When the internet was nothing more than a fledgling technology project, way back in the 1990's, the mantra of those in the know was simple. "Content is King" - Meaning that simply having a website was not enough, the material on that website counted more than anything else. Sadly, that simple principle is becoming increasingly obscured in today's online world.
In dance terms the content is, of course, the actual work that choreographers and dance companies make and then show to the world, usually, via live performances. All too often in the discussions about how to spread the word about that work, using the internet or any other method of communication, absent from the dialogue is any comment about the work being, you know, any bloody good!
Wandering out onto a stage and flapping your arms and legs about is not something people will care to watch. They want some craft, they want some quality!
Were you to take leave of your senses and have a good look around YouTube you would find that the most popular video on that site is called 'The Evolution of Dance'. This performance is cited by many as proof that Google's omnipresent video site is "good for dance" because it's been viewed 80 Million times (a figure which cannot and never will be independently verified).
The only problem with this "comedy" dance routine is that it's unremittingly awful in every conceivable way. To be fair, the person in it (Judson Laipply) is not a dancer, he is, apparently, an "inspirational comedian" (what the hell is that? Ed!) although all the evidence suggests that he's not a very good one. At one point simply standing on one foot proves to be a struggle for Mr Laipply.
Many of the views of the video appear to have been prompted by user curiosity over the videos ever growing popularity, the videos viral nature having kicked into high gear and stayed there. If you bother to wade through the comments, there are 136,000+ of them, you will see that, on the first 14 pages at least, most people are either deriding the content, spamming or making accusations about the parentage of other commenters!
'The Evolution of Dance' is a classic example of the mechanism succeeding where the content is clearly failing. It was easy to make the video, it was easy to place it on YouTube, it's easy for people to watch it, rate it and comment on it. None of that however will ever make this material any good. The only thing it's got going for itself is a number. It's a throw away piece of work hardly worth the 5 minutes it takes to watch it.
A lot of writers in the technology blogs are sounding the death knells of the big media companies, especially big music labels, movie studios and television production companies. Online distribution mechanisms make it easy to disseminate content so their time is up, the consumer wins, everything will be driven by advertising and free!
Which is complete rubbish of course because we need the content producers to actually produce the, wait for it, content! No NBC - no 'Heroes', no BBC - no 'Torchwood', No ABC - no 'Lost', no Time Warner, New Line, Universal, Columbia - no movies, no professional dance companies - it's Mr Laipply and his "inspirational comedy", etc, etc. Music is a slightly different beast but the principal is the same; no talent, no content.
Absent the creative skills of writers, actors, dancers, musicians and production crews all you are left with is some very clever technology (the internet) and not a lot else.
The driving force behind the success of the iPod/iTunes combination from Apple is not the easy to use technology, it's the music. People want music and they want it all the time and the iPod/iTunes combination provides the easiest way to keep that music with you wherever you go. Without the music content however all you have left is 50,000 podcasts about stuff nobody could care less about. The public at large could live without the iPod, but could they live without the music?
Apple hasn't recorded 4 billion podcast downloads, they have recorded 4 billion music sales. You have to pay for the professionally produced music, the podcasts are free!
The beginnings of a good piece of dance, worth promoting via the myriad of technologically advanced methods available to us all today, starts in the studio with real dancers and real choreographers. It may be easy to film something and put it online but it is certainly not easy to make something worth filming and put online for promotional or any other purpose.
If your work is of the very highest quality you can muster, if it's lavished will every ounce of craft you can wring from your own creative ability then it will stand a chance of being noticed. All the technology in the world is not going to make this profession any easier for anybody. Certainly not dance makers or the dancers themselves. Think before you hit that upload button!
One final word on YouTube. It seems strange that camera technology and computer based editing are making high quality video production an easier thing to accomplish and YouTube users are running as fast as possible in the opposite direction. Why spend months crafting your new show only to denigrate it with a worthless 3 minute piece of mush on that particular website?
Shoot your own video, compress your own video and host your own video, your work will thank you for it.