The benefits to musicians of having their videos available on YouTube go way beyond immediate promotion of new singles – that, at any rate, is the view of Public Enemy’s Chuck D, long one of digital music’s most outspoken proponents, as he explained recently to Distorted Loop.
“Public Enemy has been helped immensely by YouTube,” he explains, “because people have seen videos they’ve never seen before.”
The controversial group’s career was rejuvenated in 1999 when they split from their career-long label, Def Jam, after a row over online distribution. Chuck had made his feelings on digital distribution clear as early as 1994: a track on the band’s Muse Sick-N-Hour Mess Age album, Harry Allen’s Interactive Superhighway Phone Call to Chuck D, laid out a blueprint for a wired future years before any other musicians were thinking such thoughts. But it was the release of Swindlers Lust as an MP3 – in which Chuck berated Def Jam’s Russell Simmons and Lyor Cohen for failing to grasp the opportunities of the new era – that made the band crusaders for net music activism. What happened in between helps explain why.