Warner Music wants to strike chord with Generation Y on YouTube

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This is definitely not your father’s MTV.

Warner Music Group on Thursday unveiled plans for an online video channel on YouTube that will feature more than the usual music videos.

Instead, the New York music company is producing a host of original shows for the online channel, called The Warner Sound. Rather than highly produced cinematic shots of musicians lip-syncing their latest songs, Warner is taking a quirky, more experimental approach to video.


One series, called ‘Staged,’ takes lyrics from top Warner songs and presents them verbatim as the scripts for a video drama. Another show, ‘The Live Room,’ takes the cinema verite style to recording sessions with Warner artists.

‘Finding Cody Simpson’ is a variation of ‘Roger and Me’ but with a technology twist -- viewers are able to decide where they want to go next in the main character’s search for Cody Simpson, an Australian pop singer signed to a Warner label. It uses a ‘choose-your-adventure’ feature offered by YouTube that lets viewers click on several options that would queue up the next video segment of the story. (Simpson, coincidentally, started his career by posting videos of himself singing ‘Cry Me a River’ and other ballads on YouTube, where a record producer ‘discovered’ him.)

Warner tapped television and cable TV veteran Ocean MacAdams to helm the channel’s programming efforts. MacAdams was previously senior vice president of programming for Current TV and, before that, was senior vice president of editorial operations at MTV News.

‘We are looking at the YouTube channel as an entertainment network,’ MacAdams said. ‘We’re thinking of franchises, concepts and formats that we think would be entertaining to a swath of viewers. It also happens to be incredibly convenient that we have a roster of amazing artists to help us produce the content.’

Among the Warner artists signed up for the channel are Cee Lo Green, Regina Spektor and teen rapper Diggy.

‘Our channel will be home to a wide variety of must-see, exclusive shows, made by people who love music, for people who love music,’ said Warner’s chairman and chief executive, Lyor Cohen.

Warner is the only major label to distribute its own online videos instead of funneling them through VEVO, a music video site jointly owned by Sony Corp. and Universal Music Group. Instead, Warner distributes its videos directly on YouTube and artists’ websites. In January, Warner racked up 29.7 million unique viewers on YouTube, compared with VEVO’s 50.6 million, according to ComScore, an online audience measuring firm.

The Warner Sound channel will be a separate offering from its current YouTube videos.

YouTube is already the default video player for millions of young viewers. But the online video company, owned by Google Inc., has been cultivating more professional videos in order to command better advertising rates and keep audiences longer.

Warner’s is one of more than 100 ‘premium channels’ that YouTube plans to launch this year with partners such as The Bowery Presents, which airs live broadcasts of select shows at its venues, and Bonaroo, whose channel is expected to feature performances from the music festival.

The new Warner channel will kick off March 13 with broadcasts of its three-day, 30-concert lineup at South by Southwest in Austin.


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-- Alex Pham