Major Labels

When VEVO & Ad Supported Music Go Too Far


Ads Creep Onto Official Artist Web Sites

image from As easy and often justified as it is to criticize the major labels, I've also always tried to maintain a sense of balance. These are, after all, also the companies that helped bring us some great music; and they are often staffed by decent people desperately trying to figure out how to shift their large corporate ships before the changing winds sink them.

So when Universal and Sony launched VEVO, as a way to control and monetize the videos they were producing, I was skeptical but sympathetic.  Sympathetic because it seemed as if Google's YouTube and everyone except the labels were making money from these videos, and skeptical that the net income generated would not offset a legion of turned off fans. But why pre-judge? Why not wait to see what happens?

What happened is advertising on the artists' own web sites.

Check out the ad that runs before the music video on the front page Jamey Johnson's web site. Yes, it's a paid Pedigree ad for rescuing animals. But when a fan takes the time to find and visit an artist 'sown web site, they expect to see… the artist.  And  to think that Johnson is being touted by Universal as an authentic artist in a world of manufactured country music. I guess it costs more to be authentic.

Just as when they are on the stage, an artist's web site is one of the few places where they could control everything about the message that they were sending to their fans. Not anymore if VEVO gets its way.

And how much of the revenue generated by these ads will find its way to Jamey Johnson and other artists who have ads placed in their video pre-roll and on their label controlled "official" sites? 

Or is all the money just swallowed up by a system designed to control and monetize music videos?

UPDATE: Hypebot readers are commenting that this is an MTV video player. If  so my response is the same:  Using ads to support music has it's place – but not on the artist's web site.  - Bruce Houghton

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  1. Unfortunately, Jamey most likely doesn’t own or operate his own website, thus allowing these sort of things to happen. My guess (and I could be completely wrong mind you, it’s just a guess) is that Universal owns it and runs it.

  2. I know it’s a bad user experience to be on an official site and have to sit through an ad before a music video or movie trailer.
    But, I have to say, your article makes it sound so sinister, Bruce. VEVO, to my knowledge, is allowing ad-supported embeds and feeds to partners, then you’d expect them to want to monetize the video. If your site carried VEVO videos, you’d see ads, too. I think what you are seeing on the official site is just a by-product of embedding. Or complacency. Or laziness.
    However, there should be some way for VEVO to give label, or official site webmasters a version of flash player that does not carry ads. And if a fan embeds that somewhere else, ad-supported flash will be the embed and ads will be inserted.
    The web shall be monetized, whether we like it or not.

  3. This is not a VEVO player on Jamey Johnson’s website, it is an MTV player…

  4. My central point an artist’s web site is not the place for outside advertising of any kind. To me its the equivalent of the band singing a commercial for the fans before they start their set.
    I do not blame the artist; in part because this does appear to be a Universal controlled web site. I blame Universal and it’s creation VEVO for taking the perfectly acceptable concept of ad supported music too far.

  5. Hi Bruce,
    Atlantic Records is another major label that has started selling advertising on its artist websites, and I, for one, think it’s a great business opportunity for all parties involved.
    I wrote a blog post defending advertising on artist websites (, but the gist of my argument is that more and more, labels are making the artist website a main destination for fans (we’re seeing better, more fan-centric sites now with the help of platforms like Cisco EOS). I think the next logical step is to leverage this increased web traffic for advertising dollars.
    After all, musicians are cooler than brands, and brands have always wanted to align themselves with the next hot band.

  6. The player is owned by viacom. It’s because the content is owned by viacom. A performance from an award show.
    Additionally the music videos are not owned by the artist. They dont pay for the production or marketing of the videos, there needs to be a way to pay for all these costs.
    If you have such a problem with it, how come this site has ads?

  7. I think that as long as there is a clear “separation of church and state” where the advertising has no effect on the music, just as is the case with thousands of other media outlets, it shouldn’t be a big issue.
    I understand the gut-level reaction to seeing advertising on an artist site, but from what I know about the situation, the artists have SOME say in what can and cannot go on their website. For example, you would never see a McDonald’s ad on a vegan band’s website.

  8. Bruce,
    Don’t you think it’s up to the fans of the individual artist to decide if ads are suitable for their website. I can’t say that I agree with it either but c’mon, there are ads on band’s myspace (including NIN,) youtube and everywhere else. This forum speaks of bands finding other revenue streams and longs for a band to become relatively huge in a 2.0 world but you bag on Jamey for finding a way to increase his ability to do what he does for a living? As if anyone including Jamey is getting crazy rich from all of this. I read so many posts here that applaud the likes of Trent Reznor and Radiohead for giving music away. I read other posts that bag on major labels. So is the point to all of this that it is ok for everyone but the artist or label for that matter to make money? Hypebot actually has a link to We are Listening for Christ’s sake. Do you bag on them for being analytics experts and having pay to enter contests for profit? Everyone did f-ing backflips when Amanda Palmer made $11,000.00 from a friday night twitter opportunity. And that is different to this how?
    Was it less overt? Was it more opportunistic? What is your criteria for what is ok to make money from and what is not ok? I know I am just a singer in a rock band but you are gonna have to to better than simply one day saying Amanda Palmer is a web genius and one day saying Jamey Johnson is doing something wrong. You have your OPINION but at the end of the day, it will be up to Jamey’s fans to decide if ads work on his site. LMMFAO
    Jeff Scheel
    Gravity Kills

  9. The video engine behind Vevo is YouTube. Google and Vevo share the ad revenue. What’s different is that the player can be better integrated into an artist’s site, and there are only “official” videos there. One reason for Vevo was to make advertisers more comfortable advertising on a music site that didn’t have user generated videos that might not compliment their clients’ values.

