YouTube + WMG = ?

An announcement that YouTube will partner with Warner Music Group would seem to be good news. According to a release from YouTube, the aggreement means that WMG music videos will be made available for viewing on YouTube, as will "behind-the-scenes footage, artist interviews, original programming and other special content." The surprisingly thing is that this content also will be available for YouTube users to incorporate into their own videos.

It's not clear what this means, exactly. Can I create a video of my vacation with a soundtrack drawn from WMG's roster? Can I mash up a WMG artist's video with my own sounds? That all remains to be seen, and I'd guess those things will be ironed out after YouTube and WMG execs see exactly what users do with the content.

One sticking point with potential agreements like this has been money. According to this agreement, YouTube will use a new "advanced content identification and royalty reporting system" that will allow for royalties to be paid on both WMG's own content as well as that created by users. It mentions sharing advertising revenue as well, which means YouTube is obvioiusly moving toward an ad-supported system, at least in this partnered content.

It's an idea whose time has come, and should benefit both parties; artists get better exposure and YouTube has some content of guaranteed quality to draw more viewers. One potential problem: WMG is likely to be more vigilant about limiting content featuring its artists to that which is official and sanctioned. Look up your favorite WMG band -- I chose Wilco -- and see how many live clips and assorted videos are up currently. It will be interesting to check back and see how many are still there once this partnership takes flight.


Participating in Hollywood

Fast Company this month features an interesting look at Jeff Skoll, the eBay founder who has turned to Hollywood with the desire to create meaningful, socially relevant feature films. He has a heck of a track record: His Participant Productions company has funded "Syriana," "An Inconvenient Truth," "Good Night and Good Luck" and the forthcoming "Fast Food Nation," among others. The most compelling fact in the story is this: All of Participant's films thus far have been profitable save for "North Country." The takeaway from that? "Here's the first secret of pro-social business: When you give outstanding people the chance to work on something they care passionately about, often you get a great result."


MySpace announces music retail component

MySpace took a step over the holiday weekend to offer serious competition for established online music retailers, partnering with Snocap to offer the sale of songs directly from artists individual pages. The site already is perhaps the top go-to place for those wanting to sample music and learn more about musicians; now, thanks to this partnership, it can keep fans on the site who previously had to leave it to go purchase music.

The service allows artists to embed a mini-store right on their page, giving fans the opportunity to purchase 192 kbps mp3 tracks for 79 cents each. The band the Format offers a good example of the service, offering tracks for sale from its album Dog Problems. Visitors to the band's page can sample latest single "The Compromise," check out the video and then, if they desire, buy it and other songs with a few clicks and access to a PayPal account. More importantly, perhaps, the songs are DRM-free, which means they can be endlessly traded, burned and uploaded by fans. That puts the site somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between DRM-free sites like eMusic, which limits its offerings to indie label artists, and Apple's iTunes, which leans more heavily on mainstream, major label artists, and which sells DRM-encoded mp3s.

is the company founded by Napster founder Shawn Fanning after that company's implosion. While it touts several successes on its web site, this is the first high-profile move that puts the company in a spot similar to that enjoyed by Napster in its heyday -- all nice and legal this time, of course. And because Snocap has or is working on deals with most major labels, there would seem to be no limit to the eventual offerings on MySpace. As Rusty Rueff, Snocap CEO said in a press release announcing the deal, "Now, every artist can distribute their music instantly and directly to their fans, making them relevant whether they sell one hundred tracks, ten thousand tracks or ten million tracks."