It seems so long ago now. The days when MTV was cool. The days when MTV actually played music videos. When it was actually music television. Those days are long gone now, but once upon a time, MTV was the channel you would turn to when you wanted to find out about new songs or bands you should listen to.
The Internet has changed a lot of things about the way users relate to music. Services like VEVO and Spotify are great if you want to find the most recent music video or album from a band you know you already love, to add it to a playlist and save it for later.
But what about all that music you’d never heard of? There are any number of music blogs and top lists or whatever available, but nothing that was ever quite as easy as tuning in to MTV back in its music television heyday. To be honest, this is one reason that I had preferred Pandora over Spotify — while it’s great to be able to have access to a huge, on-demand catalog of music, there’s nothing quite like tuning into a Pandora channel and being introduced to new music similar to stuff I already knew I liked.*
Anyway, I’m not the only one who misses those early MTV days. Apparently the folks at VEVO do as well, since they’ve just rolled out their first new live and programmed music video offering, VEVO TV. The idea behind VEVO TV is to enable viewers to just sit back and have a stream of videos continuously shown to them, introducing them to new artists and allowing them to relive some old music videos that they might have forgotten about.
The online music video provider started toward this path about a year ago, when VEVO introduced a big new redesign that allowed viewers to tune into a video and then be served up a continuous stream of other songs they might like, based on playlists they had created, music in their iTunes collections, or social signals such as likes on Facebook.
That certainly increased engagement on VEVO’s main site and apps, with viewers tuning in for ever-longer periods of time. But since it was based on algorithms, the human element of curating a collection of interesting songs that play well next to one another was gone. That’s part of the reason for the launch of the new product.
Compared to everything that it had previously built, VEVO TV is decidedly anti-algorithm. In fact, as VEVO SVP of product and technology told me, internally the VEVO TV uses the slogan, “No algorithms allowed.” Instead, it’s hired a team to program the 24-hour live channel with hour-long blocks of videos based on specific themes or genres.
Considering the number of music videos that VEVO has access to and already makes available on an on-demand basis, you’d think there wouldn’t be too much involved in just putting those videos into a live format. But Cerda told me that the new product relies on a whole bunch of heavy lifting behind the scenes to make it work. Most notably, the live feed has a whole bunch of interesting metadata attached that will allow viewers watching to save music videos they like to playlists for viewing later, and enabling them to share them with their social channels.
There was also a lot of work necessary to ensure that the live stream worked on a bunch of devices that VEVO serves. Getting a live feed to a PC or web browser is one thing, but VEVO TV will also be available on all the mobile, tablet, and connected TV apps that the music video site serves. And when you’re thinking about what VEVO TV will look like on Microsoft’s XBox Live or Roku, it really is like having music television all over again.
For now, VEVO TV is just a single channel. But you can imagine the company expanding to provide whole networks devoted to different genres of music, or music for specific geographical audiences. And while it doesn’t really have visible VJs right now, there’s always the possibility that might become a part of the programming mix, or maybe VEVO could bring certain other musicians on board to program their own blocks of music videos.
To learn more about VEVO’s plans for VEVO TV, or to get a demo of the new product, check out the video interview I did with Cerda above. It’s a lot of fun!
* The launch of Spotify Radio channels for artists and songs has gone a long way to change that.