With the growing popularity of Spotify and Pandora, it’s a little surprising to think that YouTube remains the biggest platform for streaming music, internationally.
However, when looking at the numbers, it soon becomes clear why this might be the case. While Spotify and Pandora are still only available in a limited number of countries, YouTube can be accessed pretty much anywhere.
What this results in is a massive disparity in how much each of these platforms are accessed. A recent article published on Gigaom.com revealed that ‘Wake Me Up’ by Avicii has been become the most streamed song on Spotify by amassing over 200 million views, but it still lagged well behind YouTube’s mammoth 450 million views of the song. And that wasn’t even the most-streamed song on YouTube. That accolade goes to Psy’s ‘Gangnam Style’, which has over two billion streams.
Driving much of this traffic from within the YouTube platform is Vevo, the video hosting service that often has its name attached to artists’ channels.
“We’re [YouTube’s] largest global partner across any genre—we’re doing close to eight billion video views a month, and the vast majority of those views are on YouTube,” says Vevo’s executive vice president international Nic Jones.
While users have been able to access Vevo channels in New Zealand for quite some time, Jones is currently in the country to launch a regional advertising and sales hub that will see the company working more closely with local brands.
“The most important thing to talk about is that we are now properly represented in New Zealand,” he says. “When we launched two and half years ago in New Zealand, the aim was always that we would have sales people here, but it has taken us until now to get to that point. The importance of now having people here means we are able to talk to brands and directly to help them understand what we’re doing with Vevo. And ultimately, globally, our ambition is to be making content in every market.”
As part of its move into the country, Vevo has appointed Brendan Muller as its country manager, and this role will see him manage the business in New Zealand by working closely with brands and advertising agencies.
In other markets, Vevo currently produces a significant amount of original content in conjunction with its commercial partnerships with brands, and Jones hopes to replicate this in the New Zealand market.
“As yet, we’ve done no original content in New Zealand, and that’s something that we hope to be doing and our business model is clearly that we want brands to operate and integrate into those opportunities. And having Brendan here means we’re now able to talk to brands directly about what we’re doing.”
Thus far, Vevo has only introduced sales teams in a handful of countries, but Jones is confident that there will be more to follow.
“We produce original content in American, London, France, Italy, Australia, Brazil and Germany,” he says. “We’re on YouTube in 240 countries, and we’ve actually launched Vevo as a standalone brand in 14. Now, I’m not saying we’ll end up launching Vevo in 240 different countries. In fact, we definitely won’t. But we consider being in a market as vital for us to build our brand and also to be able to monetise videos and music to fund the artists and the writers to make sure the business is sustainable.”
But Jones concedes that this isn’t necessarily the easiest thing to do, given the trepidation that brands often have when it comes to working with musicians.
“As Brendan will find out, music is a challenging content space to work in. Everybody says they’re passionate; everybody has an opinion. And we often have of brands who want to work with emerging artists, but the people who are doing the media buying might be in their 30s and 40s, and they might not know of these emerging artists. So from Brendan’s point of view, that’s a big challenge to convince the people who are buying that we know what we’re talking about and these are artists that they want to work with.”
He also says that there’s an edginess that comes with the music industry that many brands find risky.
“There are brands that go, ‘Ooh music, hold on a minute, how dangerous is it for us to work with music?’ So it’s an amazingly rewarding content space to work in, but it’s challenging. The fact that Brendon will soon be on board is vital for us to help brands understand how they can work with music.”
Jones contrasted this hesitancy to the willingness of brands to get involved with sporting stars, and said that the aim of Vevo is bridge the gap between these two areas.
“Sport has been a really interesting comparison for us. When Vevo first started five years ago, the whole idea of the Super Bowl being the most valuable advertising space you could buy. Even then, nobody had any problem believing in the value of advertising around sport, but they did have a problem understanding the value of advertising around music. That was the key driver of how Vevo started in the first place: wanting to put music right up there as a genuine, engaging connector with those 16- to 24-year-olds.”
Interestingly, sporting stars aren’t necessarily the best way in which to reach the millennial market, because as Jones explains: “If you look globally, nine of the top ten Twitter accounts are musicians. 17 of the top Facebook accounts are musicians, bands or artists. And then we did a study recently of the most popular and most liked celebrities in America, and we juxtaposed sporting against music. Apart from Michael Jordan, there isn’t one sportsman in the top 20 in the US. They’re all artists.”
And arguments such as these are starting to resonate with media buyers in the international markets where Vevo has a presence.
“We’ve just done our biggest gig ever in the UK. We did our Halloween ball three weeks ago, and 5,000 kids attended to watch four big, but emerging, artists. The content all went live last week, and it just looks fabulous. And that was all done by our people, although we did use production partners.”
Across the ditch, Vevo has also produced a discovery platform that makes it easier for brands to discover emerging artists in the UK market.
“We have a programme called Lift, which is about lifting the profile of new artists. And we have Ford sponsoring Lift in Australia. We worked with Empire of the Sun last year, we’re working with the [Kiwi band] Broods now, and Ford is very closely aligned with that project. We want to do more things like that.”
As with all streaming services, Vevo finds itself in a transitional zone in the sense that the industry is changing very quickly. And with this evolution has come a series of concerns about whether or not artists stand to benefit from the system.
While admitting that it’s an uncertain time for artists and the platforms that provide access to their music, Jones says that this isn’t the first time that there have been concerns about music being accessed free of charge.
“If you go back to the beginning of radio there was a whole argument on whether it was right to put music on the radio, because of the risk that it might stop people from buying it. Initially, radio was about live performance. And then when they started playing records, there was a concern that no one was going to buy them. So there is idea of how much free access is hurting or driving sales. And I think we’re all still learning.”
A major criticism that has been levelled at every streaming service is that they don’t remunerate artists sufficiently. This concern recently saw Taylor Swift follow in the footsteps of Thom Yorke by pulling her music from Spotify.
So is Jones concerned about this also happening on Vevo?
“Look, if Taylor Swift wants to pull all her stuff off Spotify, she pulls all her stuff off Spotify. I guess—and I hope to God that she doesn’t want to—if she wanted to pull off all her stuff from Vevo, she could do the same. Indeed, her manager was quoted in the New York Times this week saying that she makes more money on Vevo than she does from Spotify.”
Jones also adds that Vevo hasn’t had a case thus far of an artist pulling his or her content from the platform, and he says this stands as testament to the value that artists see in the service.
And having those artists on the service is integral to the success of Vevo in this sense that they provide the link to the millennial group that brands throughout the nation are so eager to connect with. Whether Vevo can convince the Kiwis holding the chequebooks to put their brand dollars into the platform is yet to be seen, but Jones and Muller are currently making the rounds and introducing their offering to the nation’s agencies.
And given that the players in the UK and Australia have come on board, it’s likely for at least some Kiwi brands to follow suit.