Internet Killed the Video Star: New Network Transforms Video Viewing


Internet Killed the Video Star: New Network Transforms Video Viewing

Ever since The Buggles’ aptly titled track “Video Killed The Radio Star” launched the MTV network in 1981, the music video has played a central role in the marketing and discovery of popular music.

However, as discussed in part one of our series exploring the future of music videos, MTV swapped out its 24/7 music-video format for teen-targeted reality TV programming. As a result, the music-video landscape has shifted to the on-demand experience offered by websites such as YouTube, VEVO, and Vimeo. But what if rather than choosing the specific music videos you want to watch, you’d simply tune in, kick back, and discover new music? Well, then you’ll want to check out ZUUS.

This groundbreaking multi-channel music-video network has partnered with both major and indie labels to offer music fans an expertly curated experience. Currently in public beta, ZUUS will offer 100+ digital channels featuring a wide variety of music genres delivered via TV, web, connected TV, and mobile devices, with ZUUS Country and ZUUS Latino already available in over 60 million US households via Linear Television (ZUUS Hits and ZUUS Hip Hop and R&B are expected to launch on television in early 2014).

In addition to its astoundingly large catalogue of music videos, ZUUS will also broadcast original content, including live footage, behind-the-scenes access, interviews, artist-hosted shows, and more.

ZUUS 2.0 is expected to launch in February 2014, and iQ recently had a chance to chat with the company’s CEO and Co-Founder, Steve Goldstein, about this innovative platform, the evolving role of videos in the discovery of new music, and the impact of technology on the content of modern music videos.

Can you tell me a bit about how ZUUS was founded? Where did the idea for the multi-platform network originate?

ZUUS was founded to capitalize on a series of major shifts in the media landscape:

1) MTV exits the music-video business to focus on reality programming, leaving significant unmet consumer demand for music videos and artist-driven content.

2) The explosive growth of music-video consumption online. Music videos have never been more popular than today, with billions of views on sites like YouTube and VEVO.

3) Tremendous market fragmentation and lack of brand leadership in the music video space. The music industry is extremely spread out over the landscape of indie rock, country, EDM, pop, etc., with no brand “owning” the category as MTV did in the 80s and 90s.

4) The rising power of “long tail” economics. The ever-increasing efficiencies of digital distribution make it possible to aggregate and deliver compelling content to an expansive array of consumer interests and sub-segments. Hulu, Netflix, and YouTube prove this model each day.

5) The explosion of media distribution options. From television, to tablets, to mobile, to connected TV, we are capturing a huge opportunity to reach consumers across a diverse range of platforms, wherever and whenever they choose.

What sets ZUUS apart from other music-video hosting sites, such as YouTube, MTV Online, VEVO, etc.?

ZUUS fills the white space opportunity for a “lean-back” video viewing experience, with a deeper library of content spanning videos from the late-70s to the most current videos issued weekly by the major labels, Indies, and individual artists.

Unlike YouTube, we focus on a “music only” video experience. VEVO (through YouTube) is focused on the on-demand experience (a user must know exactly what he/she wants to watch and is enabled to consume on an à la carte basis), and MTV continues to move its business toward a reality-driven programming platform, with only a slight gesture toward music (leveraging the VEVO player and other on-demand content).

ZUUS is reinventing the music-video experience for the digital age with curated discovery at its core. Think of it this way: ZUUS’s curated, continuous play model is to VEVO’s on-demand model what Pandora’s/Sirius’ continuous play model is to Spotify’s on-demand model.

Traditionally music videos were considered a way for both new and established artists to promote their music. How do you view the role of the music video in the music industry now? Is the video’s role still primarily to support the music? How have you seen this relationship change and where do you see it going in the future?

The music video — until recently only a sideshow — has now become a flagship in the overall social “narrative” that artists create for their audiences on a daily basis. Fans follow artists on Twitter to get a glimpse (however filtered) into their daily lives. Fans watch their Instagram feeds to see what the artists are seeing. We check in on artists’ Facebook pages, and we search online to watch their music videos.

In this context, the music video is no longer just a “one-off.” It is a critical component in the ecosystem of social engagement that today’s artists must create to be successful.

We see the music video increasing in importance as the always-on nature of fandom grows. Outside of a live concert, a music video is one of the primary ways for audiences to connect to musical artists — not just to their music, but also to their style, personality, and attitude. Videos put a face on a popular (or obscure) song and forge a deeper level of personal engagement.

