Online music video destination site Vevo launched tonight with an introduction by Bono, who forecast that the new site would strike a new paradigm in the music industry. “Friends, we are gathered here today to mourn the loss of a great old cash cow that was the music business,” Bono said. “But friends, we’re also here to celebrate new shoots, new life, and the birth of a new model for our industry.”
Taking a page out of Hulu CEO Jason Kilar’s playbook, Vevo CEO Rio Caraeff told the crowd at the company’s launch event in Manhattan that the new site would be all about the user experience. “If we focus on the fan, if we focus on the experience, the rest will fall in line,” Caraeff said. But then taking a page out the music industry’s playbook, he welcomed Mariah Carey, Adam Lambert and Lady Gaga to the stage. Let’s just say record labels don’t do humble very well.
Vevo will have a huge amount of video content at launch, as its owners control more than 80 percent of all music videos created. YouTube provides backend management for the videos and will also drive viewers to the new destination site.
The site will get rid of duplicate and low-quality uploads that currently plague YouTube, redirecting to the official highest-quality recording studio version on Vevo. High-definition videos are coming early next year, and synchronized lyrics are posted for as many videos as possible. Vevo videos are embeddable, though there doesn’t seem to be anyway for users to participate or mash them up beyond leaving a comment.
The company has future plans to make its videos available not just online, but on mobile and connected devices. “It’s not about building a destination site, it’s about building an experience,” Caraeff said. “It’s about putting out the best experience wherever people are.”
Universal Music CEO Doug Morris, who had the vision for the site and brought the team together, said that Vevo would be a boon for music lovers, artists, brands, and recording companies alike. And it marks a dramatic change in industry cooperation. “Major record companies are actually working together, and controlling their own destiny,” Morris said.
Vevo has seen a fair amount of interest from other content providers in the days leading up to tonight’s event. Yesterday, the company struck a licensing deal with EMI. And last week, the company announced a deal with CBS Interactive (s CBS) to bring content from Last.fm and more than 90 CBS radio stations to the site. In addition to the new content partners, Vevo has signed up a couple of big distribution partners. Both AOL and CBS were named as part of the “Vevo Music Network,” which will have embedded videos from the site.
Perhaps more importantly, Vevo has the support of advertisers and brands. The Universal Music Group-Sony Music joint venture is being referred to as the “Hulu of music videos,”and like Hulu, the site aims to better monetize video by giving it a clean, well-lit place. By moving their music videos off YouTube and onto the new site, the associated partners hope to create more value for advertisers that might be scared off by user-generated content.
Morris said brands are committing millions of dollars to Vevo before it has even launched. Key brand launch partners include AT&T, Colgate, Infiniti, McDonalds, Nikon, Sony, and Stoli, among others.
If successful, the companies involved in Vevo might be able to build a nice business from the ad-supported site, adding a much-needed additional revenue stream for a music industry that has been decimated by a drastic decline in sales of physical CDs that has not been matched by a rise in digital music sales.