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About the music … Video: EMI, Warner, YouTube and Apple in deals.

The news in the later part of this week was all about the music, but not the music you listen to … it was about the music you watch.  

music videosIn a series of announcements several companies made clear they were taking music videos playing online seriously.   Some of the major names grabbing the headlines included labels Warner Music and EMI, search giant Google, and of course, Apple, which these days is always within a whisper of another headline regarding consumer entertainment technology.

Here’s a recap of developments in three news flashes:

News Flash 1: Warner Music

Warner Music, one of the Big 4 record labels, made public plans launch its own online video site.    The planned site, which will be built in partnership with UK based Premium TV, will house the entire archive of Warner Music’s music video collection.  Multiple sites are planned with content organized by artist, label (there are many labels under the Warner Music umbrella) or genre. 

All videos will be freely available for streamed viewing to music fans anywhere.  Advertising will support the site.  Footage not previously shown will be available and users will have the option to pay for downloadable copies of the videos instead of watching the stream.  (At this time it wasn’t clear whether the supporting advertising will be in-stream (included in the video), graphical display ads shown on the site and its embedded viewer, or some combination.)  

Describing the deal, Warner’s CEO told Reuters that the offering “represents a key step in [their] continued transformation…. These unique digital hubs will further enable us to monetize our content” 

Realistically, it’s hard to foresee how successful there own site will be in generating revenue for them.  It will likely be difficult for Warner to compete with the large audiences at established video sites – both those like MTV with licenses to show Music Videos, and sites that don’t have authorization but who’s users freely upload lots of material including music videos which may or may not include Warner Music content.

More in the way of chances of success is the fact that Warner Music has already seeded the market with its content.  It has pre-existing distribution deals that give Joost, YouTube and Brightcove the right to distribute Warner Music music videos. 

If I had the chance to interview Warner’s exec’s, I’d say riddle me this: Why will users go to a new Warner Music site if they’re already getting the content at the sites they currently frequent?   To quote Tom Hanks product assessment from the movie Big, “I don’t get it.”

It’s not clear what Warner’s hopes to achieve in building their own site. Do they hope to build this site into a destination? Or is it another brand development tool to help promote and market their artists?  As announced, it reaks a little of desperation and sounds like they’re experimenting by throwing a lot if efforts at the wall to  see what sticks.  The CD industry is hurting and a lot of the labels are struggling to find ways to shore up their businesses.  I wonder if this an experiment or part of a clearer plan.

News Flash 2: Apple and YouTube (Google)

The two companies announced they’d reached terms to allow YouTube videos to be displayed on Apple’s set-top TV box, Apple TV.   Steve Jobs made the announcement at The Wall Street Journal’s technology conference.

A mid June start date is anticipated (just in time for the iPhone and other big Apple announcements if they happen).  Thousands of YouTube videos will be made available giving Apple TV users and prospective buyers a much larger pool of content to peruse and consider.

The announcement didn’t address how much YouTube content would be included, nor whether that content would be purely from the user-generated category or if it might also include content licensed and authorized from other media companies (like the music videos). 

If licensed content is made available, some questions will have to be addressed including a few related to revenue sharing and a few regarding possible channel conflict.   More specifically, YouTube has agreements with all 4 of the major music labels now to display licensed music video content. Apple too, offers music videos through iTunes.  If the entire YouTube content library is made available there is bound to be overlap among titles (e.g. channel-conflict).  The agreements, both pre-existing with content owners, and newly formed between Google (YouTube) and Apple will have to sort all this out.

Questions of quality will likely come up as well.  Much of YouTube’s user generated content is of relatively low quality (in terms of video quality, not content which is up to individual tastes to decide).  How videos will display on someone’s widescreen HD TV through the Apple TV product is suspect, and I’m sure Apple will want to find a balance between giving its customers tremendous choice of content and insuring a high quality user experience.   One thing about Apple: they try very hard to create a user experience.

News Flash 3: Google (YouTube) and EMI

EMI, another of the Big 4 labels, announced that it had reached an agreement with Google to allow YouTube to display music videos from EMI’s artist portfolio. 

Similar to the sentiments of Warner Music’s CEO in describing Warner’s own independent video portal, the EMI management is hopeful that a business model will be developed that will allow EMI to track and monetize the viewing of their content. They’re hoping working with YouTube will lead to that. 

EMI is looking for the videos to provide a revenue stream they can share with their clients which include names like David Bowie, Norah Jones and the Beatles(to date, the Beatles library has not been made available online but that may change).

Fans will be able to watch the videos, and perhaps, mix up (or “mash up”) samples of them into videos of their own.  

After Note:

Last week on Metue, the question was posed: Has the internet killed the Television Music Video?  … the suggestion was yes, but the question wasn’t definitively answered.

With all of this weeks deals designed to bring more music videos online, it seems like the Doctor has signed a death certificate.

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