NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Vevo wants to be your MTV on the web, but that means censoring music videos for bad language.
The nascent music service, a joint venture between Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment, is applying TV standards to the videos on its system, ending a relatively long uncensored run for music videos on the web.
Vevo is cleaning up the videos -- in some cases comically -- in a bid to make them safe for the advertising it is selling to brands such as McDonalds, whose ads are running in heavy rotation across the network. In addition to turning off brands, bad language becomes a bit harder to ignore with Vevo's "watch with lyrics" button.
Before Vevo, many music videos were copies uploaded by consumers, including explicit versions, to sites such as YouTube, which have pretty loose decency standards. YouTube, for example, may require a user to attest he or she is 17, but will only block video for instances of hate speech or pornography.
But Vevo is taking those steps further, blotting out a lot of language any stronger than, well, "damn."
"Our censorship goal for launch was to keep everything clean for broadcast, 'the MTV version,'" said Vevo spokeswoman Jennifer Press.
There is no specific policy, or list of forbidden words; rather, she said, Vevo "is playing it by ear in terms of what makes it through and what doesn't." On some videos, Vevo is offering both an explicit and a censored version; others, no explicit version at all.
Right now Vevo represents EMI, as well as UMG and Sony, or about 70% of music sales in the U.S. Because it includes all traffic to these videos on YouTube, it quickly became the most-visited music service on the web after launch in December.
Under discussion at Vevo is a ratings system that would allow users to decide how profane they'd like their music videos, and presumably exclude advertisers from versions they might find objectionable.
Currently, there is no ratings system analogous to TV and film for music videos. Videos are either labeled "explicit" or "non-explicit."
Sadly, Vevo's censorship includes comedy, which is really doing a number on Lonely Island videos, including "I'm on a Boat," and "Jizz in My Pants."