TIME Music

Hear YouTube Superstar Troye Sivan’s Single ‘Happy Little Pill’

EMI Australia

His EP drops Aug. 15 — and pre-orders have already buoyed it to the top of the charts

One of YouTube’s biggest stars may be on his way to becoming the next big pop act.

Troye Sivan, a 19-year-old from Australia, is one of the video blogging community’s most beloved personalities; his YouTube channel has more than 3 million followers and his clips have accumulated 91.4 million views. (No big.) Earlier this summer, Sivan announced he’d signed a deal with EMI Australia and would release an EP, titled TRXYE, on Aug. 15. “Happy Little Pill,” the first single from the five-track set, dropped earlier this week — and it seems primed to move the teen into the big leagues, with melancholy lyrics and a downtempo electronic sound that give off a world-weary vibe.

“I wrote this song during a bit of a rough time for someone super close to me, and for myself, and it still means as much to me as the day i wrote it, and i’m still as in love with it as the day i wrote it,” the singer wrote on his Tumblr, when he shared the song with fans.

Now, the EP is No. 1 on iTunes and has soared to the top of iTunes charts all over the world. Earlier today, the star tweeted that TRXYE had hit No. 1 in 17 countries, while “Happy Little Pill” was at No. 1 in 13 countries. (Again, no big.)

Sivan isn’t new to singing — he was performing on shows like StarSearch in the early 2000s and has created other EPs in the past — but his crazy popularity suggests the teen is ready for the big leagues and testifies to the mounting influence of YouTube celebrities. Given, too, the massive success of his earlier song “The Fault in Our Stars” (inspired by the film), Sivan seems ready for IRL superstardom.

It’s about time — the world could use a replacement for #BieberFever.

TIME Startups

How Youtube Stars Can Actually Make a Living

Pedals Music Video—Conte

Patreon offers a new approach to crowdfunding

Being a YouTube star doesn’t actually pay all that well. Just ask Jack Conte, a singer and musician who has scored viral hits mashing up Pharrell songs and stripping down pop hits like Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” as one half of the indie rock duo Pomplamoose. Between the group and his solo work, Conte says his videos can rack up as many as four million views each month on the video sharing site. But all those eyeballs do little for Conte’s bottom line—in a good month, he collects $400 in advertising revenue from YouTube.

“There’s great ways for people to build an audience online right now,” he says. “There’s really no great way for people to make a living.”

After a particularly elaborate music video involving singing robots on a handmade replica of the Millennium Falcon earned him just a few hundred dollars, Conte realized that there had to be a better way to earn money online. He wanted what he calls a “quality driven Web,” or a space where artists could make money based on the passion of their fanbases rather than trying to lure millions of mildly interested passersby by “going viral.”

His solution was Patreon, a new crowdfunding platform that helps creators earn revenue from their most ardent fans on an ongoing basis. Unlike Kickstarter, where inventors and creative types solicit money from users in a month-long campaign frenzy, Patreon asks users to pay creators each time they produce a new work. That could be a music video, a web comic any other kind of creative project. As on Kickstarter, patrons are given varying prizes based on how much they donate.

The unusual funding model creates a new dynamic between creators and fans. It’s not as much about crafting one brilliant idea and marketing it well but rather building and sustaining an audience over the long term. The idea of individual fans supporting artists on such a granular basis might seem anachronistic in an age where YouTube has helped make media more accessible, but Conte believes people are still willing to pay for art. “Patronage is a very old phenomenon that’s occurred in people and in society for thousands of years,” he says. “It stems from an emotional response to someone’s art. It’s a feeling of responsibility and importance and a desire to be a part of what they’re making.”

Since launching in May 2013, Patreon has attracted 25,000 creators who are requesting funding for everything from science fiction short stories to Minecraft raps to video game reviews. So far patrons have paid more than $2 million for creative works on the site, with $1 million of that coming in just the last two months. The most popular creators can earn close to $10,000 per project on the site.

Molly Lewis, a ukulele player with a small but devout following on YouTube, believes Patreon could eventually become her primary revenue source as an artist. She’s currently convinced more than 400 fans to pledge $2,600 total for each new song she makes, more than double her original funding goal. To attract donations, she promises exclusives like videos of live shows and personalized limericks written for hardcore fans. “It’s kind of like a fan club,” she says. “The money they spend goes directly into my buying food and making more music. They can see their dollars at work in a way that you can’t really when you go to a Katy Perry show or something.”

