Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Artists.MTV: Smart or Just More Confusion?

It feels a little bit like deja vu.

This month Viacom's MTV announced a "MySpace"-like initiative called Artists.MTV.  The basic idea is to provide music artists a centralized place to access MTV's 60 million+ monthly visitors.  Aritsts.MTV will allow musicians to "claim" their sites and upload music, videos, photos, and link their "pages" with social-media accounts and other online shopping carts. "Pages" will go public at MTV's Video Music Awards this fall.

We've seen this before.  MySpace's music initiative was a mildly successful attempt at the same "thing."  Digital downloads have driven the price of music down to very affordable levels for consumers.   Once there were only a few places for consumers to get their media.  Now the problem is that there are almost too many places to get your music, music videos, and self-promote.  Add the juggernaut of iTunes into the picture, which is estimated to have up to 70% of digital music sales market share, and one has to wonder if anyone can change consumer's buying and mind-share habits.  At first glance, Artist.MTV could just be adding to the current marketplace confusion outside of the iTunes ecosystem.  But if you take another look at it, it very well could be extremely smart.

One of the biggest pet peeves of many artists is that they don't get a large enough cut of music sales revenue.  Over the last decade, declining CD sales revenue, piracy and a paradigm shift to digital music sales have steadily lowered the revenue artists receive from their music. Lower concert-ticket sales have also lowered the income artists receive each year.  According to Shannon Connolly, VP of digital-music strategy at MTV Music Group, "We felt like the world needed a place that's comprehensive and thorough, and that allows artists to connect with fans at scale...The goal is to help artists get paid." Summarizing their efforts, Ms. Connolly commented that ..."the goal here is to give artists the opportunity to monetize what they do...artists can get heard, get promoted and get paid."

What?  They want the artists to get paid?

It may be a basic play off of greed, but quite frankly, it may be enough to make a difference.  The Artists.MTV initiative (which includes the  VH1 and CMT brands) will share sales revenue with artists and ANY ad revenue generated on the pages through an agreement with Topspin Media.  This also gives artists the ability to receive the majority of revenue from sales of music, tickets and merchandise.  An increased share of sales may be the "ticket" to show iTunes, and other record companies, some real competition.

Digital sales, the digital marketplace, self-selling and self distribution are all meant to increase the income of the actual creators and producers.  Artist.MTV may actually be more than lip-service.  It may actually be the real deal.  Only time, and MTV's 60 million monthly visitors, and a significant marketing campaign, will be what tells us if anything can crack the thick shell of the iTunes ecosystem and the traditional record companies distribution network.


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