Your Band is Awesome Live, So Ban the YouTube Fan Footage

Well-meaning YouTubers could be wrecking your band's reputation. Maybe it's time to take control. Essay

Smartphone, filming

I was watching a YouTube video the other day. I can’t tell you much about it. I didn’t make it through to the end.

It did involve music but I can’t remember the names of the musicians, what they looked like, where they were playing or what they played.

I’ll give you some clues though….and I bet you can guess….

It opens with a shaky image of a bald bloke wearing an Eagles 2000 Tour T-shirt carrying two pints of beer from left screen to right screen. He then shouts to some invisible people off the bottom of the screen that it’s their round next. The camera then moves sideways past the beer-carrier’s paunch and hovers over the head of a peroxide blonde who is waving her hands in the air shouting ‘I Love You. I Love This Number. I Love This Number!’ to anyone who will listen and rather too close to the cameraman’s microphone.

We stick with this for a bit longer as there is a band on a stage making a noise in the background that might or might not be worth listening to. However, give credit to the tenacity of our film-maker, as they push past the waving hands and bring one half of the head of the bass player into vague focus. Unfortunately, he is not actually playing and seems to be talking to the keyboard man, whilst off-screen the guitarist rips into a virtuoso solo involving shred and distort that neither your computer nor the cameraman’s microphone are built to handle.

Ok, it’s time we went and clicked on something else.

Recognise that movie? Well you should, as there are thousands like it, seemingly posted every day by gig-goers, fans and groupies of bands all over the world… and, I fear, by some bands and artists. They are for the most part awful, shake like an exploding kitchen boiler, have sound that could be made by Stockhausen on one of his off days and usually make the mistake of being twice as long as a visit to the dentist.

When you have finished tearing out handfuls of what’s left of your hair, you can only ask the same question, over and over again…. Why?

These videos are clearly posted in good faith to demonstrate support for the band or artist they went to see. My question is ‘why bother?’ Many of them are almost unwatchable in that they are so badly executed that the subject matter is drowned in a sea of amateur iPhone artistry. The sound – and after all, surely the premier issue is to hear what the artist sounds like – is invariably tinny and distorted.

Worse, the tiny mic picks up all the ambient surrounding sound, often of people talking above the band in a bar. We can also do without the photo-bombing of bit-part-walk-on drinkers that feature prominently in these clips and why, oh why, do you think that shooting the backs of heads from the back of a crowd is, in any way, remotely interesting?

I can understand that this can be a dilemma for an artist or a band. You want your stuff out there, being shared far and wide and getting talked about and clearly YouTube can do that job pretty well. It is also incredibly rewarding knowing that you have fans who want to spread the word for you. However, it also spreads the word about dancing dogs, car crashes, cute cats, fat blokes in lurex swimming trunks and all the dross in the world.Smartphone, filming

If you are hoping that your live, trembling and raucous movie clip is a way of reaching out to more fans, a potential producer, a radio show host, a record company, a reviewer or a magazine – forget it. You are dreaming. If anything, they may well head in the opposite direction at fibre-optic full speed.

So. Think Carefully. Even the attractive magic world of instant viral fame comes with some shortcomings. Do you really want a boring, impossible to watch, painful to hear clip of your work out there in the ether? It really does you no favours and may well be unhelpful in its effort to help. This is your public video face we are talking about and honestly, noisy acne is not attractive.

Maybe you should intervene. Take some control where you can. Talk sweetly to the poster and point out the pitfalls. Get the Disaster Movie removed. If that doesn’t work, then maybe you should shoot the messenger.

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