This desire to get an inside track on the creation of a new project has already helped Kickstarter pull in more than $1 billion in pledges from people around the world. Experts believe the Patreon model can also reach massive scale since it’s appealing to both creators and their fans. ““Here you can evaluate the quality of output over time and then decide whether you want to continue subscribing or not,” says Anindya Ghose, a professor of information, operation and management sciences at New York University who also studies crowdfunding. “It’s a very positive self-reinforcing cycle where people give small amounts of money, which incentivizes artists to do a better job, which then leads people to give more money more frequently.”

Plenty of obstacles remain for the still-nascent startup. It’s not yet clear just how long people will be willing to continually support a single artist’s work—Ghose points out that a few popular creators pumping out subpar work simply to collect a check could sour new users on the platform. More worrying could be YouTube’s entrance into the donations space. The video giant launched a virtual tip jar of its own recently as a response to ongoing gripes that it’s hard to earn money directly on the site. For now, Conte contends that Patreon’s features differentiates it from YouTube’s less robust offering, while YouTube has expressed support for crowdfunding platforms like Patreon and Kickstarter.

Silicon Valley, at least, believes in Patreon’s future. The startup closed a $15 million round of venture funding in June which included leading venture capitalist Danny Rimer and Alexis Ohanian, one of the co-founders of Reddit. The money will allow the company to launch a mobile app and open an office in San Francisco instead of working out of the two-bedroom apartment where Conte and co-founder Sam Yam live.

As Patreon grows, Conte promises that it will remain focused on creators’ interests. The currently unprofitable company charges a 5% commission on all donations, and Conte vows the fee won’t increase in the future (Kickstarter and YouTube charge the same amount). Though he’s now a CEO, he’s still a creator at heart—Conte has 1,300 patrons of his own paying more than $5,000 for each new video he makes. He envisions a future where every creative person isn’t a starving artist or a pop megastar. There’s room in the middle for artists, too, and people will pay for their work because, as Conte says, “Everybody wants to be able to enjoy beautiful things.”

TIME viral

Atlanta Cops Want You to Know How ‘Happy’ They Are

Even the police chief gets down in this video set to Pharrell's fun tune


Think the fuzz are no fun? In an effort to boost its public image, the Atlanta Police Department’s Public Affairs Unit released a video this week proving its officers can kick it with the rest of us.

Set to Pharrell’s Happy, everyone from Police Chief George Turner to the gang squad show off their best dance moves. Beat officers dance on city sidewalks and in Centennial Olympic Park, while cops on motorcycles, bikes and horses get in on the action — some even flash the tasers holstered to their belts while they’re at it. (Oops.) Not surprisingly, the cops look happiest when walking out of a Krispy Kreme store, no doubt elated by their sugar high.

Most YouTubers seemed to dig the vid, which has racked up more than 100,000 views in less than two days. Others used it as an opportunity to make some predictable digs at the po-po: “Hmmm…with the crime rate they’re experiencing, I’m not so sure what they are ‘happy’ about,” observed one commenter. (Although homicide rates have dropped lately, Atlanta is still considered one of the most dangerous cities in the U.S.)

Okay, back to work guys!

TIME Music

The Al Yankovic Paradox: He Doesn’t Seem That Weird Anymore

Weird Al
"Weird Al" Yankovic appears on NBC News' "Today" show on Sept. 26, 2013 Peter Kramer—NBC NewsWire / Getty Images

"Normal Al" just doesn't have the same ring to it

Al Yankovic — best known as Weird Al, the man who realized the “Amish” has the same number of syllables as “gangsta” — recently tweeted that he would be releasing eight new music videos in the eight days beginning July 14. The videos will feature songs from his forthcoming album Mandatory Fun (out July 15), the titles from which have not yet been announced. This move drew comparisons at Vulture to Beyoncé’s all-at-once strategy, and seems designed to capture some of the headline-grabbing buzz that she earned from deciding not to obey the usual music-release timeline.

But, as his new album approaches its release, Weird Al is in a weird place.

The reason? He just doesn’t seem so weird anymore.

