When asked about Evander Holyfield’s claim that he had ‘a plan’ to beat him, Mike Tyson famously quipped, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.”
It’s an apt quote to consider when, in an end-of-year interview, you ask someone to look back and reflect on the goals they had before the annum began to unfold.
The answer would have to include clarification on whether that’s before or after the right hook that was 2020 landed smack on the world’s jaw, causing a redefinition of ‘success’, even as twinkling stars and tweeting birdies circled our stunned planet.
All of which is very well understood by Vevo’s SVP of Content, Programming & Marketing, JP Evangelista – who says, for Vevo, it was a year where nearly everything changed, but some essentials stayed stoically unaltered.
He comments: “One thing that’s remained the same for us from the start of the year, through stay-at-home orders, through limited re-openings, through whatever conditions that existed for shooting content, up to now and into next year, is Vevo’s mission, which is to maximize the commercial and promotional value of music videos and all the content that our licensors provide us or that we produce ourselves. That’s forever fundamental.”
“Vevo’s mission is to maximize the commercial and promotional value of music videos and all the content that our licensors provide us or that we produce ourselves.”
JP Evangelista, Vevo
He continues: “Now, the way in which we had to go about certain aspects of that certainly changed as 2020 unfolded. Most significant, of course, was having to shutter our studios, where we produce the bulk of our original content. Then there was figuring out how to safely reopen in the fall, to still get the most out of the year and provide the maximum opportunities for both emerging and established artists.
“From a programming perspective, with the exception of some additional playlist brands that made sense for stay-at-home, our day-to-day remained the same.
“We also took those initial months to continue our work on optimization, and to teach artists how to properly film themselves at home, which was much more challenging than expected. We had producers on Zoom with artists, literally walking them through frame-by-frame how to record these sessions, and then handing it over to our editors, who had turned their homes into edit suites. Ultimately, we wound up with over a hundred pieces of original content during full stay-at-home orders in the months through June.”
Here, as he wraps Vevo’s 2020 for MBW, Evangelista highlights the resourcefulness and determination shown across the industry to keep video content coming in a pandemic year. We also cover the continued importance of Connected TV to Vevo’s business, while discussing how video can break and personalize new artists…
How are 2020’s overall viewer numbers looking for Vevo, and can you spot any impact of the pandemic within those numbers?
I think as we inch closer towards the end we’re going to finish up year-on-year on total viewing. The biggest increase we’ve seen throughout the year is the accelerated shift to the TV and the living room – our CTV [Connected TV] business, which is up globally 30% year-on-year.
How bad was the impact on just the regular flow of new videos from the major labels, the bread and butter of your content?
There was a slower one-to-two-month period, as everyone grappled with what was happening. Then once everything that was shot prior to lockdown was released, we saw the emergence of more lyric videos, more performance content, and more catalog content being delivered to us.
“Eventually, by the summertime, some production picked up again, so, there was never that much of a lull.”
Eventually, by the summertime, some production picked up again, so, there was never that much of a lull – an amazing feat, despite possibly the biggest challenges in terms of production in any singular year.
Did it surprise you, after the initial shock, how positive artists, managers and labels were in terms of working creatively with all the limitations that were imposed?
You know, I had hoped in the beginning that would be the case, and it was proven true fairly quickly. You saw a nice gradual evolution of those who performed live via any sort of social network at home at the start, when everyone was trying to understand how to adjust.
“we’d be remiss in not mentioning Taylor [Swift], the artist who stayed home and managed to get so much work recorded.”
Then, moving into that VOD space, learning and experimenting with what they could create on their own, and then how quickly a lot of the larger commissioners and producers were able to work through health guidelines and safely shoot a number of videos over the summer and into the early fall.
And we’d be remiss in not mentioning Taylor [Swift], the artist who stayed home and managed to get so much work recorded – taking this period of time to be that creative. She’s never released more video assets to her channel on our platform than this year.
How important is video generally as part of the tool set needed to launch a track or a break an artist in 2020?
