How Can the Largest Music Video Site Not Have Guns N' Roses?!

Media Reviews for Media People: Vevo

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When I'm not railing against the volume of the dishwasher or bemoaning the way Junior practically lives on that beeping and booping cellphone of his, I totally rock. You can often catch me at concerts, cautiously bobbing my earplugged head to the rhythms of an act whose best moments were immortalized on vinyl in 1980. I rock all day and most of the night, the exception being when "The Mentalist" is on.

Vevo comes up short on Queen, Queensryche and Queens of the Stone Age, though it performs adequately in the all-important Latifah category.
Vevo comes up short on Queen, Queensryche and Queens of the Stone Age, though it performs adequately in the all-important Latifah category.
In fact, it just so happens that I found myself in a particularly rockin' mood the other morning. Right after I consumed a bowl of bran-rich cereal, my daily Ad Age news dispatch arrived, heralding that a new music-video site -- a "Hulu for music videos," to hear one pundit tell it -- had launched that very day. Dare I say there might've been a content love connection in the making? I dare.

After jamming a red baseball cap into my back pocket, I visited for the very first time. My Docksider-adorned feet primed to kick some tush, I entered Billy Squier into the search bar. Nothing. I tried Guns N' Roses. Nothing. I tried Motörhead, Blue Öyster Cult and just about every other band with phonetically impotent umlauts hanging over its vowels. Nothing, nothing and nothing. For those about to rock, Vevo rebukes you.

Vevo's key differentiator, at least from a marketing perspective, is some kind of you-scratch-my-pixels-and-I'll-scratch-yours arrangement with YouTube. Here's how the company describes it in its introductory press release: "Overnight, Vevo will become the largest music video network on the web due to its partnership with YouTube. All YouTube traffic and video streams for music videos from 85% of the music market will be assigned directly to Vevo, creating the largest music video audience network online."

OK! But again, where are the videos? Because in its mad rush to pronounce itself the technosavior of the music business, Vevo forgot the damn music videos, which one might consider somewhat important to an endeavor based around the online transmission of music videos.

The site comes up short on Queen, Queensryche and Queens of the Stone Age (though it performs adequately in the all-important Latifah category). A search for Motley Crue returns five results, four of them shudder-inducing Spin Doctors videos. It's sad but true: Vevo has no Devo.

Admittedly, many of these acts peaked sometime during the first Bush administration. But the entire premise of a go-to destination for music videos is having the clips that random clods like me want to see. While Vevo boasts plenty of circa-now videos, so too does iTunes, YouTube, MySpace, Yahoo Music, AOL Music and artists' individual sites. I can't see why anybody would make Vevo his first stop for, say, the new Rihanna video.

The selection alone cripples Vevo, especially when one compares its video library to that of That still-beta site not only offers most every video that Vevo does, but it adds 20-plus years worth of live performances from MTV, VH-1 and CMT. To dumb the analogy down below sea level: Vevo is to MTVMusic as Winger is to Nirvana.

Ah, but there's more. The aforementioned Vevo search function does everything in its power to confuse and frustrate. Let's say you type "Boston" into Vevo's Google-y search box. Instead of summoning the band and its videos (Vevo, of course, has none), Vevo returns a mishmash of irrelevancies, like a live version of the immortal Christophe Willem's "Jacques A Dit" and some dude's creatively titled "Songs About Cities" playlist. I don't see how this helps.

Vevo is also a tease. Upon producing a search result, the site serves up an artist pic and little heart accompanied by a number. It took me awhile, but I finally figured out that the "[heart] 11" under an artist's name means that he/she/it has been designated as a favorite by 11 fans, not that Vevo has 11 clips by that artist in its arsenal. It's a minor annoyance, but an annoyance all the same.

One area in which Vevo trumps MTVMusic -- and I don't know if this qualifies as a positive to anyone but the ad folks hawking real estate in its corners -- is its integration of marketing partners. AT&T, MasterCard and Canon rank among the A-list brands that boast a mostly unobtrusive presence on the site. On the other hand, I could've done without the dopey "Dollar Menunaire" ad that preceded my viewing of Slayer's gentle lullaby "War Ensemble." Dammit, I don't want a cheap cheeseburger. I want to RAWK.

Vevo only went live 11 days ago, so maybe it's not entirely fair to weigh in with a verdict just yet. That said, the site is inferior to its prime competitor in video selection, design, search interface and audio/video quality -- in short, in every way that matters to the average music-video wonk.

The folks behind Vevo -- Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment -- likely know just a bit more about the biz than I do, but from the look, feel and organization of the site you'd never know it. Unless those corporate parents throw around their weight and withhold their artists' clips from every other online entity -- a suicidal move, obviously -- there's not a single reason why a music fan like me would make Vevo his first, second or even 18th online music-video destination.

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