When MTV launched its first video music channel in the early 1980’s, it was a bold, innovative move that revolutionized the whole music industry at that time, changing it from a strictly “audio” industry to an “audio-visual” industry.
Ironically, nowadays, it seems MTV is running to keep up, trying to manage and navigate existing trends rather than starting new ones. Their latest effort is a soon-to-be-launched website, Artists.MTV, which was unveiled at this year’s SXSW.
While not entirely innovative, the website is actually a pretty good idea. The site, scheduled for a summer 2012 launch, will be a place where both major and independent bands and artists can reach out directly to their fan base, creating pages where they can market music, tickets and merch directly to fans. The site will also reportedly have a feature where gigs can be booked online for the bands. Any band or artist will be able to have a presence on the new website, regardless of size, connections or following.
As I said, the concept is a good one; the only problem is, it’s not really anything new by today’s standards. Independent artists are already finding ways to reach out directly to their fans without the direct help of the industry—much of it through the use of existing Internet platforms. Most artists nowadays have MySpace pages (pretty much the only lingering purpose that dated platform now serves), Facebook pages, Reverbnation, and plenty of other Web 2.0 style social networks. Even Artists.MTV itself is being designed by Topspin [http://www.topspinmedia.com], an existing direct-to-fan platform. When you think about all the ways artists already connect with fans, it seems as though there’s nothing innovative about this at all. It’s basically MTV’s attempt to get in on the action.
Having said that—MTV does have a few things going for it, and if they play their cards right, this new site could actually do some good in the current music market. The concept has two potential advantages that I see:
- The potential for centralized access. While artists now have many tools in the new music market to reach their fans directly, those tools currently exist on multiple platforms and/or social networks (for example, selling CDs on CDBaby [http://www.cdbaby.com], announcing shows on Facebook, raising funds on Kickstarter [http://www.kickstarter.com], etc.). If MTV can use Artists.MTV to centralize these functions on one recognizable platform, it could make it much easier for artists to connect with fans, and vice versa.
- The MTV brand name. Admittedly, it’s much easier to spread the word through an established, recognizable brand name than it is to spread the word virally about this or that new unknown website.
Simply put, if MTV can use these advantages to their full potential, they might actually have something useful. However, if they squander this moment and just try to get a piece of the action, I think this could easily backfire on them. Artists.MTV could either be the company’s best contribution to music in this decade, or it could be another failed attempt of the industry establishment to harness a new music revolution.
Guess we’ll find out this summer.
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Posted in: Music Industry