Tyler, the Creator: on the YouTube Music Awards

I have lots of strong and mixed feelings about Tyler, the Creator—the leader of hip-hop collective Odd Future—and I’m super interested in topics that he talks about in this interview on the Arsenio Hall Show. Many things that he says in interviews and through his music offend me, but almost everything he says makes me question the way I think about culture and language somehow. The whole interview is worth watching, for sure, and I could write a dozen separate posts about it, but I’ll be talking about his critique of the first YouTube Music Awards that took place back in November. (He talks about the awards from 1:47 to 3:00.)

I fundamentally agree with Tyler about the awards. YouTube is such a powerful online force, and it gains all of the immense power it holds from the fact that it is, unlike most successful businesses, almost completely crowdsourced. All of its incredible mass of content is created by its users. It’s such a unique and singularly successful business model, and in so many ways, YouTube (or Google, because Google owns it and virtually everything else…) owes its users a helluva lot. I can’t think of another hugely successful business or organization that relies completely on its users creating the very service it provides.

So Tyler’s right: It seems like YouTube could have used its platform to showcase some of the unique and less celebrated talents that it fosters via its heaps of channels. Several mainstream musicians, actors, artists, etc. have gotten their starts on YouTube, and there are thousands more who already have loyal online followings but no television exposure.

On the other hand, I get that YouTube was probably trying to make itself a strong awards show contender, on par with all of the other awards shows that have proven to be so lucrative for drawing in viewers. But there definitely could have and should have—at the very least—been a mix of talent on display.

YouTube, you’re not going anywhere. You have little to lose, and your innovative producers of content have everything to gain if you give them a little more exposure. So when you’re considering which creative direction to take the next award show in: Please, listen to Tyler.

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