Video plays a crucial role than ever in connecting artists to their fans and connecting in general, even just for discoverability purposes. It adds the artist’s face, image and personality to their music.
When you look from an overall volume perspective, and you look at the numbers, it’s an integral part of marketing.
You recently announced your seventh DSCVR ARTISTS TO WATCH LIST. how has that evolved over the years?
There have been some natural progressions along the way. The submissions always increase, for instance. So, despite COVID, this year we reached an all-time high of 500-plus submissions.
We’ve also taken very active steps to ensure that the list that we’re putting out is representative of our audience from a streaming perspective on an annualized basis.
Probably the evolution in that direction has been the inclusion of more Latin artists and international artists on the list. This year, from a filming perspective, we were slightly challenged due to travel restrictions.
You mentioned filming restrictions, does that mean that the promotional/content package each Artist To Watch benefits from has had to be altered or scaled down?
Every year we have the artists tape two sessions, and that was largely the same this year, consistent with local guidelines, either in London or New York.
Obviously one or two artists weren’t able to make themselves available due to travel restrictions, so they weren’t able to participate in that particular way. But, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways that we support them on the platform. And, we’ll work with them in the future.
For the vast majority of artists that we were able to work with, they get the same promotional package that they would have in years past.
“You’ll see a lot of these DSCVR Artists To Watch appear on more established artists’ videos of the same genre across YouTube.”
I guess the biggest difference is that as the platform grows, our available impressions to market each emerging artist grow, and with that, more opportunities to cross-market.
So, you’ll see a lot of these DSCVR Artists To Watch appear on more established artists’ videos of the same genre across YouTube, either via pre-roll, via end-screens or via in-video programming. That co-marketing just gets larger as the platform grows.
And over the last seven years, the DSCVR channel itself, which has a highly active audience, has gone from 50,000 or so subscribers when we started, to 900,000 subscribers who are engaged for most of the year, when we’re releasing one artist per week, aside from our run-up to the end of the year.
How important is original content generally to Vevo?
The way that we view it is, sharing an extended intimate project with an artist, outside of promoting and monetizing their music videos, allows us a deeper creative connection. It allows us to solidify our position within the visual performance space.
And what we’ve really done, to shift strategy over the course of the last several years, has been to move away from high-cost tentpole events. Instead, we distribute our in-house production capability to cover more artists on a regular basis.
“In a normal year, we’re shooting close to 400 artists and we’re putting up nearly 800 pieces of original content. That was slightly down due to COVID this year, but not nearly as down as you might think.”
We can also collaborate on a track that perhaps artists haven’t partnered with their label on, so more of the extended album gets official video representation.
In a normal year, we’re shooting close to 400 artists and we’re putting up nearly 800 pieces of original content. That was slightly down due to COVID this year, but not nearly as down as you might think.
What stats would you pick out from this year’s round-up to best highlight your rates or growth and also your current reach?
Like I mentioned earlier, 30% growth on Connected Television for our overall pie, year-on-year is very significant. Connected Television is beginning to really catch up to mobile compared to past years, where we’ve had much higher desktop and mobile viewing.
Obviously YouTube delivers volume, but from the Connected TV perspective, there have been about a dozen app launches this year in places that we didn’t exist last year, such as Samsung TV Plus, Roku, Vewd, NetRange and Foxxum. We’ll be able to announce other launches in the near future.
“This year, we’ll have somewhere between 20 to 30 days in the billion-plus views range.”
And then, there are spikes on daily viewership, individual days throughout the calendar year in which we do globally a billion-plus views. This year, we’ll have somewhere between 20 to 30 days in the billion-plus views range.
As well as overall viewership, we also spend a lot of time partnering with labels to optimize every video premiere. Understanding the relationship of the time of upload, optimizing thumbnails, ensuring that you have a consistent content strategy, not just for the first week, but for six weeks thereafter, and what you’re going to be releasing to your channel, is really important. It’s been a huge area of interest to us to be able to work with labels on that.Music Business Worldwide