YouTube and its impact on the minimal scene

by Daniela Horeanga

You are an avid music lover, you reach nirvana when a track you have looked for 4 months finally makes its way onto a YouTube channel you follow for their cool tracks and always features the newest releases in the market.

The track is available only in vinyl format and the hot record has been sold out in the first few hours of being released leaving you with zero chance to ever hear the sweet sound of the song that loops in your mind every day since. And there it is, online, and on repeat in your living room for 12 hours straight. It's a new artist that you've only just became familiar with recently.

So here comes the big who-makes-who question: was it YouTube who made you reach out to the artist or was it the artist that made you reach out to YouTube?

In a whirlwind of social media posts from reputable artists, a blurry copyright line and the never ending debate of artists remunerations versus plays, it becomes an even more sensitive subject when, in the absence of gigs, artists' only form of revenue is now consisting of music sales. Whilst unlawful distribution of music has always been an issue, today we will focus on the impact of media platforms as well as their contribution and impact to artists exposure.

We have invited Bogdan Dobre to shed some light over this subject. Bogdan is one of the owners of Storytellers, a loved YouTube channel that focuses on content from cutting edge artists, digging for rare music gems and sharing the sound love from artists who are deep into the underground. The channel features an array of stunning music and it has recently reached 30,000 subscribers in its 4 years of existence.

A.C.: Bogdan, you have been a part of Storytellers for some time now and you have reached 30,000 followers. Tell us a bit about your story.

Bogdan: Me and Andrei Luca started telling stories in November 2016. We were attending various parties and we recorded the best moments to keep those memories alive. After a while, we decided to upload some of these highlights on YouTube. that’s how those personal memories became great stories we shared with our listeners. Each upload has a memory, an emotion, a story behind it so the name of the channel came in a natural way: storytellers!

The uploads were appreciated a lot by labels and producers who were able to check if their releases were appreciated by the public and supported by local artists. At the same time, the listeners had the chance to feel the vibe of Romanian parties. By putting together the best moments from the parties, we took our listeners through the entire story of the set.

Things became serious two years ago, when we started to receive music from a lot of artists around the world. We had to shift gears and we kept two things in mind. One is that we will always be faithful to our music taste when we make the selections. Then, we needed to set some ground rules and standards such as for example only uploading tracks with the artist’s or label’s approval.

In time, the community grew organically into a digital label focused on promoting quality music. Our listener’s support and the artists we are promoting also fueled us to move to the next step and prepare our first record. Snippets and more details about it will soon follow on our social media pages and YouTube channel.

A.C.: How do you find the content you are uploading on your channel and what criteria does it have to meet?

Bogdan: Even if we are not DJs or producers, we were always two music lovers and true diggers. In our search for good and unique music, we have been going to events for years and we have spent a lot of time in online looking for music and records.

This hasn’t changed entirely. We still dig for music and contact artists to have their music promoted on our channel, but we also get a lot of music on email from producers and labels. Over the years, we have built solid relationships with some of them and because of these relationships there is a constant flow of good music reaching us.

For us it is very important to know the people behind the music. As we got to know them personally, we found similar interests and taste in music and now Storytellers became their home.

Nowadays there are many talented DJs and producers and we try to create a balance between promoting both new and well-known ones. Our channel targets a specific audience, so we are looking to surprise and entertain them with the best tracks. That is why we limit our number of uploads per month, we filter content thoroughly and post only the tracks that we personally like.

A.C.: Have you experienced any success stories regarding artists you have discovered to go further and have more success due to the collaboration with your channel?

Bogdan: From my point of view there are some great stories of artists like Cojoc, Moldovan, dot13, Stoilku, Vern and many more which grew alongside us.

We have quite a few stories of artists who have chosen to collaborate with us for a better exposure, but in the end their success and growth is due to many hours of hard work, inspiration and skills to transpose feelings into music. In addition to this solid base, Storytellers becomes a gateway towards a big audience and a label that can help artists to promote their music.

