Music Video Today: Vevo and the YouTube Symphony
Last week, Universal Music and Youtube announced a new joint venture: a video channel showing Universal’s entire catalogue of 10,000 videos, called Vevo.com.
I didn’t blog about this when it was announced because, frankly, these things are repeatedly rolled out with fanfare and then turn to nothing. (Remember Urge?) And this smacks to me of one of those desperation moves cloaked as a business plan that we’re seeing a lot of as our familiar media avenues implode around us.
To wit: Record labels like Universal are finding themselves increasingly irrelevant in an age when everyone expects to get music for free and is finding ways to do it. And YouTube, for all its massive success, is reportedly still searching for a way to monetize its business. At least, a Credit Suisse analyst recently estimated that the company will lose $470 million this year.
Joining forces to compensate for each other’s weaknesses might make sense – if it had been conclusively demonstrated that music videos were a money-making proposition. The idea is that the two companies will split the income from ad revenue, and that it will be easier for a YouTube-like channel to sell advertising when its content is professionally produced rather than primarily user-generated. (Universal will own the channel, and YouTube will provide the technology.) But it seems to me that the overwhelming evidence in every field is that it’s hard to monetize your content on ad revenue alone. And didn’t the idea of a channel showing only music videos have its day in the 1980s, and end up morphing into something that showed hardly any music videos at all?
Obviously, I'm not a business reporter, just a classical music critic. But one reason I’m writing about this now is that I've been focused this week on one way that YouTube’s music videos can be productively used in real-world applications that make no money at all. This week sees the culmination of the YouTube Symphony project, and nearly 100 musicians from around the world, chosen from videos submitted through YouTube, have descended on New York for rehearsals and, tonight (Wednesday), a concert at Carnegie Hall under Michael Tilson Thomas (a.k.a. MTT)
I’ll be reporting on all of this in greater detail. But at the very least, all the musicians - who represent 30-odd countries and a wide range of experience - are working hard and seem to be getting a kick out of the whole thing. Last night there was an open mic event hosted at Le Poisson Rouge, New York’s new(ish) downtown club for alt-classical music.
So here's a use for music video. Nina Perlove, a flutist in Ohio who's in the YouTube Symphony, sent music for a flute and guitar duet to another YouTube Symphony player, Celso Garcia, a guitarist in Spain. Garcia posted a video to YouTube of himself playing the guitar part, and Perlove replied with a video of herself playing along with him. Last night, they played the duet together live at the Poisson Rouge. Small potatoes, perhaps; but possibly a more useful kind of collaboration.
Now I'm curious: how much do you, as a classical music listener, use YouTube, and how do you use it?
Edited to add: Obviously I'm not a videographer either, but here, in the spirit of YouTube, is some footage of open-mic night at the Poisson Rouge. After an introduction by Ed Sanders of YouTube, performers include the cellist Joshua Roman (an acclaimed soloist who is appearing with the orchestra), the clarinetist Marco Antonio Mazzini Herrera, from Peru, the flutist Nina Perlove, from Ohio, and the guitarist Celso Garcia Blanco, from Spain.
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