouTube to Musicians, Pt.1
YouTube and other large media platforms have opened many opportunities for musicians. The amount of material anyone is able to consume is endless. According to Statista, in Feb. 2020 more than 500 hours of content are being uploaded to YouTube every minute.
In this series of posts, I plan to outline some of the issues, pitfalls, and dangers YouTube and similar platforms pose to all musicians. I will also give some ideas of ways to use these platforms in more responsible and beneficial ways.
Find and Forget
Many students and colleagues use YouTube to find new pieces, songs, or interpretations. In theory, this is a great idea. YouTube is offering a huge catalog of eye-catching and intriguing works.
What is problematic is the use of one video as a crutch. Many musicians are now constructing their interpretations around what they’ve seen/heard on YouTube. This effectively removes the opportunity of creating something new. I am fearful that some students may resign themselves to being re-creators rather than creators. Or worse, they are recreating from a poor performance!
It is easy to suggest,
“That won’t happen to me, I have a strong interpretation.”
I find it's easier to never question if I am influenced by another interpretation. The process of creating one’s own interpretation is harder, but ultimately more fruitful.
My general approach to using YouTube to find new material is to find and forget. If I see something I enjoy and want to add to my own repertoire I make note of the piece/composer/artist and “forget” the video. Instead of watching the piece be performed I will research the composer, others works they have composed, and/or other influences on the work. I find this process much more informative and gives me a foundation to start my interpretation.
Later, after weeks/months of practice and construction of the work I will return to a video to see a specific moment. Very rarely will I watch a complete performance as research for my own work.
YouTube offers a wide range of new music, videos, and works. Many composers and musicians are using the platform as the first stage of publication of their work. These features are incredibly exciting for us, but in finding these new pieces we should not rob ourselves of our fundamental skills of interpretation.