Let us take you back on a short tour of Facebook music-video speculation. Start in 2012 when reports claimed Vevo – then the key aggregator of music videos – was in talks to ditch YouTube in favour of a partnership with Facebook. Then move to 2015, when video was one of the topics in the social network’s tentative talks with major labels about licensing.
As it turned out, those talks would result in deals – but for music usage in user-generated videos, rather than for Facebook to launch a catalogue of official music videos. But speculation that the social network still has plans for the latter has persisted: in December 2019 Bloomberg claimed that Facebook was “pursuing rights to music videos from major record labels, programming that could boost interest in its Watch video service”.
Perhaps we’ll soon be able to stop speculating: Facebook may be launching official music videos on its service in the US, as soon as August. That’s what TechCrunch is claiming, citing documents sent to owners of artist Facebook pages (which were also circulating on Twitter yesterday via a since-deleted Dropbox link).
There’s a deadline of 1 August for page admins to toggle adding their “official music library” to their page, which they’ll then be able to manage. If they don’t, Facebook will automatically create a page of their videos anyway (because it will be ingesting videos from labels, rather than from the artists). The report suggests that the videos will also be available in Facebook Watch, as well as on (in TechCrunch’s words) “a new music video destination on the platform”.
On its own merits, this is a logical extension of Facebook’s music strategy from UGC to official content, with music videos a proven format (see YouTube) for generating lots of watch time and engagement. Facebook needs more of that for Watch in particular, and if it can flex its advertising muscles to turn that into a decent new revenue stream for labels and artists, that’s a win-win.
The real impact of this, however, may be about the competition with YouTube. Let’s be frank: for all the talk of the ‘value gap’ it seems very unlikely that labels would pull their videos from YouTube to put them on Facebook. The impact is more about how the competition affects the next licensing-renewal round with YouTube, and the royalties it pays. And yes, recent legislation in Europe will have a role to play there too.
The even bigger picture – one that YouTube has already kickstarted – is the role of music videos as revenue generators, rather than the pure promotional value they had in the 1980s. YouTube and Facebook (plus Apple Music, other streaming services, Vevo in its modern-day B2B role and perhaps soon Spotify) have the potential to generate meaningful revenues from official videos, with the burgeoning UGC market layered on top.
Who’d have thought it: competition – rather than the dominance of one platform, be it MTV in the 1980s or YouTube more recently – could be good for the business!