When MTV stopped ruling the music world maybe 20 years ago, the joke was that people had been tuning in not to watch the song of the day, but to watch their song of the day. So, as MTV tried to appeal to the widest possible audience, hard-core music fans tuned out.
These days, MTV is focusing again on music after a long sojourn in reality programming. But when people want to watch music videos these days, they tend to go to one of two places, YouTube and Vevo, which YouTube owns along with major music labels. There they can find, if they know what to look for, a bewildering and fantastic array of videos about all kinds of music.
That's a key phrase: "if they know what to look for." YouTube is the world's second-largest search engine and search is what drives discovery there. But how do you find music you'll love, particularly music that's situationally relevant, if you don't know what to look for? More importantly, what if you'd like to go somewhere else to watch music videos? Music discovery shouldn’t be something that is left to one or two destinations.
The world around us is increasingly suffused with music, mostly audio-only, of all imaginable genres. It comes at us through traditional broadcast radio, pay-satellite services and web-based streaming services such as Apple Music and Spotify.
Every day tens of millions of people listen to music, often with great specificity about what is being played for them, whether it be a given genre or a beloved artist or even just a particular groove. Audio-streaming services these days are making a big deal out of their human-curated playlists, and they should. The human touch is vital when it comes to music, which is as beyond mere logic and reason as possible.
So why don't we see more curation when it comes to music video? It's an even more immersive experience, one that demands more of our attention and engagement. Just as importantly, that increased attention and engagement translates into very high CPMs from advertisers, especially on mobile, where already a majority of digital video is being watched.
Done right, music video can be tightly focused on the sounds and artists that are relevant to you specifically, and not just that of some anonymous larger swathe of people. Provide that curated stream of immersive, themed music videos to a specific audience and you might be able to draw and keep them. Even better, those are highly focused audiences who can be more precisely targeted by marketers.
The heyday of MTV's music video era was also the heyday of the mixtape, the elaborately constructed cassette tape of choice cuts committed to chromium oxide and celluloid for posterity.
Now we have the opportunity to create the ultimate video mix tape for every website. Your site is about the city of Chicago? How about a collection of videos of bands based in Chicago, or about to perform there, or singing about the city? For site operators trying to find a way to keep visitors around longer, it's a no-brainer.
Of course, it doesn't just have to focus on music, though that's the opportunity that's already here.
As more and more genres of video become widely available across the web, we can have more and more kinds of video mixtapes. The news mixtape of the day's biggest stories, or the sports mixtape of the day's best plays will soon enough replace the evening news. In similar fashion, mixtapes of favorite online programming will become more common (Netflix just launched such a service, Flixtape, for its users to compile the company's programming.
In every case, the video mixtape is an opportunity to compile material targeted to a specific audience's needs. The future is video, especially on mobile. But the future of mobile video is curated for specific audiences, with advertising and/or subscriptions that will yield high-value advertising to support those sites. Now it's time to go and mix it up.