Vevo: Google, Music Industry's Bad Romance

Music-video site underwhelms on launch

By Owen Thomas
|  Wednesday, Dec 9, 2009  |  Updated 4:07 PM EDT
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Vevo Launch Party: Rihanna, Mariah, Bono, Gaga, Shania, J-Tim

Vevo

Is Vevo going up in flames so soon after the music-video site's launch?

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Google pairs up with two of the world's biggest music companies. What could possibly go wrong?

When it came to music-video supersite Vevo, pretty much everything. After a splashy launch party Tuesday attended by stars like Bono and Sheryl Crow, the site repeatedly crashed under the load of visitors.

It's the kind of embarrassment you'd think that Google, with its legions of engineers and countless data centers across the globe, could have avoided.

But perhaps that kind of snafu was inevitable once stodgy music labels like Universal and Sony got involved.

Vevo was conceived as an attempt to squeeze more money out of music videos, one of the most popular forms of content on Google's YouTube video site. After battling for years over music videos posted by YouTube users to the site, Google and the music industry decided to try being friends.

Vevo has been pitched as a "YouTube for music videos."

The only problem being that as far as consumers are concerned, YouTube already is a YouTube for music videos.

"I want your everything as long as it's free," Lady Gaga sings in "Bad Romance," a Universal Music Group release featured on Vevo.

Which is pretty much how consumers feel about music videos. They're bubblegum entertainment that serve as ads for CDs. Oh, but consumers aren't buying CDs these days. That leaves advertising as a revenue source.

"Right now, four million YouTube users who click on a music video are, as we speak, being shifted from YouTube to Vevo," UMG chief Doug Morris bragged at the launch party. There's no evidence that's actually happening, however -- something that might have caught Morris's attention had the famously technophobic music executive actually checked out Vevo.

After visiting the site -- which had limped back to life Wednesday morning -- my impression was that users would stick with YouTube, where Vevo also exists as a channel. Bad Romance is all over the site -- including competing versions posted by Vevo and by Universal Music Group.

The main difference between YouTube and Vevo? YouTube features a less-obnoxious preroll ad.

My prediction: After making a lot of noise, Vevo will fade away and become just another YouTube channel. Which is probably what Google intended all along.

Vevo.com? It's a flaming sideshow distraction, a music-video set built to be blown up.

It has all the makings of a bad romance. Sing it, Lady Gaga:

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