Google Invests in Music Videos on Multiple Fronts


Written by on Wednesday, October 23, 2013

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Google strengthened its hold on music content by buying a stake in Vevo, but it’s also developing the concept of music videos with videos like Arcade Fire’s ‘Just A Reflektor’.

The Internet is still a minefield for copyright claims and content owners can be aggressive when it comes to royalties, especially in music and movies. Companies like Pandora and Spotify have shown that it’s possible to navigate the deep waters of online music licensing without going under, while Vevo has managed to do the same for music videos.

Established in 2009 as a joint venture between Universal Music Group (UMG), Sony Music, Abu Dhabi Media, Vevo is YouTube’s number one channel partner. The two had a symbiotic licensing relationship until last summer, when Google secured a 7% stake in the company with a 40 to 50 million-dollar investment.

According to comScore, Vevo is now bigger than any of its competitors, including MTV, Yahoo! Music and AOL. It’s clear the Vevo partnership was necessary for Google as they need to secure good content for eyeballs and ad revenue. Also, compared to YouTube, Vevo has a much younger audience and it’s fairing especially well among 13-24-year-olds. Youth preference is generally considered an indicator of future success so it makes sense Google would want to hold on to Vevo and eliminate onerous licensing negotiations.

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Bloomberg Businessweek visualized comScore data for their recent article on Vevo.

Google’s ambitions in shaping the future of music videos are not limited to Vevo or YouTube. The Google Chrome team has been behind some of the most creative video experiments seen in recent years. The benefit of Google Chrome is that the browser provides more flexibility than standard video platforms, even if video distribution will be limited.

In 2011, Arcade Fire’s song ‘We Used to Wait’ was featured on an interactive video called The Wilderness Downtown, created for Google Chrome. It pulled Google Maps Street View images around an address the viewer entered. It won a Grand Prix in Cannes.

Now, Arcade Fire has created another interactive Google Chrome video for their song ‘Just A Reflektor’. It’s a new type of music video that takes cues from the viewer’s smartphone. The users control the visual effects by moving their phone or tablet in the physical space they’re in and their webcam even brings their face into the video.

In the YouTube era, viewers are active participants. Songs inspire people to create their own videos where they are singing and dancing to their favorite songs. The challenge for music video producers is to harness the creative energy of the audience and build interaction as part of the experience. Google already has the stage set.

About the author

Vilja Sormunen looks after publishing and distribution at online video agency KLOK. She has previously worked in social marketing at Nokia as the global YouTube channel lead, online marketing at e-commerce company Spreadshirt and public relations at TBWA/Helsinki. Vilja studied international business at the Helsinki School of Economics and wrote her Master's thesis on viral marketing.