December 4, 2012

Text: Our Interview with @MicFoxVEVO

What made you want to get started in the music industry?
I started as a club DJ in college and eventually got involved with my collage radio station. From there, I made a career as an air-personality and program director in the radio industry. My “second” career starting as the head of lifestyle marketing and promotion at Atlantic Records, followed by radio promotions and marketing at Island Def Jam. After a two year stint at TVT Records as VP of Marketing, I transitioned to the digital space at Universal Music Group. My major in college was computer science. I’ve always wanted to connect music through digital marketing.

So you worked at a lot of radio stations right? You worked in St. Louis at one point, you were all over the country. What’s the radio business like when you’re up and coming, trying to make your name?
I think it’s different now compared to when I was coming up. During my time, a goal was to be the best jock and move to a major market. It also required dedication and being committed to the business and being committed to the art. Radio is an art, but I think most people view it simply as DJs on the radio just having fun. However, there is an art to connecting with people who are listening to you. That even applies to club DJs. A good DJ connects with their audience on the dance floor. I eventually focused solely being a manager as the station programmer director. There is an art to connect all of a radio station’s programming because you’re overseeing the on-air personality, the marketing, and message. My job was to translate the lifestyle of a radio station to the consumer…that’s what makes a great radio station. A radio station that has a lifestyle.

Why do you think people find it so difficult to find the art in the business side of things?
I think it’s a combination of things in the business. That’s why I’m now on the side of the business that I am. Radio is still an important facet of life for millions of people. You simply turn on the radio and it works. Now there are many other ways one can discover music and lifestyles. Discovery is on Pandora, on Spotify, and on blog sites, i.e. Al Lindstrom.com. There’s many new distractions.

Clear Channel’s doing a good job, or should I say better job of connecting new lifestyle with the old lifestyle of radio. Though many radio companies are still doing the same things they were doing over ten years ago. They haven’t transitioned, especially for younger demos, to how listeners are now discovering music or wanting to discover music. There’s lack of knowledge and openness in radio programming to break open the box, to try something different. That’s why radio is too much the same.

Is that what intrigued you about VEVO?
I’ve been at VEVO since before VEVO was created. I was a part of a digital group within Universal Music Group called Global Digital Initiatives, which controlled the advertising for all the music labels’ websites. That division transitioned somewhat and I became part of a team that gave birth to VEVO. My little claim to fame was negotiating the VEVO.com url (domain name). That’s how far back I go back with VEVO.

Did you go on GoDaddy.com and buy it?
(Laughs) That’s funny. No, someone owned the domain name, we call them squatters. He was not doing anything with it and I had to negotiate to get a fair market price for it, even though, at the time, we didn’t know how big VEVO was going to be.

VEVO kind of had a rough start in a lot of people’s eyes. You want to talk about that a little bit?
VEVO was born from the idea that music videos had a huge audience online and if we delivered high definition music programming, we could build that audience. So, VEVO was created to bring great music video to the fans wherever they want to watch it. They can watch it on VEVO.com or on any of our free mobile and tablet apps or even now on Xbox. A major part of our distribution model is syndication. We syndicate and license our music video programs to dozens of other online sites like AOL, Facebook, Yahoo Music! Even Viacom Media Networks, which includes MTV.com. This is all good for the fan because they are getting all kinds of great music video experiences anywhere they go through VEVO. It’s also great for the artist, who wants a platform to connect with their fans. And it’s also valuable for the brand marketer, who wants to reach this massively scaled, highly engaged audience.

As most people know, we launched with a partnership with YouTube. Most people think VEVO is YouTube, and that’s not true. VEVO is the company that gives YouTube the videos from our content licensors, who are mostly the music labels. We partnered with YouTube because that was how most fans watch videos. They could upload copies to their channels and there ended up being thousands of versions of the same video everyone sometimes. Though we took control of the official music videos and content from many users, we offer highest quality versions.

VEVO’s launch 3 years ago may have been seen as a rough start but, for us, it was a predicted rough start. We knew the first 2 years would be difficult because you’re talking about changing the mindset of something people were used to doing and many felt their freedom was taken away. But really we are giving the viewer more freedom and more choice on where to go to watch music videos. The second thing for VEVO was to get artists and their managers engaged to use and promote VEVO with premieres and other content. Now we are in the stage of branding VEVO and the lifestyle of VEVO. It’s an important chapter that we’re entering. VEVO is a lifestyle brand.

And you’re doing a lot more original content with VEVO. You’ll see stuff like all the Kendrick Lamar interviews and things like that.
Ironically, when we initially launched VEVO, the idea was to have labels to deliver original content. We internally figured out that we could do more by creating our own original content with labels, artists, and managers. We started with original shows such as the “GO Show,” which is one of our most popular shows. It is shot as an impromptu performance with an artist in a specific city with a story. Our Kid Cudi piece is the most viewed GO Show to date with over 14.5 million views. Our artists performances are also really popular. Major brands like having partnerships with those types of shows.

VEVO doesn’t have a deal with all of the majors right? It’s only through Universal right now?
We have current deals with Universal Music Group, EMI, Sony Music Entertainment and many independent labels. There are even a few individual direct deals with artists we’re proud of, such as Daddy Yankee. We have a direct deal with Daddy Yankee because he does a separate label deal for every album he does, but he prefers us (VEVO) for all of his music video distribution.

Do you foresee this getting to a point where these types of streaming things could be bigger than just web based or mobile phone based? Kind of like the new radio or the new television.
Well…it’s already happening. Recent studies show, the younger demo now uses YouTube for music discovery instead of traditional radio. I think this will be more of the case in the next 2 to 3 years, especially with the increase of people with smartphones. With VEVO for example, we have an Xbox app that allows someone to watch your favorite videos on that platform. Like I said earlier, the overall arching idea for VEVO is to allow access virtually wherever the fan is. If the fan wants to watch the video on their phone, we’re there. If you want to watch it on Xbox, we’re there. You’re not locked down by any particular device. I think that’s where everything is going.

It’s amazing what you guys are doing. How many page views do you guys get again?
It’s funny. From a site perspective, you know, what’s important for VEVO is less about page views and more about video streams. As a platform, we’re streaming 4 billion videos a month worldwide.

VEVO is still growing and we’re definitely going to become more of a lifestyle brand but we will always keep music at our heart. We’re having more conversations with managers, or entities and the big thing is that we’re still an emerging platform. The cool thing is we have multiple ways to promote videos and content to the music fan. We plan to be the defacto music brand for music fans.

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