Yankovic’s cultural penetration peaked in the late ’90s with platinum-selling albums like Bad Hair Day and Running With Scissors, which contained songs like “Amish Paradise” and “Pretty Fly For A Rabbi.” Around the release of his most recent album, 2011’s Alpocalypse, he told the AP that he had been “getting kind of cocky” at that point. Even though Alpocalypse broke the top 10 on the album chart, he acknowledged that sales were down and it was getting harder to get performers to approve the use of their music in his parodies. An artist experiencing declining album sales, compared to his ’90s high, is certainly not unique to Yankovich — and the parodist has been keeping fairly busy in the years between Alpocalypse and Mandatory Fun. He went on tour, he denied retirement rumors, he appeared on TV shows like Adventure Time and 30 Rock, he co-wrote three books (two for kids and one about himself) and he appeared frequently in Funny or Die videos.

That last credit is the interesting one. His most popular work was perfectly timed for the last days of pre-YouTube comedy. In the late ’90s, his music videos were some of the easiest-to-access sources of short comedy. Now, the kind of humor that used to make him seem “weird” is pretty much the most mainstream comedy out there. Countless Frozen fans have filled YouTube with “Let It Go” parodies and, since 2005, Saturday Night Live‘s Digital Shorts have been the professional equivalent. Yankovic is clearly aware of this change: in addition to Funny or Die, he’s participated in an “Epic Rap Battles of History” video — which has accumulated 11 million views in one month, versus 22 million for the official “Amish Paradise” video, which has been on YouTube for five years. In this season of Comedy Central’s YouTube-to-TV Drunk History, he plays Adolf Hitler.

All of which is to say that though Yankovic certainly wasn’t the first musical parodist or the most influential one ever — an honor that should likely go to Allan Sherman or Tom Lehrer — it looks like he may just be the last of his kind. In a world where any “weirdo” can rack up hits on a YouTube clip, the designation begins to lose its oomph. And, while it’s normally a good thing for an artist to have anticipated the zeitgeist, the exception is an artist who relies on being outside the mainstream — and “Normal Al” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

If Yankovic’s video-release strategy can make him stand out from the rest of the parody-song bunch, interest in funny clips could be great news for Mandatory Fun and for his weirdness level. It just might work: eight music videos in a week isn’t normal yet. For that matter, neither is his hairdo.

TIME Companies

Google Buys Music Streaming Service Songza

The music streaming service says its product will remain unchanged, for now

The music streaming service Songza announced Tuesday that it’s being purchased by Google, adding to the tech giant’s already sizable presence in the online music sector.

“We can’t think of a better company to join in our quest to provide the perfect soundtrack for everything you do,” Songza said in a statement. “No immediate changes to Songza are planned, other than making it faster, smarter, and even more fun to use.”

Songza didn’t reveal a purchase price. The New York Post, citing unnamed sources, reported last month that Google was offering about $15 million, far less than the billion-dollar-plus valuations of online music behemoths Spotify and Pandora. Songza streams music in “smart playlists” curated by experts and tailored to an individual users habits.

The acquisition adds to Google’s subscription music service launched in 2013 as well as its ownership of YouTube, already a heavyweight in the online music sector, which the company says will be launching a paid streaming service.

The news comes after Apple’s announcement in May that it would buy Beats Electronics, which sells high-end audio equipment in addition to a music streaming service.

TIME Google

YouTube Is About to Change Drastically

Google Inc.'s YouTube logo is displayed behind the reception desk at the company's YouTube Space studio in Tokyo, on March 30, 2013.
Kiyoshi Ota—Bloomberg/Getty Images

YouTube is introducing a new way for its legion of video creators to make money on the site. The Google division announced Thursday at Vidcon that it is launching a crowdfunding system called Fan Funding that will allow viewers to donate as much as $500 to video creators. The feature, which will function more like a tip jar than the highly coordinated campaigns on sites like Kickstarter, is being tested among a select number of channels in the United States, Mexico, Japan and Australia. Creators can apply to have their channels added to the trial.

Internet users have shown a huge appetite for funding video projects in recent years. On Kickstarter, Film and Video is the second most-funded category on the site, with people pledging $224 million to such projects over the years. Patreon, a newer startup that was launched by a YouTube creator seeking more revenue, has generated $2 million for creators since it launched early in 2013. By adding a donation model of its own, YouTube may be able to keep its stars more tightly bound to its own ecosystem, rather than seeing them venture off to other sites. But YouTube says its own donation system is meant to be additive, not a direct competitor to these other sites. “Fan funding is an addition to goal-based fundraising like Kickstarter, as well as subscription-based fundraising like Patreon, and we hope creators continue to use all these tools to reach their greatest levels of success,” YouTube spokesman Matt McLernon said in an email.

