I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the MTV paradox, which is, they are (or were depending on which letter is next to your “gen-” label) the first name that comes to mind when people think music videos. Oh, and footage of dancing spring break babes and shirtless meat-heads, they’ve got that too… But now people are going to YouTube for music videos, and why not? The content is available for free on-demand. And new bands without the resources to create highly produced videos are experiencing more than a modicum of notoriety when something truly engaging is created. Remember OK Go from 2007? The only drawback to YouTube in my opinion are the annoying people recording their reactions to things I could care less about and the crap quality of the video and audio that comes form their videos. Both fixable issues.
So what does MTV do to maintain its relevance in the music video space? We’re all accustomed to the meme, “content is king”. And there is no better test case for this than MTV. They’re a marginal player in the record industry, produce only some of the videos they air and of the videos they do produce they don’t necessarily own the rights to those songs. Lawyer Wars – fight!
And now comes even more bad news:
YouTube, Universal in Talk on Music Video Site
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Google’s YouTube and Universal Music Group are in talks to create a premium online music video service, sources familiar with the situation said on Wednesday.
If they reach a deal, the service could mark a significant step forward in Google’s attempt to generate revenue from YouTube, which it acquired for $1.65 billion in 2006.
It looks like the lessons of Hulu are being heard loud and clear: team up at the source and crack open the honey-pot for all to taste. Only this time there’s a twist by involving YouTube, which I can only guess is intended to leverage their well-known, well-used and cross-channel (web, mobile, Apple TV) distribution platform. You Tube also provided both the biggest threat and the biggest benefit to record labels at the same time. Their content was being pirated for free, which no one at the big bad labels could stomach, but paradoxically, this freely distributed content contributed to cold, hard, record sales by promoting bands through social networks and rankings. In one fell swoop this deal mitigated the negative and reinforced the positive. Brilliant!
So what is MTV to do? Without exclusive ownership of content, licensing restrictions must provide significant handcuffs to continued domination. With users already establishing digital use-patterns that don’t involve MTV at all, eating away at that pattern must be nigh impossible. Sadly, the ship might have sailed on this one. Record labels no longer have an incentive to call a do-over and bring MTV into the digital fold. It’s too bad too, I grew up on that channel, man – used to love 120 Minutes…