After seeing mention of it on TechCrunch and Mashable, thought I’d check out this Kutiman guy’s new album/video: the one in which every clip and every sample came off of YouTube. It’s aptly called “ThruYou” and the Web site on which the seven-track production can be found sports an interface that looks like the YouTube home page — if it had been left under a bus and run over a few times. Recognizable, but a faded version of the actual product.
But this whatever-it-is is anything but. The world music/funk “ThruYou” is a ton of fun, and sometimes, even, haunting (there’s a word that’s never been used in a Social Media Insider column before). But it’s also mind-blowing just because it exists; it would have been unimaginable a few years back that so many people would share little audio and video bits of themselves with the rest of the world. The clips that appear in the videos — and off of which the audio is based — range from an elderly woman playing a church organ to a young French guy smoking a joint.
A few years back, it also would have been unimaginable that someone could make art out of all these audio and video bits, working at home, as Kutiman apparently did.
A project like “ThruYou” should make us crucially aware of one fact: the line between professional and amateur content is getting more and more squiggly. What do you call an album created by a professional musician out of amateur content? The first song is called “The Mother of All Funk Chords” (quoting someone who appears on what looks like an instructional video for guitar) — but the project is certainly the Mother of All Mashups.
Now, because I always wonder about these things, I wonder how Kutiman will make money out of this. Unlike one of his albums, it’s not on Amazon or iTunes… yet. And maybe, due to intellectual property concerns, it can’t be, unless all of the YouTube “stars” his project uncovered sign off on it, and, probably, if they’re smart, ask for some revenue. That would be a logistical nightmare. By my count, ThruYou uses upwards of 150 YouTube clips. However, with all the buzz this project seems to be getting, it’s quite possible the music will become popular on a broader scale. I hope Kutiman is ready to go wherever this takes him.
But enough of my lame attempt at a business angle. I suppose I focused on this because, despite our little community’s obsession with iPhone apps and social media ad models, sometimes it’s worth pointing to one of those things that sums up how social media is creating the zeitgeist. This is one of those things.
Catharine P. Taylor has been covering digital media and advertising for almost 15 years. She currently writes daily about advertising on her blog, Adverganza.com. You can reach her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Twitter at cpealet, or friend her on Facebook at Catharine P. Taylor.