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Vevo Strikes Out On Its Own

Most people know Vevo as a YouTube channel for music videos. Vevo wants to change that.

Posted on November 12, 2015, at 5:22 p.m. ET


You probably know Vevo as a watermark.

It's the banner on YouTube videos that lets you know that the music video you're watching is the "official" one — sort of like a verified account on Twitter or Facebook, except it always includes ads. That's because Vevo isn't actually part of YouTube. While YouTube proprietor Google does have a stake in Vevo, the service is majority owned by Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, and Abu Dhabi Media Group. And it works to make sure those companies and other music license-holders are paid when their videos appear on sites like YouTube.

Now, Vevo is branching out.

On Thursday, the service relaunched its mobile app. Currently available for iOS only, the app feature's Vevo's high-quality, official music videos packaged in a simple, well-designed experience that uses a Tinder-like swiping mechanism to calibrate the service according to your music preferences. The app requires a Vevo account, which took under a minute to sign up for when I booted it up.

YouTube Music, which also launches today, could be why Vevo is restless to get out from under the video-streaming behemoth's shadow right now. Vevo generates some 12 billion views each month, the majority of them on YouTube. But with the launch of YouTube Red, an ad-free subscription service, the streaming landscape is changing. And while the music labels, which have been pushing for a subscription model for years, are likely pleased to finally get their way, they're getting it at a time when their distribution deals with YouTube and Google are coming up for renewal.

For Vevo, that could present a timely opportunity. The app it's launching today — by no means a competitor to music streaming services, because it only shows music videos — is a sure-footed first step toward platform-hood with its dedicated accounts, discovery algorithms, and exclusive or original content. In Vevo's case, by focusing so heavily on music videos instead of music — it has a library of over 150,000 — it's more of an entrant into the short-form video field than anything else. Which means it's competing with platforms like Vessel, yet-to-be seen projects from Bill Simmons and John Stewart at HBO, and, yes, YouTube proper.

Vevo certainly has plenty of content with which to woo users to its app. If it's able to attract enough, it may well become something more than just a banner at the bottom of the latest Adele video.