Salli Frattini Readies The YouTube Music Awards

Executive producer discusses the unique properties of the inaugural YouTube Music Awards taking place Nov. 3 in New York
  • Salli Frattini, YouTube Music Awards executive producer
  • Photo: Dan MacMedan/
    Katy Perry
  • Photo: Kevin Mazur/
  • Photo: Dan MacMedan/
    Taylor Swift
  • Photo: Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images
    Arcade Fire's Win Butler
  • Photo: Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images
October 31, 2013 -- 5:12 pm PDT
By Roy Trakin /

Veteran awards show producer Salli Frattini spent 19 years at MTV, starting in 1988 as a line producer and going on to become senior vice president and head of production. In the process, Frattini oversaw nearly two decades' worth of MTV Video Music and Movie Awards shows, in addition to executive producing two Super Bowl halftime shows. In 2008 she founded Sunset Lane Entertainment, the company behind both YouTube Live!, the first live stream entertainment special produced by the upstart entity in 2008, and YouTube Play, a 2011 special honoring top talent working in the field of online video.

Frattini's experience has set the stage for her role as executive producer of the first YouTube Music Awards, which will take place in New York on Nov. 3. The inaugural performance lineup includes GRAMMY winners Arcade Fire, Eminem and Lady Gaga, as well as Avicii, M.I.A. and Earl Sweatshirt. Nominations in six categories, including Video of the Year and YouTube Phenomenon, are divvied up between the likes of Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, One Direction, Katy Perry, and Taylor Swift, along with YouTube stars Lindsey Stirling, Psy and Epic Rap Battles of History. Winners will be determined by factors such as how many times fans have legitimately shared a video via Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

In an exclusive interview, Frattini discussed the importance of YouTube to the music community, the festival atmosphere of the inaugural YouTube Music Awards and why the YTMAs will be different from all other awards shows.

Like they ask on Passover, why is the YouTube Music Awards different from all other awards shows?
This is not your traditional awards show. It's really a night of making things. We're trying to celebrate music in a unique way by making videos all night long of these performances. We're breaking the format. It's going to be much looser, a lot less formal. Creatively, the performers represent intricate moments with specialty directors for each.  It's going to be a very cool event, with a festival vibe [and] very different kinds of sets than you would normally see.

Is YouTube the new MTV?
YouTube seems to be people's first music choice when you're looking up a song or a video. It's like a massive music library of clips. It operates very different than a network. It's there for its community, a platform for creative artists to display their content. As an executive producer, what I find is interesting is, coming from a network, trying to develop properties that are entertaining and interesting, but applied to the platform, which is more about community. [Laughs] It's nice to do a show where you don't have to worry about ratings.

How is the production affected by the fact the show will be viewed more outside of its live stream?
It will immediately get chaptered up to go on demand, where it will live as individual performances. And that's one of the main reasons why we're trying to make stuff. We're creating these moments to last on the Internet. Each of the performances is its own little video piece. That's an important part of how we're designing the show. Because the traffic does come afterward, then it's shared, viewed and uploaded onto various channels, which aggregates millions of viewers. You can't even compare the numbers to network television. And I find that very interesting coming from that world for so many years. This is not an MTV Video Music Awards. … This is more of a unique property.

The superstar power on display here is testament to how important YouTube is to the music business.
It's a great promotional avenue, a great opportunity. Many of these artists were born because of YouTube and they know it. Honestly, that's key in all this.

Do you think it's inevitable YouTube will soon be on the television dial alongside major networks such as CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox?
Not sure. Last year, they put a great deal of money into producing original content and investing in individuals to create their own channels, which was obviously very successful. It's going to be interesting to follow it. I compare what's going on with these YouTube channels to what started with cable affiliates years ago. It's harder and harder for these small cable companies to survive because of all the competition from digital properties, like Hulu, Netflix and Apple TV. It'll be very interesting to see what happens.

(Roy Trakin, a senior editor for HITS magazine, has written for every rock publication that ever mattered, some that didn't, and got paid by most of them.) 

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