2013-01-04

Music As Art

According to the channel info, the Official Richie Kotzen YouTube channel was created on July 23, 2011. By YouTube standards, this is a comparatively late arrival to the party. By comparison, SongeLeReveur joined in 2006 (click here to read my previous tribute to the incredible SongeLeReveur), and I joined in 2007 although, admittedly, I didn't start uploading videos until last year.

Kotzen's music is fantastic: bluesy, soulful, rocking, even jazzy at times. It is "guitar player's music" both in the sense that Kotzen displays a remarkable level of instrumental virtuosity and in the sense that the music is stylistically designed with the guitar player in mind. The chord progressions, licks, melodies, and overall vibe of his songs all come from that long heritage of great guitar players. Any fan of Hendrix, Van Halen, Jack White, et al. will likely also be a Richie Kotzen fan.

For that reason, Kotzen is an odd choice for a "Music As Art" post. He makes great music, but the style and shape of it is more about making good rock music than it is about making a striking artistic statement.

But, in this case, Kotzen's use of the YouTube medium is what makes his channel so compelling. Most artists upload a few official music videos and maybe an interview or two, their record label puts it on YouTube/VEVO, and away it goes. It's a workable approach, but it is very disconnected from the artist's audience. It feels like the product of a big marketing machine.

But Kotzen's channel is full of v-logs, lessons, and commentary. There are some official videos up there, but the great thing about them is that they seem pretty clearly self-produced. They aren't as glitzy as a U2 video, but YouTube isn't about glitz. YouTube is about real people, every-day average joes uploading their self-produced videos for all to see.

That's the whole idea of YouTube. It's not supposed to be slick, because it's supposed to be universal. So when people like SongeLeReveur upload music videos featuring themselves playing every instrument, there is a charm to it that goes well beyond Prince's multi-platinum albums on which he did the same. There is an intimacy that major record labels can't capture.

The amazing thing about Richie Kotzen is that he actually has managed to employ YouTube exactly the way it was intended. Here's his version of a one-man-band video:
Even better, Richie Kotzen has uploaded a number of videos featuring he and his band playing songs, seemingly at home, live. Here's a great example:
Simply stated, Kotzen's use of the YouTube medium captures precisely what YouTube creators envisioned when they invented it, and in doing so, he has also managed to one-up both regular YouTube schmucks like me and major-label recording artists.

The result is nothing short of art.