“The BRITs is such an integral event in the music industry calendar, and indeed the British cultural calendar as a whole – huge respect to the BPI who continue to pull off great event after great event,” praised Chalmers. “Diverse is a term that’s so overused it’s arguably become ubiquitous, but when you look at the nominations, it’s genuinely a representation of our rich and diverse culture, and that’s something to recognise and celebrate. Historically, it's given so many artists the recognition they deserve and elevated them to the next level. With our involvement, we’re able to take this reach global – YouTube's proud to support great British artists and help break them as global superstars.”
YouTube will host the official BRITs livestream, with the ceremony set to start from 8pm on May 11.
“We’ll be making sure the stream is visible and promoted through our channels and creating our own BRITs playlist,” continued Chalmers. “We’re also running billboards in New York and Los Angeles, featuring 10 artists who we’ve supported that are up for BRIT Awards: Aitch, Yungblud, Young T & Bugsey, Arlo Parks, Bicep, Headie One, AJ Tracey, Celeste, Griff and Joel Corry. It’s a great opportunity for us to help these artists with more visibility around the globe.”
As previously reported, earlier this year YouTube defended its record on royalties in a heated DCMS enquiry, claiming: “it is possible we will become the music industry’s number one source of revenue by 2025.” The platform has since launched a new campaign titled Where Music Grows to emphasise its work in helping music acts.
“For us, it’s really about reminding people that YouTube sits at the heart of every artist’s campaign,” Chalmers told Music Week about its inception. “It’s where artists build their businesses from day one, where they upload their first recordings, their first singles, their first albums. It’s where they find their first fans and tell their story. YouTube’s where artists grow; it’s where music grows.”
“We have a number of programmes which are designed specifically to support up and coming artists,” he continued. “[It ranges] from our grass roots, introductory programme The Foundry, which gives brand new artists marketing and promotion support as well as tools and education to see them up for long term success, to packages such as our more established Artist On The Rise accolade. We have our own weekly music show called Released, which provides the viewer with access to the week’s featured premiere artists as well as exclusive music news, and special announcements – acts like Griff, Joel Corry, Yungblud, Young T & Bugsey and Bicep have all featured on the show. In terms of our USP, YouTube is the home of creative video content and always has been; we’ve been helping artists tell their story visually for over a decade and have an ever-expanding repertoire of features which make us the best partner for virtual events, streams and premieres. We’re seeing a growing value from user-generated content; it’s a new revenue stream – and incremental – and it’s exciting to see that UGC is powering a lot of growth in the industry.”
YouTube sits at the heart of every artist’s campaign, it’s where artists build their businesses from day one... It’s where they find their first fans
Dan Chalmers, YouTube
Chalmers also pointed to the role YouTube has played in the rise and rise of Dua Lipa – who has three nods at this year’s BRITs.
“Dua’s really leaned into YouTube since day one,” says Chalmers. “She was originally supported via our Foundry programme back in 2015 and has a natural connection to YouTube, having uploaded covers when she was a teenager. We built our partnership with Dua throughout the course of the first album, and joined forces again for the launch of Future Nostalgia. [She] had a livestream track-by-track listening party with fans on album launch day last spring and we’re thrilled with her success and being a part of that journey. Beyond the BRITs, we’ll continue to work closely with Tap Management and the team at Warner Brothers Records – Dua’s a global superstar.”
Here, Chalmers dives into how YouTube plan on amplifying UK musical talent, reflects on how key artists have used the platform and much more…
What specific role do you believe YouTube specifically plays in amplifying talent right now?
“85% of BRIT nominated acts this year have been supported by us and it just shows you that artists that set themselves up on YouTube really are able to build and grow their fanbases by leaning into the platform. The UK’s long been at the centre of culture and creativity globally, however the events of the last year have placed our thriving industry under threat. As an open platform that’s truly accessible to all, we provide an independent means for artists of all genres, ages and circumstances to share their art, connect with fans and gain recognition at a time when they’re facing steep barriers to entry via the media and other traditional routes. Take Aitch for example: he went from launching his channel in 2017 as an unsigned artist to accumulating 40 million views and 220,000+ subscribers within a year, to being nominated for a BRIT Award for Best Single. All along the way, we’ve been there to support and amplify him, whether that’s through our Artist On The Rise programme, in which we rolled out a billboard campaign and provided marketing support on the platform, or through helping him fundraise for the NHS during lockdown with a live-streamed FIFA tournament with Jesse Lingard and Michael Dapaah.”
Did the pandemic alter the way you support acts?
“During the pandemic, YouTube became the world’s largest virtual stage, and with that came a huge responsibility for us to help artists stay connected with their fans. As we all know, live streams have played a really important part in artist campaigns over the past year. For someone like Pa Salieu, who released his debut album at a time when the world was in lockdown, we fully understood the need to create a ‘moment’ around the launch. We enabled him to put on an unforgettable live-stream and he’s gone on to be nominated as this year’s Rising Star.”
