1980’s Southern Alt-Pop, Google, & the YouTube Revolution

It was a snowy mid-November night in northern Michigan, (Mid-November. Snow. Lots of it. Sigh.) and, for the first time, I participated in a time-honored tradition: Wasting hours of time on YouTube.

The good people at Slate magazine had published a relatively inconsequential article about one of my favorite bands, R.E.M., and a band I’m basically indifferent to, U2, and their two divergent paths since being the two coolest bands of the 1980’s.

Included in the text of the article was a YouTube link – not my first, but the first I’ve been really excited about – of R.E.M. playing “So. Central Rain” on Late Night With David Letterman in 1983. From the interview with Peter Buck and Mike Mills, to Michael Stipe hiding behind the drumset, to Dave Letterman looking tall and gangly and awkward, to Michael Stipe’s floppy perm, it was awesome on about every level. (No, seriously, click the link. It’s for your own edification.)

And I continued searching for R.E.M. videos. A few live performances, a few music videos I had never seen, just the general junk that causes millions to get lost on YouTube every day.

As I was searching and clicking and watching and being entertained but not completely engaged, I realized that, yes friends, Google will be able to make money, and lots of it, off of YouTube, and in the not-too-distant future.

I’m envisioning a Google ad front-and-center. Probably three of them, directly above the user comments. R.E.M. just released a “best-of” of their early years and, had I seen an ad for it on that snowy night, I’m probably a buyer.

There are hurdles to clear, as some of the material I watched is copyrighted, and some is probably owned by NBC. But we all know how YouTube works – something copyrighted is pulled offline, and someone posts the same thing days or hours or minutes later. Everything on YouTube, copyrighted or not, is tagged and searchable. We know quite well that short, targeted text ads work for search engine queries, and I have no doubt they can work on YouTube as well.