There was once a time when YouTube was a low-fi dumping ground for terrible home movies and the occasional cat video. Then the music industry got involved – and everything changed overnight.
It’s fascinating to think that YouTube was once considered the number-one enemy of the music industry, post Napster. Frequent copyright infringement caused hundreds of recording artists and publishers to declare open war on the platform.
Eventually, everyone realised it was easier to get a slice of YouTube’s profits by simply uploading “official” music videos. Instead of attempting to sue YouTube, they became affiliate partners. (The Prince estate is a classic example of this turnaround – it went from issuing a dizzying string of lawsuits to quietly releasing Prince’s entire catalogue on the service.)
This has turned YouTube into a default music player for hundreds of millions of people, as reflected by the service’s most watched videos. The current top ten – which have an impressive 33.7 billion views between them – is almost all music. (Bizarrely, the only exception is a kid’s cartoon from Russia we’ve never heard of. Go figure.)
The list below provides a slightly depressing insight into today’s popular music. Watch and listen at your peril.