As society endures trying times of global violence, racial tension and political turmoil, YouTube aims its latest campaign at those who define themselves by the music they listen to. The five-video initiative titled “It’s Who We Are” promotes the YouTube Music app by highlighting its audience’s diversity.

“We did a bunch of segmentation around our users and found this set of users who is really our key target market who finds and defines themselves by music,” Danielle Tiedt, YouTube’s chief marketing officer told Billboard. “We kind of leaned into characters where you really saw that juxtaposition of the way music is with you at really critical moments in your life and how it helps define you and bring these characters to life in the same way we’re also highlighting this incredible diversity of users and the music we have on the platform.”

The new series of ads are deliberately provocative, depicting characters that are the subject of much current debate, such as Muslims, racial stereotypes and the LGBTQ community. While any dialogue is brief, the focus of each video is the character and what they’re listening to. In Alex’s Theme, a teenager in a rural town dresses up in women’s clothing to Big Freedia’s “Club Now Skunk.” Afsa’s Theme, meanwhile, depicts a young, hijabi Muslim woman jamming out to “Blackalicious.” The common thread is that each character accepts themselves through the music they enjoy. After all, who hasn’t blasted their earballs to a motivating jam or fell into the melancholy embrace of a sad song after a break-up?


It’s no coincidence that these YouTube Music videos are timed with the Democratic and Republican National Conventions. YouTube admits that the purpose is to start conversations, heated or otherwise.

“There’s no doubt that they will cause controversy,” continued Tiedt, “These are exactly the kind of lightning rod identity politics that are going crazy in the world right now. One of the reasons why we’re kind of leaning into that a little bit is because at YouTube we have such commitment to this idea that everyone should have the freedom to belong. It’s really, really a core part of our mission and how we run our business and that’s part of why we’re sticking strong to characters like this because if not us, who?”

Music streaming is big business, with brands partnering with YouTube, Spotify, Pandora and more for maximum exposure. According to a new report by App Annie, music and entertainment-related categories experienced strong worldwide revenue growth across both Google Play and the iOS App Store in the second quarter of 2016.

While this celebration of diversity may be music to the ears of some, there’s no better place to find opposing and often misspelled opinions than on YouTube video comments, and the war has already begun.