YouTube’s Narnia

The Narnia of YouTube

Deep within YouTube, hidden under all the layers of viral videos, promoted content, and other visual curiosities, lies an indie music Valhalla known affectionately by its hip denizens as the Narnia of YouTube. Praised by indie music fans as a “mystical journey of music discovery,” YouTube Narnia is a term used to describe the highly enjoyable and addicting process of unearthing so-called hidden, non-commercial indie music videos found beyond YouTube’s commercial front face. Aided by YouTube’s unique mix of search algorithms, music fans, trend hunters and talent scouts are utilizing YouTube Narnia as a powerful new tool to discover new bands and artists. In fact, these so called trips to Narnia are resonating so strongly with Millennials, that it’s driving them to purchase and download massive amounts of new music.



Narnia is a frame of mind
It is interesting to point out though–that just like as its C.S Lewis namesake–the Narnia of YouTube is not a real place. Having no exact location or URL to speak of, YouTube Narnia is more like a musical sweet spot, highly personal and unique to the individual’s own music tastes. To get to Narnia fans enter a “wardrobe” by searching for a song or band they like (for best results add a bit of indie). After the song loads, users peruse YouTube’s recommended videos (especially those with whimsical preview images/ intriguing song and band names) on the right-hand sidebar and then control click on an interesting video to open it in a new tab. Of course you can never open just one tab, because one amazing song leads to another, and another and another, and all of those songs have their own page filled with amazing songs as well.



Got to get ’em all: The joy of discovery and massive downloading
What happens next is perhaps the most intriguing behavior of all. Music fans that find Narnia, describe experiencing a euphoric feeling when discovering a treasure trove of brilliant new music that matches their exact tastes. According to one user, “it feels like every song was literally written for you. It’s insane! You just feel like you have to have every single one of them.” High on auditory induced dopamine, music fans will spend hours clicking on new videos, previewing them and then securing their findings in whichever way possible. YouTube rippers, iTunes, Spotify playlists; it doesn’t matter as long as they have access to it. The sheer volume of downloaded music is staggering as well, users report that they download an average of 50+ songs each session. This Narnia is some potent stuff.



The magic is in the algorithms
The secret in the sauce of course, is YouTube’s recommendation systems, a unique blend of search algorithms designed to “increase the numbers of videos the user will watch, increase the length of time he spends on the site, and maximize the enjoyment of his YouTube experience.” Utilizing item-to-item collaborative filtering, these algorithms combine things like artist and genre info with the users personal viewing history and mix that together with others of similar preferences, to create spot-on personalized recommendations. The longer the user spends in the YouTube of Narnia, the more the algorithm learns about the user’s unique taste and preferences, creating a powerful entertainment medium that is hard to leave.



A powerful consumer motivator
The Narnia of YouTube may exist purely in the mind and hearts of the listener, but nonetheless, Narnia is very much a real phenomenon and speaks volumes about the way youth discover and consume music. YouTube has long replaced MTV as a place to watch music videos and discover new bands, and while it certainly knows how to keep them occupied for hours on end, it is questionable how much of that time converts into music sales. If the Narnia of YouTube phenomenon teaches us anything, it is that the thrill of discovery powered by highly personalized recommendation systems is a very persuasive and lucrative consumer motivator. Outstanding opportunities exist for music services that can provide just the right mix of music diversity, personalized recommendations, and reasonable subscription prices.

Via Theresa Lune