Today’s Music 4.5 conference in London is subtitled ‘The Rise of Video’, with a focus on how YouTube, Vevo and other platforms are driving music videos in 2013, rather than traditional TV.

The first session included a presentation by YouTube’s Candice Morrissey that we’ve published separately, but also a range of other speakers: Radar CEO Caroline Bottomley; former Nielsen Music MD Jean Littolff; musician Laura Kidd (aka She Makes War); The Orchard founder Scott Cohen; and strategic agency Face’s chief innovation officer Francesco D’Orazio.

Bottomley kicked off with some opening remarks. “The music industry is moving evermore from a unit-based to an attention-based economy. Engagement is measured and rewarded,” she said, noting that videos fit neatly into this trend.

Over to Littolff, who until recently was Nielsen’s head music man in Europe. He started with the basics: what is video, how do we (both the industry and consumers) use video, and where is the money coming from? He noted that music videos can be traditional promotional fare, or live videos (including those shot by fans). But how are we using it?

A blast of history: Buggles’ ‘Video Killed the Radio Star’ was famously the first video played on MTV in 1981. “But thirty years later, that’s not exactly what happened,” said Littolff, saying that radio remains the most popular way people discover music in 2013.

When people are asked how they discover music, it’s video, then friends and relatives, YouTube/Vevo, reviews/magazines, iTunes and then streaming services. When asked how they use music, it’s radio top again, then CDs, then online video/YouTube, digital downloads, broadcast over TV and then streaming.

YouTube attracts 20m active monthly users in the UK alone, said Littolff. British users spend three hours and 41 minutes a month on YouTube on average, behind only Facebook in terms of engagement. He pointed to an overlap too: 75% of Spotify users go on YouTube, while the figures are 68% for iTunes and 83% for Ticketmaster. “This is not a siloed ecosystem, but in some way YouTube is very much at the centre of that,” he said.

Littolff talked about streaming video services as a source of music consumption, noting that according to PRS for Music’s study of music industry revenues in 2011, the industry was worth £3.8bn – 29% from recorded music, 29% from B2B (publishing, syncs, sponsorships etc) and then 42% from live music. He layered on top a Nielsen finding: the 40% of music consumers who are fans account for 75% of all music spending.

What does this mean for video? He pointed out that when people go to gigs, the day after they pile onto YouTube to watch videos shot at the previous night’s concert. “We’re missing something which is very important here, which is monetising, creating revenue,” said Littolff.

But he moved on: video is huge online and on mobile, it’s one of the key access points to music for many people today, and even more tomorrow. “It may not be the perfect product… in some ways we’re not maximising the revenue big-time which could be generated through these video streaming services.”

YouTube video

Next to speak was Laura Kidd, whose most recent music video Delete (above) made innovative use of a Go Pro extreme sports camera.

“My YouTube channel has 579 subscribers, I’ve had 302,675 total views of my videos, and there’s 216 videos currently online,” she said. Kidd also said that due to some “very dedicated fans” who attend her shows, there are plenty of user-generated videos of her live performances on YouTube.

One example of that: her recent live version of the Doctor Who theme song:

YouTube video

Something like the video above was performed for creative reasons – Laura’s tribute to Delia Derbyshire of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, who composed the iconic theme. But once the performance was on YouTube, it becomes a way for people to find out about She Makes War’s other music. “It’s artistic decisions but shared hopefully cleverly,” said Kidd.

She talked about some other ways artists can make money from video. Kidd just released an EP called ‘The Audiovisual EP’ – six songs and six videos released as a handmade package, selling 100 for between £15 and £20 each depending on the package bought. Some fans have since asked to buy a DVD version. “A lot of my fans want to sit with their big TV watching the performances, and some of them just want to watch them on YouTube,” she said.

After a sparky presentation from The Orchard’s Scott Cohen which we’ve published separately, Face’s Francesco D’Orazio took the stage.

He talked about some research into memes and how they spread. He noted that memes have very different shapes: social sharing of Gangnam Style was dominated by the original, official video, while Gangnam Style was all about user-generated videos. “The original video is fairly small compared to the other versions,” he said.

Gangnam Style lasted a lot longer than Harlem Shake, in terms of Twitter buzz at least, and it was bigger. But in terms of shareability, Harlem Shake was better – “it exploded for small communities and small groups of people, and it was very local, so there was always a good reason to share it, because you were more sure your audience wouldn’t have seen it already”.

