Q&A: Behind the scenes of YouTube’s “Best.Cover.Ever”

The team behind YouTube’s next big unscripted effort hopes it strikes a good note with fans of music competition series. Best.Cover.Ever., which premieres exclusively on YouTube today, pits aspiring musicians against one another ...
November 20, 2017

The team behind YouTube’s next big unscripted effort hopes it strikes a good note with fans of music competition series.

Best.Cover.Ever., which premieres exclusively on YouTube today, pits aspiring musicians against one another as they compete to perform the best cover of an established artist’s song.

The winner is then given the opportunity to perform a duet with the artist, to be aired on YouTube. Viewers will be able to witness the process of the performance coming to fruition.

The YouTube Original series is produced by Endemol Shine North America, Ryan Seacrest Productions and Columbia Records, with Ryan Seacrest, Ludacris, Rob Smith, Georgie Hurford-Jones, Marilyn Wilson, Teri Kennedy, Brian Nolan and Lee Stimmel serving as executive producers.

Artists Demi Lovato, Katy Perry, Keith Urban, Backstreet Boys and Flo Rida are set to make appearances.

Below, Georgie Hurford-Jones, SVP, unscripted programming, Endemol Shine North America and showrunner Marilyn Wilson chat about the new series:

What was the genesis for this series?
Georgie Hurford-Jones: This show was created in response to the worldwide trend in music – cover songs. The biggest music hits are constantly being reimagined and rearranged by talented artists all over the world so we wanted to give these new artists the chance to perform their versions with the artists they were covering.

Why do you think there is an appetite for Best.Cover.Ever?
Hurford-Jones: The cover songs trend really has taken the world by storm so it’s a show everyone can relate to. We found that the superstar artists also got a huge kick out of performing their songs in a new way and we ended up with some incredible collaborations that you wouldn’t see on other shows.

Marilyn Wilson: Cover songs are a huge phenomenon on social media. Some of the covers get even more views than the original songs. It is amazing to see the originality of these covers. Our cover artists really flipped some songs on their sides, whether vocally or with the arrangement and it blew away the artists they covered. No one has yet really captured this on a show and it’s been a thrill to get to see these new artists to sing with their idols.

What challenges did you face with production?
Hurford-Jones: We wanted to make sure that our search for artists really extended to the entire globe, [so] we had to make sure everyone knew about us and how to apply. As YouTube is home to the largest collection of cover songs in the world, we had the best platform to do that.

Wilson: We asked mega-music stars to come sing with total strangers. That unto itself was a big hurdle. We had major artists accept that challenge and run with it.  And they were all so gracious and game to have their songs reinterpreted.  Bebe Rexha said she felt like a proud parent when she sang with the winners – that it reinvigorated her and her song.  They all took that leap of faith and it was an amazing thing to experience.

We covered a lot of ground in the one day we spent with each musical artist – we basically shot the entire episode in 10 hours – from the minute the cover artists arrived, [to when they] had to audition in front of the superstar and one of the cover artists got selected to move forward. We then rehearsed the huge performance and then shot it and in the middle of all of it, interviewed everyone, heard their journeys and had a couple of wardrobe changes to top it off. Needless to say, there was not a second of down time and luckily, we had superstars who embraced the energy of the day and had a blast shooting the show.

How did your approach to producing a series for YouTube differ from producing a series for linear television?
Hurford-Jones: We took on board that the YouTube audience mainly watch through phones or computers. You can be much more ‘real’ when you make a show for YouTube; viewers don’t need to be led as much. We pulled back the curtain and showed the process – we didn’t hide anything!

Wilson: The first big thing is to realize most viewers will be watching on their phones or computers. It makes you rethink how to shoot a show – do you need the big sweeping jib shots or to you go with a more intimate feel? Intimate was always the best choice even though our musical performances are pretty epic. This show really peels back the curtain on all of the working parts of a show. We shot pretty much every minute of the day. I would like to think viewers like seeing that process – it’s not a slick thing – way more organic. It was exciting to do a show for YouTube – their sensibilities are perfectly suited for a show like this. You never know what part of the show will be a viral moment and that you get to see that with some immediacy is pretty cool!

There is nothing like being part of a music show – there is a magic that happens that is not about producing. It’s actually about NOT producing but letting it happen and being lucky enough to be a fly on the wall and have the privilege to be there and witness it.  Fingers crossed for Season 2!

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