When we last checked in with Van Toffler, president of Viacom Music and Logo Group, who overseas MTV, VH1, CMT, and Logo, he was positive that the group’s new platform, Artists.MTV, would be a better way for artists—both established and emerging—to tap MTV’s vast network of music fans and make bank. Seven months later, MTV tells Co.Create that more than 100 bands a day claim their own page on the platform (accessed from Artists.MTV, Artists.VH1, and Artists.CMT), which boasts more than 2 million visitors per month.
How has that translated to indie artists? Chris Woltman, manager for Twenty One Pilots, reports that since early January, the band has sold nearly 50,000 albums and singles, has experienced a 16% uptick in album sales during the campaign cycle, and has started to gain traction on radio. Likewise, Robert DeLong saw his total track sales increase by 30%, while Twitter chatter grew 111% and Facebook fans increased by 20%. Additionally, he saw significant adds and spikes in song rotation at major radio stations across the country, according to his label Glassnotes’ CEO Daniel Glass.
Time to spread the love—and the opportunities for exposure—even further.
Starting today, artists who’ve already claimed a page on the platform or created their own account can opt in to submit their video to be considered for regular rotation on MTV, VH1, CMT, MTV2, MTV Hits, MTV Jams, VH1 Soul, and CMT Pure, which together represent 1,200 hours of weekly music video programming, which beams into more than 100 million homes. Artists can also submit to have videos or tracks featured across MTV’s network of editorial sites which reach 8 million visitors monthly.
And because no launch is complete without a buzzworthy contest, Grammy-nominated country star Hunter Hayes plans to crowdsource the opening act of his upcoming concert in New York City from among the artists on the platform. Another two artists or bands will be shipped, all expenses paid, to perform at the Hangout Festival in Alabama.
Selection for all these opportunities will be based on what Shannon Connolly, senior vice president of music strategy for MTV, VH1, and CMT, calls "velocity." This is more than just a tally of page views, she says, although it does take traffic into account. It’s also a measure of how quickly certain videos amass traffic along with other trends such as social sharing. In other words, take a bunch of "data-obsessed product people" at MTV who voraciously study trends and mix it up with MTV’s dedicated A&R team who’ve sniffed out many an emerging artist with star quality. "That is our true advantage," says Connolly, "There are so many algorithm-based platforms or curatorial and editorial, we are able to pair those two" and hopefully be more able to identify the next big thing (what’s up Mac Miller?).
It’s no longer about who you know, Connolly argues. Besides its continued free-to-use policy, Artists.MTV is democratizing the entire process. Submitting that track doesn’t need to come with a secret handshake or nod from the upper echelons of the industry in order to get seen. And once they do, Connolly says, they’ll receive notification that someone at MTV is watching. "If we get 10,000 submissions, it can’t be a totally personal process," she admits, but updates will keep everyone in the loop as selections are made.
Connolly is quick to point out that this is still very much a work in progress. In fact, the "digital tip jar" that was originally built into the platform was rendered inactive almost immediately because, she says, there were enhancements to be made. "We are planning an event around the new tip jar," she says, one that will deploy all of MTV’s "screens" to further engage fans and encourage donations.
Likewise, sharing ad revenue with artists hasn’t come to full fruition. "We are treating artists like any content creator and exploring how to implement that to make sure it is meaningful." Paying artists a share based on usage is already being done on Spotify and YouTube, but Connolly contends that no one has figured out how to scale that to generate a real paycheck for contributors. That said, she hints at other ways for musicians to earn cash by rolling out full-fledged digital commerce this summer.
MTV stands to gain, too. The expanded Artists.MTV puts the company in a unique position to raise its own profile through the platform by capturing the artists (and fans) that have fallen away from Myspace as well as those dedicated to its own brand channels. Even a swanky new design and discovery features, can’t mask the fact that the new Myspace is starting from scratch (literally, as it dropped existing fans from established pages) and is still figuring out how to make commerce work.