Given consumers’ ever-increasing ability to share content, music videos become an artist’s most expressive calling card. Artists and songs are being discovered thanks in large part to well-crafted storytelling through videos, which still play a significant role in the launch cycle of songs and albums. Beyoncé, for example, is one of the first artists to come to market with a video for virtually every song on her new album.

How does ZUUS compare to radio play, touring, social networking, and/or music websites (Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, etc.) in the discovery of new artists/bands for music fans?

ZUUS’ model is very much like radio, in that new artists’ videos are selected and combined with other relevant and/or popular videos to aid in greater discovery for consumers. ZUUS is teaming up with many major festivals, venues, music websites, and other credible voices in music culture to develop compelling video channels in our player, which drive amazing discovery.

In partnership with our friends at leading music websites; editorial and social outlets; and organic artist endorsements, ZUUS is bringing attention to what music fans want to know and (we believe) should discover and re-discover in new contexts!

From Bjork’s “Biophilia” to Lady Gaga’s “Artpop,” more and more artists are releasing interactive multimedia “projects” in lieu of traditional albums. Do you think these multimedia efforts will one day be the norm for musicians or will they continue to be utilized only by certain types of artists? Any plans to partner with artists on such efforts in the future, perhaps by premiering whole multimedia albums via ZUUS?

Great question. While there will always be artists who continue to put out traditional albums, we are also excited about those artists who are on the cutting edge, who express themselves in more innovative ways and leverage the latest technology, all in service of trying to reach an audience that is looking for “something more.” It makes for great “water cooler material” and social currency.

With all that said, there still are not many places an artist can showcase these kinds of expansive projects, and many we have spoken to are excited about what ZUUS is doing and feel we provide the ideal outlet for them. ZUUS is built from the ground up to bring these new multimedia experiences to life in ways only a true cross-platform network can do.

What current trends have you noticed in the content of music videos? How does that compare to the content of videos when they first came into the public consciousness back in the 80s and 90s? Where do you see music-video content going in the future?

A number of factors have changed the construct and content of music videos, including the evolution of interactivity, decreasing costs of technology, increasing demand and consumption of great video content, and the overall increasing interest in music videos.

Today, we’re seeing many music videos that are made in a smart, almost episodic storytelling manner, whereas many videos from the early 80s and 90s were more simply cases of the artists performing in or against creative and/or unexpected settings (until Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” changed everything…).

While we’ve seen experiments with interactivity (e.g., Chairlift’s choose-you-own-adventure video for “Met Before”), the future will bring much more excitement to the visual music landscape in the form of multidimensional interactivity. ZUUS is prepared and excited to partner with every artist on that journey.

Nearly every major festival now offers live streams of performances. Do you think live streams will eventually have a negative impact on ticket sales or will the two continue to function symbiotically? Any plans to live stream concerts/festivals/programs via ZUUS?

While live streaming allows many fans — some of whom otherwise may be unable to attend certain festivals, concerts, venues, etc. — to take part in the live music experience from the comfort of their homes (or offices or dorm rooms), it will never replace the excitement and experience of being at the event itself, among throngs of screaming fans.

We believe live streaming can live symbiotically with in-venue experiences and should even drive more people to want to go to paid concerts once they’ve discovered what an artist can deliver live. ZUUS has established partnerships with key players who want to start live streaming, and we have the technology to deliver it in a beautiful, immersive way. Expect to see many options through ZUUS.

You can explore ZUUS by browsing their channels or checking out the various categories listed at the bottom of their site. Find them on Facebook and Twitter or download an app for your phone. You’re sure to find something that rocks you!

As the Co-Founder and Lead Writer/Editor for LA Music Blog, a Los Angeles-based music news and review website, Kristin Houser’s life revolves around music and technology. She has been an avid fan of music ever since discovering her parents’ vinyl collection while still in elementary school, and she is fascinated by all the ways technology allows her to discover new music and share it with the world. She currently manages a staff of fifteen writers and contributors at LA Music Blog, and when she isn’t scouring the internet for her latest musical obsession, Kristin frequents Los Angeles’ many music venues where she can usually be found hovering near the front of house engineer while jotting down set lists in her smart phone. She is very pleased to share her latest music obsessions and all the ways technology allows her to discover and enjoy music with iQ by Intel’s audience.