YouTube will take a 5% commission on all donations, plus a flat fee of $0.21 to cover costs, McLernon said. Kickstarter and Patreon also charge a 5% commission, while crowdfunding site Indiegogo’s fees range from 4% to 9%. In addition to the donation system, YouTube announced several other new features, such as support of video shot at 60 frames per second and a new weekly radio show on Sirius XM starring YouTube star Jenna Marbles.

TIME Music

YouTube Removing Indie Bands’ Videos Ahead of Streaming Music Launch

Adele - Waxwork Unveiling
Adele's new waxwork is unveiled at Madame Tussauds on July 3, 2013 in London. Fred Duval—FilmMagic/Getty Images

YouTube is deleting certain indie bands' music videos over contractual disputes ahead of a streaming music service launch

Update Wednesday, June 18 at 10:13 a.m.

YouTube may be aiming to become more of a player in the streaming music game, but some indie labels might not be along for the ride.

In the coming days, Google-owned YouTube is planning to begin removing videos from certain independent acts because their labels could not come to an agreement on YouTube’s revamped royalty terms, according to the Financial Times. The dispute means that videos by artists like Adele and the Arctic Monkeys could be removed in certain markets.

The deals with independent labels have been a sticking point in the development of YouTube’s subscription-based music service, which was originally expected to launch early this year. A trade association that represents independent labels issued a public statement in May claiming that YouTube was trying to strong-arm smaller labels into accepting non-negotiable terms that would offer smaller payouts than competing services such as Spotify and Deezer.

YouTube has declined to comment directly on the negotiations, but it has said the new streaming service will generate more revenue for labels and artists. “Our goal is to continue making YouTube an amazing music experience, both as a global platform for fans and artists to connect, and as a revenue source for the music industry,” spokesman Matt McLernon said in an emailed statement. “We’re adding subscription-based features for music on YouTube with this in mind — to bring our music partners new revenue streams in addition to the hundreds of millions of dollars YouTube already generates for them each year.”

It’s not clear how widespread the video removals will be. Robert Kyncl, YouTube’s head of content and business operations, told the Financial Times that YouTube has reached deals with about 90 percent of the music industry, including the three major U.S. labels. The remaining labels’ videos will only be removed in the markets where they distribute music—so, for instance, some Adele videos might go offline in the UK, where Adele is signed to independent label XL, but remain available in the U.S., where Adele has a deal with Columbia Records.

YouTube’s new, on-demand paid streaming service is expected to allow users to more easily organize songs by album, listen to songs via YouTube while using other mobile apps and download songs for offline listening. It will enter a crowded market that now also includes Amazon, which launched a music streaming service this week, and Apple, which is buying Beats’ headphone line and music streaming service for $3 billion.

Update: McLernon, the YouTube spokesman, later clarified that the videos in dispute will not be permanently deleted from YouTube in any markets but will instead keep their viewcounts, comments, likes and presence in users’ playlists in case they are later restored.

TIME Appreciation

10 Lessons We Learned From the Internet’s Favorite Dads

This Father's Day, take a look back at the dads that have gone viral around the web

A good father shares advice and life lessons with his kids — and a great father shares advice and life lessons with the whole Internet. So, let’s take a moment to appreciate the important lessons imparted to us by great dads who’ve really made their digital mark.

Lesson 1: You can be a single lady, even if you’re a toddler and male.

Back in 2010, one dad made his son cry by telling him, “You’re not a single lady, buddy” when the boy began to dance to Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It).” The father soon realized his misstep and changed his tune, telling his young son that he CAN be a single lady, if he wants to be.

Lesson 2: Be thrilled about your accomplishments, even if they are remarkably average.

This dad wept with tears of unbridled joy when he learned that his son earned a C in math. So what if that’s, by definition, average? Stand up and be proud!

Lesson 3: Dads will always, always embarrass their kids when they dance.

Sometimes famous dads go viral for, well, just being really dad-like.

Lesson 4: There are plenty of songs to enjoy that are not “Let It Go.”

This father-daughter duo captured our collective heart for their spirited lip sync of Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy.”

Lesson 5: Laptops are not bulletproof.

