musicians wanted

photo by Sebastian Kim

As I stream The xx on MySpace — for the fifth delicious time today — let’s talk about music and money.

Clearly I’m a little late to the party, but I’ve just been reading about YouTube’s new revenue sharing program. Have you heard about it? Musicians Wanted is a partner plan for independent artists — and the key word is indie. You need to own the global rights to publish and distribute your own video content.

Here’s how it works:

Artists earn monthly revenue from both “relevant” ads overlaid on their original videos and banner ads that run beside the viewer window. They also earn dividends when their YouTube videos are embedded on external websites, such as music blogs (a huge selling point for popular artists), and bands can add tour dates and links-to-purchase for albums and merchandise.

Interested artists have to apply, and they’re evaluated on factors including video popularity, number of channel subscribers, and their involvement in the YouTube community at large. Videos also have to meet quality requirements (i.e. no loopy screen savers paired with an audio track). What’s especially interesting is that YouTube employees will choose which acts are accepted, essentially turning them into digital music scouts.

The first band to join up? OK Go, which left EMI / Capitol earlier this year to start its own label — and since everyone and their grandmother watched the addictive treadmill video for “Here It Goes Again,” they’ve definitely got the audience to make it work.

OK Go also got tongues wagging for using State Farm Insurance money to make its “This Too Shall Pass” video. A toy truck with a tiny State Farm logo on its door gets the action rolling and at the end, the screen reads: “OK Go thanks State Farm for making this video possible.”

Whether they’re savvy or sell-outs is your call — the arrangement has been heavily debated in both business and music circles — but the band has demonstrated that it’s willing to get cozy with mainstream brands in order to keep producing quirky, highly viral videos.

As for the YouTube program, the mere idea is another notch in the vinyl for indie artists. Major label representation is not the promised land of the past, and as more and more musicians choose to control their own careers, viable revenue models will continue to evolve and expand. The program’s other upside is its potential to spotlight innovative visual artists and bands that apply real creativity to their videos. After all, the more people view the vids, the more cash flows into deserving pockets.


posted 11 May 10 in: business, music, performance. This post currently has no responses.

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