He added that the majority of the spread of both memes came from these small communities rather than big stars: even when the likes of Katy Perry and Britney Spears tweeted links to their tens of millions of fans, they had a relatively small impact in the wider growth of both phenomena.

D’Orazio also talked about the importance of mobile sharing of videos: on mobile, people are apparently three times more likely to click through to an artist website or store than they are when watching online. He also outlined two different models through which videos spread virally: “Spikers versus Growers”. The former explode to prominence, are  fast to peak, highly shareable and have a shorter lifespan. The latter take their time spreading, with a lower velocity and shareability, but a longer lifetime.

The session finished off with a panel session: ‘Is Video the New Audio?’ with Cohen, Littolff, D’Orazio, and Kidd, as well as Julia Hawkins from Universal Music, moderated by Musicbrainz founder Robert Kaye.

D’Orazio talked about the nature of the web – a visual medium consumed through visual devices. “Video’s going to be starting to drive the way music is created,” he said. “You’re going to see the song structure changing and probably adapting to the way people consume music, which is something we haven’t seen a lot of yet.”

Hawkins agreed that there are now different types of consumers that labels have to meet the needs of: “people really now want to engage with you and not just see the promo video, but what else is going on,” she said. “Artists are even trying to engage with people through video and trying to shoot their own stuff: some being less or more successful than others. But they’re trying to create that one-to-one relationship that’s now possible.”

Kidd talked about YouTube as a place people are discovering and consuming music. “For me, it became the new MySpace when everyone thought Facebook was going to become the new MySpace,” said Kidd. “MySpace was really easy to browse, and Facebook is not easy to browse.”

What else can the music industry learn from teenagers on YouTube? Littolff noted that whenever he speaks to teenagers, they talk about getting music from YouTube, not Spotify, Deezer or any of the other highly-touted new streaming services. “And they are multi-tasking. You have your smartphone, you have maybe a laptop, or the games console: they’re always doing several things at the same time.”

Will YouTube ever provide the breakthrough moment for subscription music as a mainstream product, or will it always be about advertising revenues? “They do wanna move to some subscription,” said Cohen. “This new world we live in, where dominant companies try to enter a new space or a new business model, for some reason often fail! So I don’t know… just because they’re big doesn’t mean… I can see particularly teenagers saying ‘I’m not paying for this!’.”

Is YouTube about more than The Kids? Cohen noted that he moved house in the summer, and didn’t bother plugging in his TV for the first few months. “Now I can watch all the content, including all the TV content, but I just consume it differently. There’s no ‘give me the remote’ – I think this is the big play where we’re seeing the changes in video.”

Littolff suggested there is more creativity to come with music videos, making use of the medium rather than simply replicating what’s gone before on other platforms (i.e MTV / TV). D’Orazio said he doesn’t see new business models really emerging other than advertising, and perhaps subscriptions over the next 5-10 years.

Cohen: “An interesting place I think we’re going to see video take off is the automobile,” he said, noting that 80% of new cars will have internet connectivity in the Western world, often with screens built into the back of the seats for rear passengers. “In 10 years, when we begin to take away driving as one of the things somebody does in an automobile… and you’re just sitting in it, this is another place where video consumption is going to go on the rise.”

What about videos like Blurred Lines and Wrecking Ball, and what they say about the future of music videos online. Will there be a part of the industry that thinks YouTube success requires nudity and/or outrage?

“If you want something that goes viral instantly and you have a spike, those things grab attention. If you wanna grab a sustainable audience, then you get tired of it quick, and you gotta have some more depth,” said Cohen. “Even if you look at Miley Cyrus’ YouTube channel, she has something like 350,000 subscribers, not millions. They want to watch the video and talk about it, but it’s kinda hollow after that.”

(Actually, Cyrus has 4.5m subscribers on YouTube, although that may not render Cohen’s wider point redundant.)

The panel finished off by talking about whether the teenagers who are getting music from YouTube will ever want to pay for it? D’Orazio talked about ownership as “a fetish that we old, grumpy men have… something that is rooted in our vision of the world… we shouldn’t be afraid of letting that go”. Collecting as old hat, although Kidd disagreed: “Their YouTube channel is their collection, and their Facebook page is their collection,” she pointed out.

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