We have seen numerous posts, comments and remarks from artists regarding the unlawful/unethical distribution of their music without consent. Do you think the unclear copyright laws are responsible for leaving out a loophole allowing this to happen or is it rather the said artists preference to stay underground and not have their music shared?

I think the laws are updating constantly as everybody is adapting to new times. Well, of courses there are both good and bad things about the use of internet for artists, especially when the rules are not well defined. On one hand, the internet can help a lot with promotion and is the easiest way to get in touch with your public.

At the same time, the public can’t understand the importance of paying for content, they are taking everything for granted and you can only control what happens to your music until it’s released. I’m sure many listeners don’t have bad intentions they are just trying to share and support great music without realizing their favourite artists and labels are the most affected by their actions. On the bright side, there is still a great and large community of diggers who appreciate culture and art and are buying a lot of music in both digital and wax.

A.C.: In your opinion, where do we draw a line regarding pirating versus a genuine exposure of an artist's music that's not readily available on other platforms, nor to buy, nor to listen to?

Bogdan: There is no fine line between them. We do not encourage or support piracy.

I think artists and labels should have full control over their own work and they should be the only ones who can decide when a track can be uploaded and where.

Artists spends many hours in studios to create great music for their listeners, there is a lot of work behind all the music we are listening day by day and everybody should show more respect for the crafters. The best way to send the love, support to your favourite artists is to buy and share their releases or join parties where they are on the line up, thus helping them grow and improve their sound. Music should be for free only when the artist decides so.

A.C.: Considering the lack of gigs and record sales being now the only source of revenues for the artists, how much are media platforms like YouTube contributing to the discovery of these artists though your channel?

Bogdan: Gigs offer a big exposure for a producer/DJ. They are a unique way to start a special connection with your listeners and create a solid fan base if they will enjoy your selections.

The lack of gigs can be a huge problem for the scene as many DJs and producers had their scheduled fully booked with summer festivals and gigs around the world. It was the best moment of the year. Due to this lockdown, a lot of artists had to come up with new strategies and invest even more in social media and online podcasts.

Each media platform can help an artist or label by promoting the music to many listeners and followers. Basically, it can help them reach a new audience or a large community of listeners. Now it’s even more important to have your tracks everywhere and stay in touch with the latest promotional platforms and techniques out there.

A.C.: Looking at artists who lean towards specialized music distribution channels exclusively like Bandcamp or Beatport versus the ones that use media channels like YouTube as well, what tendency have you noticed in terms of numbers of fans and exposure?

Bogdan: Every artist has their own strategy when it comes to promoting themselves online. The end goals are similar for all of them: reaching a bigger audience, having more buyers or getting to a target audience.

I believe this became even more relevant in 2020 when the online presence is an absolute must for artists as being visible on multiple platforms can increase their reach. My personal take is that each of these streaming channels has a different purpose and can be used depending on your needs.

Irrespective of the platform, the most important criteria for the public is still the quality of the music. In terms of number of fans and exposure, Youtube is super diverse repository of genres attracting a lot of public across the world. So Youtube channels have become a very popular way of reaching a larger audience and a library of audio stories.

A.C.: Whilst some agree that there is an interdependent relationship between a media platform and an artist some others would disagree saying that for established artists, it's the artist that makes the channel and not the other way around; what is your take on this matter?

Bogdan: They are both indeed super interdependent from my point of view and there are different variations to this story. Let’s look at our channel for example.

We have promoted more established artists and this has indeed attracted more listeners to our channel. These listeners have become more curious about our content and if they have liked it, they have become our subscribers.

At the same time, we have promoted producers from the new wave and offered them access to a larger community of listeners. With time, these new guys have become established artists and some of them continue to release almost exclusively on our channel for their constant listeners.

It’s a mutual effort from both sides as all that matters in the end is music.

Thanks for the invite!

Bog / Storytellers