Screen shot 2011 01 22 at 15.09.07 300x234 How YouTube became the place to go for music on the WebOne of the more interesting trends to emerge in the world of digital music in recent times has been that of YouTube seemingly becoming one of the most popular, perhaps even the most popular, means of experiencing music online.

A recent report by Nielsen for the global music conference MIDEM reveals that listens to tracks on Youtube number three times the amount of legal downloads – a statistic which is likely to be raising a few eyebrows in the music industry right now.

Here’s some of the reasons why this may have come about:

A large and familiar user base

YouTube has been the home of music videos since it began so it’s not really a great surprise that users would turn to it as a means to experience music in general. In addition to commercially produced music videos for singles, many album tracks and live performances have also found their way on to the platform as well, either accompanied by static images or footage from gigs and concerts.

For the billions of users already familiar with the search and recommendation features of the platform it’s a quick and convenient means of exploring artists back catalogues, and a free one at that.

Mobile accessibility

YouTube’s popularity on mobile devices is well documented and, even though it’s likely to use more data when streaming tracks and music videos, its cross-platform nature and familiarity are likely to make it the first place smartphone users look to.

Whilst music streaming platforms such as Spotify and Rdio are certainly becoming more popular they currently lack the “household name” status that YouTube has. However, the curbs on heavy mobile data usage that some operators are threatening to put in place, and which cite YouTube as a main offender, could push people towards mobile streaming apps that allow for less data usage as well as local storage.

Difficult to moderate

With such a massive amount of media being uploaded to the YouTube every day, it’s nigh on impossible for rights holders or popular artists to keep track of their music being uploaded to the platform. Although there have been a few cases of artists and labels attempting to sue the platform for profiting from their IP, this has only really led to the inclusion of a largely ignored warning not to upload copyrighted material on the site.

These days, most rights holders are resigned to the fact that tracks are going to end up there regardless of threats and warnings and some are even starting to see it as a potential means of generating revenue, which brings me to my final point…

An easy means of previewing songs

For users who are looking to get a quick preview listen of a track and are not initially interested in sound quality YouTube can often be the best place to visit first. Some more web savvy artists and record labels have taken the measure of embedding ads with “Buy” buttons or links to iTunes for the tracks into YouTube recently – something which, if used extensively, could be a great means of harnessing the platforms success as a music streaming service and transforming it into much-needed music sales.