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VEVO? VE-NO.

I was over in a friend’s house last night and the discussion was (as it invariably is) about music. The topic was Christina (or is that Xtina?) Aguilera’s comeback. Apparently it’s all very Lady Gaga. In any case, there being several laptops at hand connected to the homes super high speed wireless broadband, we went off on a trawl to search for Aguilera’s new single “Not Myself Tonight”.

I’d like to put this forward as a little case study as to how us 21st century kids look for music online:

Firstly we went to YouTube. Well duh! As Peter has pointed out previously YouTube is the number one place internet users go to listen to music online. But no dice; instead we found an 18 second teaser video with Christina introducing the “exclusive” premiere of the video on Vevo.

Now, being involved in music marketing I’ve heard about Vevo. It’s the music industry’s solution to the “problem” of YouTube; because we all know that interested fans actively searching for your music online is a problem after all. Vevo hosts content from three of the “Big Four” record labels; Sony, Universal and EMI. Warner are not on board yet but they will surely join the party soon enough. Though the video content is label-only the back end of the site is all managed and hosted by YouTube (well, they are the experts), who get a sizable chunk of the advertising revenue for their efforts. So essentially, Vevo is a controlled online environment owned by the top tier of the music industry who are filtering their “high quality” content away from the nasty common people who dare to make and upload their own videos and use copyrighted material as soundtracks.

So, we tried Vevo and here’s what we got:

Yes, Vevo is still not available outside of the US and Canada. And although they are quoting the fairly impressive figure of 226 million video views in their first full month of operations this January, that figure includes the huge numbers of views, both in North America and internationally, which are coming from the “Vevo channels” on YouTube a weird half-way house for label content which will exist until agreements for all the territories are finalised and Vevo becomes truly global, which is due to happen sometime in 2010.

So, our quest for the be-chapped one’s new song still remained unfulfilled. Next we tried her own website, where we were greeted by this lovely pop-up.

Yes, that’s a dead video link with a Buy button underneath. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m not in the habit of paying good money to download a song I’ve never even been given the chance to listen to. People listen to a song a few times, be that on the radio, online or because they’ve been exposed to it through friends, TV or the movies. They decide whether they like it or not and then they commit to purchase.  I especially amn’t inclined to buy a single when I feel like I’m being excluded from seeing a particular video because I happen to live outside of North America.

I suggested we should check out Christina’s Myspace. I distinctly heard a guffaw from one of my friends. While Myspace is still a very important tool for musicians, this reaction is an indicator of the size of the gulf which now exists between Myspace and what should be its core target audience of online music consumers. While dynamic companies such as Facebook have evolved with their users and profited as a result, Myspace are floundering with reported losses of $150 million in the last quarter documented. So we didn’t look at Myspace at all.

Myspace (red) vs. Facebook (blue) pageviews in US March 08 – March 09

Someone suggested we check Vimeo which hosts mainly HD user generated content, but my friend had already found and started downloading a torrent file of the video and 5 minutes later we had our own version on his laptop.

I got round to thinking about this whole sequence of events today and decided to look at Christina’s website once again. I mean, why wouldn’t she want her fans worldwide to see this video on her own site, even if they can’t get it on YouTube? It turns out she was not only doing her exclusive premiere on Vevo on the 30th April, but also on partner media sites across the world, including on Dublin’s 98fm. Fair enough – exclusive video premieres, album streaming and (the new vogue) “listening parties” are all great marketing tools to create buzz around a new release. But that was 7 days ago! The first week of a single release is absolutely critical and if you aren’t on the biggest site of them all for that time you are going to lose out big time. The benefits of the mass reach of YouTube far outweigh any perceived “control” issues which the labels are obsessed about and which they feel Vevo will rescue them from. However, the fact there are torrents of the video out there already just proves the point that Vevo is no better than YouTube at restricting filesharing. In fact Vevo’s protectionist philosophy may only encourage filesharing if it prevents people from getting content in the ways they have grown used to such as through YouTube.

We are living in a globalised world – that’s why blockbuster movies now always get worldwide releases. Vevo’s territory by territory release schedule is doing damage to their artists. Just put the video up on YouTube already and embrace the worldwide web; go where everyone is, instead of creating another place music fans have to remember to search. Given the raunchy content (see below) “Not Myself Tonight”  would surely be a top rated video in this country right now if everyone could easily get their hands on it on YouTube (incidentally the top video in Ireland this week is this – no less interesting for the boys!). And from a business point of view, harnessing the hype created for the exclusive premiere by blasting it out everywhere afterwards makes sense; the conversions to sale for such a well-known artist with a strong fan base in existence would surely be high.

So, in summation, for the reasons above and for more we’ll go into another time it’s Vevo, Ve-No.

By the way, here is the video – embedded from a source on Vimeo – it is up there which just goes to show people will always find a way. Warning: it’s very, very dirrrty!

Christina Aguilera – Not Myself Tonight from Josh Hickman on Vimeo.

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