YouTube's first-ever music awards thrilled and spilled, with Eminem named Artist of the Year though most winners were lesser known acts who featured in an eclectic show filled with stunts.
Sunday's webcast was kicked off by indie rockers Arcade Fire performing their new song "Afterlife" in a live video performance featuring a chorus of young girl singers in Pier 36, a sprawling indoor events space in New York.
Up next was a crying Lady Gaga, minus her trademark peroxide blonde hair and make-up, dressed in a tomboyish baseball cap marked "Dope," for a first performance of an eponymous song that she delivered in a haunting, melancholic tone while playing the piano.
Pictures later showed the enigmatic artist, well-known for unpredictable behavior, scantily clad and in an apparently distressed state on stage, with fans reaching up to touch her.
Hosted by actor Jason Schwartzman and musician-comedian Reggie Watts, the show's creative director Spike Jonze said before the event that he wanted to stay true to the video-sharing website's experimental origins.
The 90-minute affair may have split the Internet audience down the middle, judging by comments posted on Twitter, in which some people complained of censorship, when the show's live stream stopped several times.
The Breakthrough Act award, however, seemed to stay loyal to Jonze's aim, as it was taken home by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, whose featured video was shot for $5,000 and placed on YouTube, leading to great success.
The inaugural YouTube Music Awards joins a variety of industry events such as the Grammys, MTV Video Music Awards and American Music Awards, entering the fray at a time when people increasingly turn to the Internet for streaming and on-demand programming.
Unlike the established awards ceremonies, YouTube's event organizers said the nominees and winners were tallied in a distinctly Internet-age manner, based on "viewership, subscriber, and/or engagement metrics."
While big names Miley Cyrus, Psy, Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber were nominated for the coveted best video award it was K-Pop phenoms Girls' Generation who took home the prize, for their song "I Got a Boy."
The clips nominated for video of the year pulled in more than 1.9 billion views ahead of Sunday's show, according to YouTube's trends blog.
Eminem took home the top artist award, performing "Rap God," in the New York venue, but while the white rapper is known for his ability to shock his performance was not the most controversial feature of the show.
That was probably claimed by a short film by Lena Dunham, in which a young lovelorn man, apparently suffering from depression, agrees to commit suicide with a girl he just met.
"I'm so happy the audience chose the double suicide and not the romance. Y'all always pull through for me," Dunham, writer and creator of the hit HBO show "Girls," tweeted shortly after the mock suicide in which blood from the victims was spattered over the audience.
The YouTube event also honored the violinist Lindsey Stirling, whose career was drastically boosted or even enabled by the video-sharing platform, with the Best response award for videos that were remixed or parodied.
The Phenomenon Award, meanwhile, went to Taylor Swift's "I Knew You Were Trouble," video, and Innovation of the year went to DeStorm Power, the 160th most subscribed YouTube user whose 250 videos on the website have been watched more than 200 million times.
Official videos for all 10 artist of the year nominees attracted nearly 10 billion views from October 2012 to the beginning of the month.
In August last year, the Nielsen rating agency published a survey in which 64 percent of American adolescents said they listened to music on YouTube, compared with no more than 56 percent who said they listened to radio.
In another sign that tides are turning for standard forms of entertainment media, online streaming service Netflix hauled in a trove of Emmy nominations earlier this year for shows such as political saga "House of Cards," which vied for best drama.
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