Terry Teachout on Why YouTube Rocks

Despite some missteps on YouTube’s part, like the unnecessary removal of dozens of public domain cartoons from its site, I’m still a huge fan of the service. WALL STREET JOURNAL drama/art critic Terry Teachout recently wrote a must-read article that explains far better than I can why YouTube is such a revolutionary site. While Teachout’s piece focuses on the treasure trove of musical material that has popped up on the site, the same can be applied to animation. Over the past year on the Brew, we’ve linked to dozens of animated shorts on YouTube that would have otherwise been impossible to see by the average animation fan.

Just last month we linked to John and Faith Hubley’s classic MOONBIRD (1959) and I’d wager that more people saw that film on YouTube than have seen it in a theater in the past twenty years. The film, however, has already been removed from YouTube due to copyright violations. Teachout calls these YouTube-fearing companies “short-sighted” in his article, but as he makes clear, YouTube is the beginning of something far bigger. Says Teachout:

As any economist can tell you, supply creates its own demand. Disseminating high-culture TV and radio programming for free via the Web is among the simplest and most cost-effective ways to expand the audience for the fine arts. Every time a Web surfer in South Dakota or South Africa views a YouTube video by Louis Armstrong or Arturo Toscanini, he’s making a discovery that could change his life — not to mention his concert-going and record-buying habits. I can’t think of a better bargain.

The bottomline is that YouTube has proven that there is a market for quality entertainment, whether it be music performances or animated shorts. Now it’s only a matter of time before other companies start making legal, higher-quality copies of this material available for a few bucks per download. An exciting new world of animation is about to open up, and YouTube deserves a heap of credit for helping make that world possible.