Sunday, March 18, 2012

MTV Gets Back Into Music

artists.MTV graphic from Music 3.0 blog
Believe it or not, MTV used to be strictly a music channel and had a huge influence on the charts and music in general during the 80's and into the 90's. It has since become more of a lifestyle channel and now has much more of cultural significance rather than a musical one, but the network wants to change that by introducing a new online platform dedicated to music called Artists.MTV.

YouTube is currently the go-to place for music discovery, and MTV wants a piece of it, hence the venture. Not only will Artists.MTV be a place for indie and major label acts, but also for unsigned artists as well. MTV wants to be able to have a place where new acts can be heard, promoted and hopefully (doubtfully) paid, but this seems like a real uphill battle.

Van Toffler, president of MTV parent Viacom Music Group, stated at SXSW last week that the goal is to be an all-encompassing musical experience. "You may discover music on Spotify, Pandora, or even MTV Hive," he said, "then you look them up on Wikipedia. Then you go to your Facebook page and tell your friends. Then you go to Songkick and see if they're touring. Then if the artist is lucky, you go to iTunes. It feels like there's an infinite environment to discover music - buy it, listen to it or pirate it, but there doesn't seem to be a uniformed galvanized place where artists could get information to their fans." Well, how about the artist's website, Facebook page or Twitter feed?

So what exactly does Artists.MTV have to offer to artists? Not only will artists have another place for fans to discover their music, but thanks to a partnership with Topspin, artists will be able to sell their music, concert tickets and merch directly to their fans, as well as receive direct payments via a "tip jar."

But the biggest carrot is the promise to connect bands to MTV itself. Artists.MTV will offer a program called Full Frontal where one artist a month is selected for a promo campaign on MTV, VH1 and CMT. The band will be picked by the fans and a committee of artists, managers and producers.

The site will be open to artists in May, and fans can view the site via a private beta soon, although the official launch won't be until sometime during the summer.

Artists already have too many options available to them and feel overwhelmed by them. Artists.MTV might be different in that the network brand still has some cache, but they've long been out of the real music business, and the networks demographic may not be transferrable for all but a few acts. Time will tell whether Artists.MTV will be just another shot in the dark or will have some real traction, but if I were a betting man, I'm not so sure I'd be placing any money on them.

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