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YouTube sets its sights on independent musicians

The video website is expected to announce plans to entice musicians by offering to share ad revenues.

March 17, 2010|By Alex Pham

YouTube wants to rock MySpace.

The Google-owned video site is expected to announce Wednesday a new program, dubbed Musicians Wanted, to lure independent musicians to its social-networking site.

The program targets independent artists, offering them an easy way to create their own home page, or channel, on YouTube and share in the ad revenues generated by their videos. Until now, YouTube has offered the revenue-sharing option only to artists who have contracts with record labels or who have special contracts with the video-sharing site.

"We're now opening up the program to all independent musicians," said Michele Flannery, YouTube's music manager. "

For YouTube, which announced a similar program called Filmmakers Wanted in January, the effort is part of a larger push by the video site to generate more revenue and become an entertainment destination for viewers rather than just a repository for homemade cat videos.

For MySpace, competition from the world's largest search company comes at a time when the site is struggling to regain some of its former luster; News Corp.-owned MySpace once was the premier social network among musicians and their youthful audience.

Despite its recent travails and management turmoil, MySpace Music remains the No. 1 music site, according to ComScore. Last month, MySpace Music logged about 30 million unique visitors, up 63% from a year earlier, browsing through the profiles of some 13 million artists on the site.

Some musicians, however, have been migrating away from MySpace as its traffic dropped below that of other social networks, including Facebook, whose 112 visitors in February were roughly twice the overall traffic of MySpace that month, according to ComScore.

One of those musicians is Saul Paul, an acoustic hip-hop artist from Austin, Texas, who has moved away from his 4-year-old MySpace page and is doing more with Facebook, Twitter, WordPress and YouTube.

"Activity on MySpace has died down significantly," said the 33-year-old independent musician. "No doubt people still go there, but my use of it has really minimized. MySpace was a trend. And trends are just that. They come and go."

YouTube is more video-centric, while MySpace focuses on allowing users to quickly sample and discover music.

MySpace also lets artists sell concert tickets from their MySpace page via a partnership with LiveNation and Ticketmaster.

But the two are increasingly incorporating similar features, including enabling fans to buy digital music downloads and sell merchandise. While both sites attract millions of viewers daily, they face a similar challenge, said Russ Crupnick, an analyst with the NPD Group.

"The big issue for both YouTube and MySpace is how do they monetize this huge audience," Crupnick said. "This is an industry that's lost 50% of its revenue in the last decade."

alex.pham@latimes.com

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