Remember this dad who went on an eight-minute rant directed toward his daughter for her incessant whining on social media? One of the lessons here is don’t be a brat, but the real takeaway is that laptops don’t stand a chance in a firefight.

Lesson 6: You done goofed.

The now-deceased Gene Leonhardt became an Internet sensation for angrily defending his daughter from her haters — and for telling them, “You done goofed.” Let’s all try and apply that as a lesson every day, because we’ve probably all done goofed.

Lesson 7: Start planning NOW so you can become a viral sensation later.

This dad taped his kids coming downstairs on Christmas morning for more than two decades. It probably annoyed them — especially during their surly teen years — but look how much it paid off. They got millions of views on YouTube! Redemption.

Lesson 8: If you want to be a great dad, just get deployed to Afghanistan and then plan an elaborate surprise homecoming.

Sounds easy enough.

Lesson 9: America is number one!

In honor of the Sochi Olympics, this dad built a backyard snow luge for his kids and totally decked it out in red white and blue/woohoo America/USA is #1 type decor.

Lesson 10: You can’t hit people because you want pancakes.

The most important lesson of them all. Jury’s still out on whether or not you can hit people because you want waffles.


Facebook, YouTube Blocked in Iraq Amid Increasing Violence

Sites including Facebook and Youtube appear to be censored as the country appears to be spiraling into chaos

Facebook, YouTube and other social media platforms are largely inaccessible in Iraq Friday as the country is being threatened by a Sunni insurgency advancing on the capital.

“We are disturbed by reports of access issues in Iraq and are investigating. Limiting access to Internet services — essential for communication and commerce for millions of people — is a matter of concern for the global community,” a spokesperson for Facebook told TIME.

YouTube also confirmed that the company is receiving reports that “some users” in Iraq are unable to access the site. “There is no technical issue on our side and we’re looking into the situation,” a spokesperson said.

“Users in Iraq are reporting issues accessing our service, Twitter said. “We’re investigating their reports and we hope service will be restored quickly.”

Citing an anonymous source purportedly inside Iraq’s Ministry of Communications, the Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) also reported that social networking sites, as well as “a number of pornographic websites,” have been blocked in Iraq.

“The source did not reveal the motive for blocking these sites at the moment,” KUNA reports, “although some see it as part of government measure to prevent militants of Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) from using media outlets. ISIL militants have released videos and pictures through websites to promote their actions in central and north of Iraq.”

TIME Music

Psy and Snoop Dogg Rap About Getting Drunk. The Video Is Art

South Korean singer Psy performs during a charity soccer match between the Park Ji-sung and Friends team and Shanghai Laokele Stars in Shanghai
South Korean singer Psy performs during a charity soccer match in Shanghai on June 23, 2013 Aly Song—Reuters

Almost two years after "Gangnam Style," the K-Pop artist is back — in a splendid collaboration

No doubt we all remember Psy, the South Korean pop artist whose “Gangnam Style” infected every airwave on the planet for a few months in autumn 2012 — the music video, which recently surpassed 2 billion hits, is YouTube’s most viewed. Barring a brief burst of anti-American notoriety, the singer quickly and quietly faded into oblivion. But now he’s back, and he’s very drunk, and he’s rapping about it with Snoop Dogg.

The video for his latest track, “Hangover,” debuted online on Sunday. It’s delightful.

Some highlights: it begins with a shot of Psy, a married father of two, vomiting rather unceremoniously into a toilet before Snoop Dogg emerges from a bathtub behind him. Snoop dances in the tub for a brief moment — as one does — before exiting it to repeatedly slap the very ill Psy on the back, reminding him that the party, as the track’s chorus reiterates again and again, simply “ain’t over.”

Indeed it ain’t. After brushing their teeth together in synchronized rhythm, the two embark on a five-minute adventure that includes a riot in a Seoul seafood restaurant, what appears to be a drinking contest between the pop stars and two Korean aunties, and enough booze throughout to kill a small horse.

At one point, Psy bathes in a public fountain while Snoop waxes poetic in what may be a cry for help: “I can’t stop … I can’t quit; I wake up in the morning and do the same shit.”

The video, which is absolutely worth five minutes of your time, went live on YouTube on Sunday night after Psy and Snoop appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live to discuss it.

“For me, it was awesome, because I’ve always wanted to be in a martial-arts video,” Snoop said. Same, man.

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