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Image: Chaka Zulu, I20, Ludacris, Rocko
John Amis  /  AP
Record producer Chaka Zulu, right, looks through material from his artists to post on YouTube, while I20, second from left, Ludacris, left, and Rocko, film a video on Sept. 2 in Atlanta.
updated 9/16/2008 6:05:12 PM ET 2008-09-16T22:05:12

When Ludacris’ manager wanted to create buzz for his client’s upcoming CD, he went directly to YouTube.com. But instead of releasing a flashy video for Ludacris’ song “Let’s Stay Together,” Chaka Zulu just uploaded the track directly to the site with a just picture of the rapper as accompaniment.

“You actually get to visualize the music,” said Zulu, who is also co-founder of Ludacris’ Disturbing tha Peace label. “Even if it’s not a real video, music is emotion. Music has a concept and theme.”

Though YouTube is known as the Internet’s greatest video warehouse, it’s becoming known as the place to find new music, no video needed. Put in the name of your favorite artist and there’s chance that besides an assortment of their videos, you’ll find a song with perhaps just a picture or a montage of photos to accompany it — and it still gets thousands of views.

If anyone wants to hear Akon’s remake of Michael Jackson’s “Wanna Be Starting Something,” it’s there. Someone yearning for the new Guns N’ Roses track “Shackler’s Revenge” or T.I.’s new release “Live Your Life” featuring Rihanna, all it takes is a quick search of their name and song title. No problem. While some of the songs are posted directly by an artist’s camp, others are uploaded by fans eager to share and discuss new music by their favorite act.

DJ Sickamore, who was director of A&R at Atlantic Records for two years and now has his own entertainment management company, says YouTube is a simpler way to listen to music on the Internet.

“Other file hosting sites have too many steps,” said DJ Sickamore. “If I like a song, I can hear it instantly without any problems. You definitely have to take advantage of this tool.”

Zulu first noticed the power of YouTube sans video two years ago when he posted Ludacris’ song “War with God” with just the rapper’s picture as a visual on the site. Soon after, Zulu’s BlackBerry was bombarded with text messages.

“It had the Internet going crazy,” recalled Zulu. “I was getting tons of messages about how they loved it. I didn’t know that many people heard it.

“It’s a viable marketing tool for us now,” he added.

‘A chance to see someone else’s take on my music’
Country star Taylor Swift has also caught on. For the upcoming November release of her sophomore CD “Fearless,” Swift, along with her label, hopes to create a picture or video montage for each of the CD’s tracks for YouTube. So far, she’s enjoyed checking out the fan-created postings of her songs on YouTube.

“It’s like having another video,” said Swift, 18. “For me, it’s a chance to see someone else’s take on my music. I embrace that and think it’s cool.”

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It’s easy to see the benefits YouTube offers: It gets millions of views per day, according to the site. In addition, by posting a song on YouTube, it creates excitement in a low-cost way, compared to other promotional methods, such as sending out crop of street team members to various local nightclubs or other events.

“You can do mass advertising for every song through one click,” gospel artist Tye Tribbett said. He and his choir Greater Anointing, who have had their songs posted on YouTube, had strong success on the Billboard gospel charts with the album “Stand Out” this year.

Still, there are downsides, such as having an unreleased track floating on the Web before a label approves of its release.

“It’s a double-edge sword for us,” said David Bell, director of digital marketing at the Zomba Label Group, which includes Jive Records, home to Justin Timberlake, Chris Brown, Ciara and Britney Spears, among others. Despite the potential of releasing songs first on YouTube, he said advertising on the radio is still a preferred method.

Slideshow: Celebrity Sightings “It’s another channel for leaked music,” Bell added. “It’s not just peer-to-peer sites anymore. All they’re trying to do is show their love for the artist, but at the end of the day, they’re taking a leaked track and (it’s) just sort of a multiplication of our music.”

Tribbett wasn’t initially keen on his songs being posted without his knowledge either. But now he believes YouTube had a major influence in helping the group’s album become successful one.

“I said to myself, ‘Whoa, hold on. Who put my stuff out before the album even came out?” he recalled. “But I realized that’s the promotion that whet people’s appetites to the point where sales were better because that happened. So, I was like, ‘Well, never mind. Whoever it was, do it again.”’

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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