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YouTube Apes 'American Idol' With Online Talent Search

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YouTube has revealed plans to run its own tech-savvy spin on American Idol with new online talent search NextUp, an Internet competition that will award up to 25 YouTube Partners with $35,000 each.

Amateur video producers including bands, singer-songwriters and performing artists can submit videos up to three minutes in length of all sorts (high-tech talk show, video blog, trash-talking mixtape, etc.) by midnight PT on March 27, 2011. Brief written essays explaining what hopeful Billboard chart-toppers and film auteurs would do with the money and additional prizes, such as a four-day mentoring and tutorial session at YouTube Creator Camp, are also required.

Everyday viewers will then have the opportunity to vote on finalists and select tomorrow’s next online sensation from March 29 to April 8 at www.youtube.com/creators, with the victors selected from remaining entrants by a panel of YouTube insiders. Final winners will be announced on April 20.

NextUp is positioning itself as an original take on reality TV, splitting the difference between America’s Got Talent and Dragon’s Den. Creativity and commercialism will inevitably collide as entrants pit personality against passion and pure artistic output. Win or lose, though, all participants will benefit from the added public exposure. Entrants also gain the opportunity to connect with prospective fans and backers without having to formally request donations, as musicians, filmmakers and online video makers currently do on fundraising sites like Kickstarter or IndieGogo.

Perhaps more telling, given YouTube’s massive audience, reach and traffic (partners have thus far singlehandedly served more than 100 billion video views along with millions in cash), it may permanently underscore the growing power of high-tech entertainment. NextUp has the potential to leverage the influence of social media and online fandom to build awareness and launch careers. While predictable in format and execution, this foray into original crowdsourced programming could provide a ready platform for independent record labels and film studios to rediscover the long-lost art of artist development.

At the very least, here’s hoping it helps the online video site deliver to us more than the occasional Britney Spears Guy or "Chocolate Rain."

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