  10. I understand the difference in this case but the only people you should care about pissing off are you fans. If I want to put a jock itch remedy ad on my site and my fans are cool with it because it helps me make music for them then I see no harm. If it damages your fan relationship then don’t do it. Seems simple to me. If I am into a band and when I go to youtube to watch their video for free and see an ad it doesn’t turn me off. At the end of the day, you will always piss someone off. I want to create something pure for anyone that will listen but this Ivory Tower shit has hit a button. Once again academia knows what’s best for Jamey Johnson AND HIS FANS.
    Jeff Scheel
    Gravity Kills
    Jeff Scheel
    Gravity Kills

  11. I really don’t understand artists letting Google or Youtube or any place that sells advertising use their content. These corporations make all the money.
    Artists should focus on their websites and selling advertising.
    Artists need to wake the fuck up and stop these internet companies from screwing them.

  12. Exactly! Music sites (YouTube, Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, MTV, AOL, etc etc) have been making money off of artists for years with advertising.
    I’m not sure why people are making a big stink now that the artists themselves are taking control and selling the ad space on their own site. They “own” the content, so shouldn’t they have every right to leverage that content for advertising?

  13. Louis,
    I am not against open source and really not against free. I am against people talking out both sides of their mouth and saying it’s ok for an artist to get money in one place and not another. I am against people talking out both sides of their mouth and telling us how beautiful 2.0 is but telling us your version of 2.0 is not the correct one when everyone in music is throwing darts. I could give a fuck about Jamey Johnson but why would ad supported music on his or any artist’s website be a bad thing when everyone is out there trying to get blood from the proverbial turnip. Your fans will tell you what is right for you. Not people who don’t care about you at all but throw stones from the cheap seats. The funny thing is that I plan to release new music entirely for free. Because my band wants to and I know my 10 fans will appreciate it.
    Jeff Scheel
    Gravity Kills

  14. Jeff,
    I’m a fan. I find it offputting when I go to an artists website, click on the artists new video release, and then have to sit through a 30 second Nationwide Insurance commercial unexpectedly. It IS too overt. If I were a casual visitor, curious to see/hear the new single, I may just jump, exit and surf on… never to become a fan at all. This really isn’t the artists fault but it is reality. There is plenty of opportunity for advertisers to be seen (or linked to)… even on the artists site. The first 30seconds, in front of the new release, isn’t one of them.

  15. Mike,
    I actually agree with you. My point to all of this is that Bruce makes it a big stink that Jamey Johnson has advertising on his site but Amanda Palmer can sell $11,000.00 in t-shirts and she is proclaimed a genius. Is one more distasteful than the other? Not for me to decide. If Amanda’s fans want to give her their money that is awesome. If a band can sell ad space on their site and the band and their fans are fine with it then who gives a flying fuck. It works for them. Is it that you as a fan want to decide what revenue streams work for the band’s that you love? If Jamey Johnson’s fans or any other artists fan base doesn’t want advertising on the band’s site, the band will certainly Why does it not turn you off to see adds all over myspace, youtube, and everywhere else but you go to the artist website and you throw up? Do you really give a shit about the bands you follow or do you want them to go away because they are not allowed to monetize their careers? I can remember living on tour support and playing a festival in New Mexico where a fan wanted me to give him my sunglasses because I was “rich.” Again, I don’t want advertising on my site but something tells me Jamey Johnson’s fans don’t really care. The issue here is that there is absolutely no absolute here and I laugh at the high and mighty on this site that haven’t lived on the road for 3 years at a time and think they have the fucking answer because they happen to read Bob Lefsetz or teach at a university. I surely don’t. I am not saying that I don’t love the discussion but c’mon people, if you don’t like the advertising, change the channel. I really agree with you and Bruce and am going a long way to make my point but I simply don’t like the hypocrisy.

  16. Jeff, you hit the nail on the head. It should be about what the artist wants.
    If they want to sell ads, fine. If they want to charge $20 for a CD, fine. If an artist wants to give it away, fine.
    When choice is taken from an artist, it’s just wrong.
    This decade will be the artist finally standing up and saying fuck you to companies who steal from them and take the artist’s choice away.

  17. “Why does it not turn you off to see adds all over myspace, youtube, and everywhere else but you go to the artist website and you throw up?”
    I go in and out of MySpace and YouTube without having a 30 secoond insurance company commercial thrown in my face. I can watch the videos on YT or listen to the jukebox on MS without being assaulted. Why the hell do you think that most of us own Tevo? So we can avoid being assaulted by commercials! Last I looked, Tevo stock was still through the roof. What does that say to you? Given the choice, most people choose not to sit through crap just to get to the content. Same with placement in front of Jamey’s new single, Macon. Love the artist, love the song, hate the intro. There are better ways to enjoin fans and advertisers, that’s all.
    “Do you really give a shit about the bands you follow or do you want them to go away because they are not allowed to monetize their careers?”
    Now you’re just ranting. I don’t believe that anyone here (Bruce included) said anything about disallowing bands to “monetize their careers”. Those are your words… we just said there are better ways to do it and certainly better ways to enjoin fans and keep them. You’ve blathered on about this a dozen different ways, in half a dozen entries, on this one thread… are you just not seeing your name enough out there? Seems like this just may be all about you, Jeff. Here you go: Jeff, Jeff, Jeff, Jeff, Jeff… Enough?

  18. Tone Bloke agrees with Bruce on this (and most) one…
    Vids should not have ads. Period.
    Can’t Vevo figure out better ways to monetize?

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