Arlo Parks has scored multiple nominations at this year’s BRITs. What role do you think YouTube played in the lead up to her debut and the BRITs?
“Arlo’s a great example of a truly creative artist that’s built a business on YouTube from the ground up. She originally came to light as part of our artist development programme Foundry - she immediately stood out because of her unique talent and artistic sensibility. Her ability to write, compose and produce songs and poetry, as well as her singular visual identity enabled her to deliver multiple music videos to her international fanbase, growing it slowly but surely. In our Foundry program, she also performed at The Great Escape, Glastonbury and Reeperbahn. In a very short time, Arlo managed to set herself apart, leading to her-signing at Transgressive Records. Her first release on our platform since that point, Eugene – which was recently covered by Dua Lipa – is a great example of how transcending her music has become to the UK’s creative community. Her debut album went to No.3, and to celebrate the release she did a Premium livestream and live chat with her fans afterwards, and we put her on a billboard in London to [mark that] big milestone. Arlo features in our Where Music Grows campaign around The BRITs – she’s a great example of our commitment to breaking independent artists. We’re [also] supporting her new music video that’s due to be shot soon.”
Another artist making major waves this year has been Celeste, who’s scored the biggest UK breakthrough of 2021 so far. How has she used YouTube to her benefit in your eyes?
“Celeste’s such an original artist. We named her YouTube’s Artist On The Rise in November 2020 following the unveiling of the John Lewis Christmas advert, A Little Love, and supported the announcement with a billboard, social media coverage and a premiere. She’s really used the platform to her advantage; in her early days she would record songs in her bedroom and upload them to YouTube and her fans grew from there. She continued to upload lots of content, including official videos, live videos and behind the scenes content which fans always love to engage with – now she’s a multi-award winning artist [and] featuring in an episode of our Vogue Visionaries series. Her progress on the platform has been significant and she’ll continue to grow a global audience with our ongoing support.”
85% of BRIT nominated acts this year have been supported by us and it just shows that artists that set themselves up on YouTube really are able to build and grow their fanbases by leaning into the platform
Young T and Bugsey have multiple nominations at the BRITs following the US impact of their track Don’t Rush - how integral was YouTube to that campaign?
“Our team was hugely excited about Young T and Bugsey when we first came across them via GRM Daily. To me, they represent great British talent at the forefront of today’s culture. Their video Don't Rush now has over 74M views which is huge for an artist at this stage of their career – the official video sits on GRM Daily's channel, but they have released six different versions of it including a remix with Busta Rhymes & Da Baby. These videos are currently sitting on their channel with over 1.4M views. A really fun moment was watching the #DontRushChallenge challenge unfold - it trended on the platform, and from there Young T & Bugsey made a compilation of the best videos which has now had over 300k views. YouTube allowed the song to go global as everyone was able to do the challenge from their homes and upload them – this gained traction from countries across the globe, including the US. We’re looking forward to growing their presence on the platform beyond The BRITs.”
UK rap has a strong presence in this year’s BRITs nominations, with both new and established acts alike. How has YouTube supported that scene and its artists?
“UK rap’s a dominant force in UK music and we’ve been supporting the scene for years. Our Foundry programme gave early support to UK rap artists like Dave, AJ Tracey and Jaykae. In 2017, YouTube and Stormzy partnered closely on the production of Gang Signs And Prayers: The Film and featured extensively in the YouTube Music launch campaign with billboards across London and we also heavily supported his Heavy Is The Head campaign on and off platform. YouTube supported AJ Tracey heavily across the UK & US with billboards, programming, trueview ads and social support, supporting the album, as well as his latest video Love Me A Little More which was at No.3 in the UK trending chart. More recently, we livestreamed the MOBO Awards last year, which had 3M+ views, as well as GRM Daily’s Rated Awards which had over 800k views. At the end of last year, we launched our new Legacy series as part of our Black Creators Fund - a $100M global fund set up to empower the Black community and support Black youth interested in the music industry. The Legacy series kicked off with The Legacy Fashion Show in partnership with Westfield London and GUAP TV – a livestream show which showcased the best up-and-coming British black designers and musicians, including Pa Salieu, George The Poet, Tiana Major9 and Ms Banks. This year we’re launching the Artist, Songwriter & Producer Grants, The Community Fund and you’ll be seeing more of the Legacy Series.”
Finally, as a platform, are you going to be doing more to help UK talent specifically going forward?
“Yes, absolutely. The UK has a really important role to play in the global creative industry and we are very much a part of driving our creative economy forward. We work closely with organisations like MMF, Youth Music, ELAM and The BRIT School throughout the year, which support the next generation of industry talent and help them to grow their skills. We plan to continue working closely with artists and their teams in the most innovative ways to create one-of-a-kind moments with unparalleled reach, which can only happen on YouTube. Last week Coldplay premiered their new single Higher Power on YouTube from actual space. I mean, where else would that happen?”