Best Music Video Website - 2011
By Ian S. Port
In its first two years, San Francisco-based music video website Yours Truly has left an indelible impression on the online music world. Its signature clips combine footage of artists performing in locales around San Francisco — recording studios, beaches, parks, and even bedrooms — with thoughtful interviews, giving viewers both the music as well as a sense of the personalities behind it. Yours Truly chooses artists based solely on the tastes of its producers, and serves them in a straightforward, minimalist style. "The themes of the site are being honest and earnest and almost innocent in your love and passion for a particular band," cofounder Will Abramson says. "No criticism, no satire, no sarcasm, just this kind of all-encompassing love."
The formula has worked: Yours Truly has helped break both and national artists like Morning Benders, Wavves, Big K.R.I.T., and others to a wider audience, posting videos on its own site. After starting the project, Abramson, Nate Chan, Caleb Morairty, and Babak Khoshnoud developed a partnership with the tastemaking music website Pitchfork, which began commissioning videos for a new series. The crew ended up shooting South by Southwest for Pitchfork, as well as the site's own music festival in Chicago; Yours Truly has also partnered with the likes of MTV and Urban Outfitters.
This is remarkable success for what began as a hobby for a few local music fans. Obsessed with a video series on French music site La Blogotheque, childhood friends Abramson and Khoshnoud started shooting artists performing around S.F. as a hobby. Things accelerated after they met local freelance videographer Nate Chan and decided to start their own project, naming it Yours Truly to indicate the passion they had for the artists they were shooting. When Abramson was laid off after the closure of music-tech company Imeem, Yours Truly became a full-time project (albeit one without full-time pay).
Despite the national attention, Yours Truly remains anchored to San Francisco — and that isn't likely to change. Abramson says the site wouldn't work if it was based in L.A. or New York: Yours Truly videos require time-consuming shoots, and it's harder to get time with touring artists in the country's two major media centers. Stops in S.F. tend to be more relaxed, giving the Yours Truly crew time for all-day or all-night recording sessions. "We also wanted to try and put San Francisco on the map a little bit," he says. Many of the site's most important videos, such as the megahit clip for the Morning Benders' "Promises," were shot at Different Fur recording studios in the Mission; the crew has made memorable videos on Ocean Beach, on the streets of the Mission, and inside various lofts in S.F. The site also doesn't hide its founders' affection for the diverse music coming out of the Bay Area — it has prominently featured local artists such as A B & the Sea, Grillade, Kelley Stoltz, and Weekend along with bands from the U.K. and Spain.
All the musicians Yours Truly shoots are asked to handwrite a letter to anyone they choose — past artists have written to grandmothers, managers, and even Sasquatch — saying something fun and sincere. The letters are then scanned and published online in a special section of the site. The prose ranges from goofy to heartfelt; Abramson says they're a chance to ask artists to give back to their fans, and to capture some of the intense feeling that goes into the music. The video crew is equally fervent: When Abramson says, "We do this because we don't know how to do anything else," you don't have to wonder whether he means it.
I knowed that boy, Will, when he was just a little biddy thang! Will and other buddies, gradulations from up here in the boonies. Remember "The Will's Ancient Civilization's Tour." Now, boy that was some group and I still thank about that tour, a lot. Ya'll be good, take care, and maybe in the not too distant future, come visit, have a piece of cake, lemonade, and we'all will talk about thangs.
Props to a group of people generating something unique in this economy. This is the spirit that drives our great country.