Universal Music Group, the biggest recording conglomerate in the world and home to artists like Celine Dion, Eminem and Lady Gaga, has announced the formation of a brand new record label entitled Awesomeness Music, which will exclusively mine YouTube channels in hopes of breaking the next big recording star.
Universal is partnering on the venture with music entrepreneurs Russell Simmons and Steve Rifkind to sign artists that have already catapulted to acclaim on YouTube -- a platform where 1 billion unique visitors consume over six billion hours of content every month.
Another partner on the venture is YouTube and television executive Brian Robbins, founder of the YouTube multi-channel network AwesomenessTV, which was acquired by DreamWorks in May 2013 for $33 million.
Two acts have already been signed: Cimorelli, a sextet of sisters whose a cappella pop covers have garnered nearly 3 million subscribers and Niykee Heaton, an 18-year-old singer songwriter from Chicago. Two additional artists will be signed in coming weeks, said Rifkind, who will serve as CEO of the label.
"We want to show the world that there's a new way of doing business," he told the Los Angeles Times. “The great thing is, we can reach our fans at the press of a button."
Awesomeness Music doesn’t represent the first time top music execs have turned to YouTube to unearth emerging talent with inbuilt fan bases and palpable buzz. In the past, popular acts to emerge from the site have included tween heartthrobs like Justin Bieber and Austin Mahone, as well as viral artists like Psy, of Gangam Style fame, which is by far the most viewed YouTube video of all time.
Previously, in March 2013, Simmons and Robbins partnered to form a YouTube network called All Def Digital with a stated focus on "post-racial" programming.