YouTube is a global phenomenon, a user-generated content community website whose success is based on its multiple roles of broadcast platform, media archive and social network. Its users are a mix of traditional media companies, businesses, corporates, governmental and educational organisations, cultural institutions and the amateur user.
Beer (2008) in an article focusing on music culture in the context of Web 2.0 lists 4 different types of developments that are characteristic of  harnessing collective intelligence and generating browsing content, the main features of Web 2.0: wikis, folksonomies, mashup and social networking. (p. 226-227) YouTube, as a vast archive of tagged videoclips, with the added feature of providing comments is a hybrid since it is a folksonomy with social networking functionality.

In a 2009 published YouTube reader (available online) the editors, Pelle Snickars and Patrick Vonderau refer to the challenge of defining YouTube's volatile mix which they consider a community-driven 'platform'. Having been bought by Google, YouTube is increasingly seen as profit-driven enterprise, with 'monetization' the number 1 priority. (p.10) As the fastest growing site in the history of the Web, it has become 'the epitome of digital culture not only by promising endless opportunity for viral marketing or format development, but also by allowing 'you' to post a video which might incidentally change the course of history. Establishing a clip culture that outpaces cinema and television, the brand-named video-distribution platform holds the broadest repository of moving-image culture to date'  For the music fan, YouTube is the ultimate music fanzine, since music videos are dominating the 'most popular' and 'most viewed' content. (Snickars & Vonderau, 2009, 11 and Burgess & Green, 2008, 51)

Incidentally, the suggestion of dealing with a  'platform' as a metaphor aligns well for the music fan who is keen to watch the band live on 'the stage'. A platform, as Tarleton Gillespie (2010) explored, is an ambivalent metaphor, which can be used by institutions and individuals alike, for personal, corporate and political reasons. For YouTube, the slogan 'broadcasting yourself' is sending a clear signal that anything can be considered (and indeed is going by the previous link), but in terms of advertising revenue (which the last one has), corporate views will be the highest earners.

For the music fan, the juxta positioning of 'controlled' and freely 'manufactured’ output of the record company is perhaps not considered selective. Indeed fans continuously manufacture their own uploads  in the digital workshop (via phone or camera). As Martin Hand (2008, p. 24) reflects: ‘Now we have the ‘promise’ of horizontal and interactional patterns of circulation and flow.’  

Jean Burgess and Joshua Green (2009) offer a comprehensive YouTube analysis, based on a detailed nethnography carried out in 2007, and additional reporting on other studies. They agree that YouTube’s success is down to its ‘very simple and integrated service within which users could upload, publish and view streaming videos without high levels of technical knowledge and within the technical constraints of standard browser software and relatively modest bandwidth.’ They also note (p.1) that there are no limits to uploading multiple videos and that users can connect with friends and embed uploads into other websites and blogs, a feature Richard Grusin (2009,p. 60) labels as promiscuous.

One of YouTube co-founders, Jared Kawim, commented (Burgess and Green, 2009, p. 2) that YouTube’s interface of showing related videos and recommendations, together with an invitation to post comments and a ‘share’ button also makes it very attractive. Prelinger (2009) argues that in addition to these features, a high percentage of the material uploaded is not available for sale, on loan or via other channels, but available through ‘crowdsourcing’, (p. 268) and it is this element in particular that I would suggest has top memorabilia value for the music fan. The instantaneous access and the facility to upload more or less anything brings a mix of corporate and personal experiences, all exploring the same playing field and contributing to why YouTube is regarded as an ‘accidental’ (Burgess and Green, 2009, p. 88) and ‘by default’ video archive (Prelinger, 2009, p. 268-272). Snickars and Vonderau (2009) see YouTube as a 'node' and a 'network', a library, an archive, a database, a laboratory (views per clip are counted through analytics) or a medium like television. (p. 13)

Burgess and Green (2009, p. 5) suggest there is a discomfort associated with the meaning and uses of YouTube. They identify this as ‘generativity’ which emerges from YouTube’s multiple roles (high volume website, broadcast platform, media archive, social network)  to which I would like to add a personal scrapbooking service, ‘personal’ despite its very public visibility. The dichotomy of the very public vs. the very personal is supported by YouTube’s sheer commercial drive.  The likelihood of many of the uploads appearing in the search engine is pretty low. What is popular culture is content selected according to a range of measures (which itself are under constant scrutiny): most viewed, most responded, most discussed, top rated, most favourited, previously popular, and most active, and all this listed along a timeframe of ‘today’, ‘this week’, ‘this month’. 

As a result Burgess and Green (2009, p. 57-58) regard YouTube in terms of a 'continuum of cultural participation', where everyone is a participant and can view, upload, comment, create content, in a sense contribute to the 'YouTube-ness'. This YouTube-ness is subsequently folded into a wider audience-hood, offering an endless loop of quoting, favouriting, commenting, responding, sharing, viewing. Users are engaged in a never-ending practice of re-purposing, annotating and remixing of traditional and new media content. This aligns with Martin Hand's (2008) observations of those who consider YouTube's as a new utopian institution (p 16-17) that can 'massively extend the volume and flow of information exchanges across traditional boundaries and divisions (...) strengthening the forces of democratic 'interactive' culture’. 

Teddernick (2008, p. 90) quotes Jenkins (2003) who observes that ‘the average citizen can now participate in archiving, annotation, appropriation, transformation and re-circulation of media content.’, illustrated with the following example:

If you access the link here, you will be able to read my comment below and any subsequent posts.

If you choose not to view on YouTube platform, here is 'my comment' I posted:

Here, ‘amongst’ all other artefacts, it is easy to store, situate my own personal memorabilia, no infringement of copyrights involved. Authenticity is facilitated by the YouTube architecture. The threatened dystopian loss of meaning is not obvious, on the contrary, the authorship of the upload is part of the networked context of similar uploads, aligning experiences in digital space and time making it temporal and historic. 

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