I wouldn’t have though about YouTube as an Music delivery platform but the talk by Andrew Scheps in New York a few weeks ago got me thinking about it. He said that a large portion of the younger demographic searches for the new “hot” or viral tune on YouTube before looking on iTunes or other digital music retailers. I don’t qualify as a member of the younger demographic any more but I can recall numerous times that I’ve pulled up YT and typed in the name of a tune that had gone viral.
A couple in particular come to mind. The “It’s Friday” music video that blew got my attention…because of the hype and the manufactured “buzz” that it created. The second time was the Gotye’s “Someone That I Used To Know” song. My kids were amazed that I wasn’t aware of the song and insisted that I check it out. Where to look? YouTube…just like over 415 million other visitors!
Earlier this summer, I told myself that I would learn to play a new song everyday on my trusty 1971 Martin D-18 acoustic guitar. Where to look for instructional videos to learn some Beatles tunes or folk tunes by Gordon Lightfoot? YouTube, of course.
So I take Andrew’s point, YouTube is a major music platform even if it is primarily a video site. But what about the audio quality? It turns out that the fidelity is determined by the quality of the video that is associated with the audio. The encoding format and bandwidth allocation for the videos uploaded to YouTube has evolved since the initial roll out of the site in 2005. AAC and ogg vorbis audio files that range from 96 to 192 kbps have replaced the original MP3 files at 64 kbps.
It turns out that the higher the video quality that you upload, the higher the quality of the audio up to a maximum of 192 kbps. At that bandwidth, you can get pretty good standard definition audio but nothing approaching the quality of an uncompressed Redbook CD or HD-Audio file.
So as a music platform YouTube is okay but only if you seek out videos that are HD, meaning they’ve been uploaded at 720 or 1080p. So if you’re thinking about preparing an audio track for YouTube, create an accompanying “video” in HD, even if the video is a slide show of the lyrics or photos of the band. It doesn’t have to actually be a music video to be output at 720 or 1080p.
The management team at YouTube, which is owned by Google now, isn’t likely to move to HD-Audio in the near future. I’m sure they’re not getting any complaints about the audio quality paired with cat videos or ridiculous stunts attempted by teenagers. But for those that want to show off their latest song or recording, you would be well advised to use the highest quality video possible.
I’ve put a lot of videos on YouTube and I’ve tried to keep the quality as high as possible for the videos that were shot in HD. The standard definition ones…they bump along at 96 kbps.