Move over, golden record: YouTube launches partner rewards

YouTube (s GOOG) took a page out of the music industry’s playbook with the introduction of its new partner rewards program Thursday morning: The video site honored 80 of its partner publishers for surpassing a million subscribers with their channels. The prize? A golden YouTube play button.

The 80 publishers, which include both musicians like Katy Perry and Justin Bieber as well as homegrown YouTube talent like Freddie Wong and Michelle Phan, will also get a $500 B & H Photo gift card that can be used to buy video recording equipment and a YouTube-branded camera case. YouTube will send the same stuff, minus the golden play button, to every partner whose channel has more than 100,000 subscribers. Partners had to surpass these numbers by the end of May to qualify.

The site also released some interesting stats as part of the rewards: YouTube now has more than one million partners, meaning it is able to monetize videos of more than one million uploaders. The 80 partners honored with a golden play button collectively have 500 million subscribers, and clocked 251 billion video views. Also interesting: A quick count of the channels mentioned on YouTube’s rewards page shows that 1428 partner channels have more than 100,000, but less than one million views.

This isn’t the first time YouTube is dropping a little extra money on its partners in an attempt to encourage them to shoot better videos: In late 2010, it sent 500 of its partners $1000 each to buy some camera equipment. However, that gift card came without a fancy golden play button. YouTube said today that it wants to periodically give out more of these rewards in the future.