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Most Iconic Music Videos Appeared on YouTube in 2009. What Exactly Happened That Year?

Only four letters are the answer.

Photo by Gordon Cowie / Unsplash

We saw this question on Reddit and thought: Why, indeed?

If you look closer at it, it becomes pretty clear that many iconic music videos like Akon's 'Smack That,' Timbaland's and One Republic's 'Apologize,' Lady Gaga's 'Poker Face,' Ke$ha's 'Tik Tok,' The Black Eyed Peas 'Pump It,' Rihanna's 'Umbrella,' Britney's 'Toxic,' Shakira's 'Hips Don't Lie,' Evanescence's 'Bring Me To Life,' Linkin Park's 'In The End,' and many, so many others were uploaded to YouTube in 2009, despite being released years before it, and YouTube was publicly launched in 2005.

Some tracks that were, in fact, released in 2001, 2005, or 2007 ended up on YouTube only in 2009—what happened back then? What made so many music videos from iconic artists and producers appear on this back-then-developing video platform exactly that year?

The answer is Vevo. This video hosting service was a joint venture between major record labels (Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, and Sony Music Entertainment) to host their videos on YouTube, which was made as a response to music companies' complaints about piracy and unfair licensing terms.

Vevo was launched in 2009, and this allowed older videos from the labels' libraries to be officially uploaded en masse. Vevo became an alternative, some sort of a middleman for record labels to distribute their artists' music videos, bypassing traditional broadcast channels like MTV or VH1. The partnership ensured that artists and labels earned revenue from their content through ad sharing, as well.

Besides, by 2009, YouTube had become a hugely popular platform for viewing videos online. Music companies realised the promotional value of having their videos on YouTube to reach its massive audience. According to the data, by March 2008, YouTube had surpassed 100 million US viewers for the first time, with 14.8 billion online videos viewed in January 2009.

YouTube also introduced its Content Verification Program in 2007, allowing copyright holders to identify and remove unauthorised uploads of their content. This move might have made music companies more comfortable uploading their official videos.

Sure, now we have streaming platforms and social media, so moments like this often go unnoticed and are taken for granted. But now, as we speak, there are certainly happening things that'll make future generations of music industry pros and fans wonder—what happened back in 2024 that changed the industry for good.