Summary:

MTV wants to embrace indie bands in a big way, launching 1 million artist pages later this summer. But how is the network going to make sure artists actually sign up? Tie-ins with its on-air programming and e-commerce opportunities could be key.

mtv artist pages

Remember the time when you’d discover new music on MTV? The music network wants to get back to those roots of being a major force in the music space with a new web initiative that will give a million bands and artists their own, personalized web page on MTV.com. The new artist pages were announced by MTV President Van Toffler at SXSW Music in Austin, Texas, Thursday afternoon and will launch later this summer. A preview page went up earlier today.

Artists will be able to use the page to build relationships with fans and even make money with merchandise sales. “We are opening up all of our artist pages to let artists control them directly,” explained Shannon Connolly, VP of Digital Music Strategy for MTV Music Group, during a phone call earlier this week.

MTV.com currently has some 10,000 band pages with information about better-known bands. For its new web initiative, it has partnered with The Echo Nest and Topspin to discover and empower a much bigger universe of music. Connolly readily admitted that MTV has traditionally been focused on major label acts with professional promotion-machines behind them. “That door is still open,” she said, adding, “but we are also opening a door for any artist to walk in and share their content.”

Artists can claim pages

What does this mean in practice? The Echo Nest is helping MTV to discover bands online and automatically generate individual web pages for each and every one of them. Bands can then claim these pages and add content directly and then connect them to some of the other online platforms they are using. If a band is updating its fans via Twitter or Facebook, posting videos on Vimeo or photos on Instagram, then it can simply import these feeds and display them on MTV.com as well. “We don’t think this is gonna be a direct and immediate replacement” for other services, said Connolly.

However, MTV does want to offer bands some things that aren’t available on some of the other sites. One of the biggest differentiators will be tools that will allow them to build direct relationships with fans, including ways to collect email addresses in exchange for free music downloads. These tools are powered by Topspin, whose CEO Ian Rogers told me, on Thursday, that he is “really excited” about the collaboration with MTV. “It’s really big news for us,” he said.

Yet another platform for artists?

The question is: How does MTV get artists to embrace yet another platform, after signing up for profiles on Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, Songkick, YouTube and many other sites over the years? “That hurdle really is the biggest one,” admitted Connolly during our conversation. The key may be that MTV promises to feature bands on its own programming, be it on MTV News or as part of a soundtrack for some of its scripted content. “We know the power of being profiled on MTV News,” Connolly said.

That’s a key selling point for Rogers as well. Services can build new offerings for musicians all day long, he told me, but there’s no point in using them without an opportunity to reach new audiences. That opportunity exists on MTV.com, he argued, and even more so on MTV’s television channels. And Rogers agreed that it’s also a way for MTV to get back to what it’s good at: “These guys have music in their DNA,” he said.

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