YouTube Series #4: lyric videos

Fourth episode of our series on YouTube best practice. This time, IDOL's Audience Development team talks about how lyric videos helped Ubisoft Music win subscribers.

In a previous episode of our YouTube series, the Audience Development team discussed lyric videos as a tool to boost performance on artists’ channels. Naturally, the use of lyric videos has also reached UGC videos published on TikTok.

In this new article, our experts explain why this format is an important promotional tool on YouTube, particularly since 2013. The Audience Development team also breaks down how, after spotting a trend, IDOL managed to gain 20,000 subscribers on the Ubisoft Music channel in just one month.

Content creation

As a general rule, the Audience Development team will always suggest incorporating lyric videos into the content strategy. “The idea is to create a lyric video as soon as possible, because it’s a format that works well without cannibalizing the views of a music video” explains Pierre Boucard, Head of Audience Development. For example, the group Dub Inc has adopted this practice for every track it publishes.

Lyric videos are easy to create, and can still be effective if no music video is planned for the release of a single. “When a track is performing welk, we often notice lyric videos being requested by fans, which is why we’ll take action and generate an official version.”

On TikTok, lyric videos are also a good way of supporting a track. As superimposed text is a standard of the platform, the IDOL teams recommend publishing short videos that include the lyrics. Here’s an example on one of Primero’s latest tracks. You can also see the work in action on IDOL’s Full Clip channel, a TikTok page focused on French rap.

@primerolodc Capricorne – Fragments part. 2 – disponible partout #NewMusic #TikTokMusic #Producer #LiveMusic #Rap ♬ Capricorne – Primero

In short, it is now an important format, often complementing a music video, teaser or other snippets. “A lyric video can contribute to the success of a track, but it’s rarely enough,” says Pierre Boucard.

The origins of lyric videos

In early 2013, Billboard changed the rules of its rankings to include online streaming in addition to sales and radio airplay, encouraging record companies to publish more videos.

However, apart from the Billboard rankings, record companies have also used lyric videos to keep fans waiting: “There are a lot of clever people who, by cutting up several videos of an artist and pirating the song, turn it into a clip that can reach millions of views on its own. How do you counter this race and still shoot a decent clip? You have to keep the public waiting with official content that bodes well for the future. That’s where the Lyric Video comes in, a short clip that takes a graphic approach to the lyrics of the song”, analysed Villa Schweppes magazine in 2013.

"An enhanced karaoke video with character.”

“Fans could easily upload their own ‘unofficial’ lyric video to YouTube, so labels and bands responded with force. They created their own versions out of necessity, rather than an actual creative desire – they just needed to get something out there to call ‘official’, banking on the captive online audience”, recounts Creative Pool magazine. Eventually, lyric videos became so popular that in 2014, MTV added a category to its Music Video Awards.

For many, one of the first lyric videos was Bob Dylan’s 1965 ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues‘.

After that, few artists chose this format, but it’s worth noting that Prince did it with ‘Sign O’ The Times‘ in 1987 and George Michael with ‘Praying For Time‘ in 1990. It was only with the advent of YouTube that artists began to embrace lyric videos, starting in 2007 with Justice’s ‘D.A.N.C.E‘ and Kanye West’s ‘Good Life‘.

But the most emblematic story is that of CeeLo Green, lead singer of Gnarls Barkley, who went solo in 2010.

“CeeLo hadn’t had the chance to film a full video for ‘F*ck You‘, but the song was absolutely exploding on the viral web. To take advantage of that heat before they could get the real video produced, CeeLo’s team came up with this delightful bit of typography. It caught fire, racking up 11 million views independently. The full video, released about a month later, went on to earn 23 million views”, narrates The Atlantic.

Since then, many have tried to stretch their imagination to create lyric videos, such as Katy Perry with ‘Birthday‘, while others simply use the TikTok tools to add lyrics to the video, often with just as much effectiveness.

Ubisoft and the Sea Shanties

At the beginning of 2021, the Sea Shanties, 19th century pirate and sailor songs, experienced a revival on TikTok, with a knock-on effect of a flood of UGC videos on YouTube.

The Audience Development team spotted the trend on these platforms and automatically identified, within the IDOL catalogue, the soundtrack to the video game Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, released by our partner Ubisoft Music in 2013.

To capitalise on this trend, the Audience Development team started creating lyric videos to centralise views on the Ubisoft Music channel. For two weeks, IDOL published one video a day, using visuals from the video game provided by Ubisoft.

The team then went on to block the unofficial videos of these tracks as they belong to the Ubisoft Music catalogue, and redirected all requests to the official videos. In just one month, the Ubisoft Music channel gained 20,000 subscribers, and the video for ‘Leave Her Johnny‘ was viewed more than 8 million times.

Going further
Read more articles