MTV Starts MySpace-Like Web Business That Gives Artists a Cut of Ads

Artists Also Get Majority of Revenue From Sales of Music, Tickets and Goods

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Viacom's MTV is creating artist-focused websites where musicians can sell songs, concert tickets and merchandise, as the cable network seeks closer business ties with performers.

Starting in May, MTV will allow musicians to claim their sites to upload music, videos and photos, and to sync pages with social-media accounts, MTV said yesterday. The pages will go public around the MTV 's Video Music Awards in September.

The MySpace-like effort, Artists.MTV , is meant to consolidate the disparate online outlets artists use to share music, videos and messages with fans, while also creating a new sales platform.

Piracy and declining CD revenue tied to a shift to online retailers have decreased the money artists make from traditional recording, while lower concert-ticket sales have reduced revenue from touring.

"We felt like the world needed a place that 's comprehensive and thorough, and that allows artists to connect with fans at scale," Shannon Connolly, VP of digital-music strategy at MTV Music Group, said in an interview. "The goal is to help artists get paid."

The Artists.MTV initiative, which also includes MTV siblings VH1 and CMT, will share with the artists any ad revenue generated on the pages.

Through an agreement with Topspin Media, an online-music merchant, the artists will receive most of the revenue from sales of music, tickets and goods. Artists signed to record companies can direct traffic to other stores. All the money from a tip jar on the pages will go to the musicians.

Google's YouTube and Vevo.com share ad revenue from music videos, while Spotify Ltd. and other streaming services are starting to pay royalties.

MTV averages about 60 million monthly visitors, Ms. Connolly said. The new pages will contain videos from MTV , including live performances and other appearances by the artists, as well as clips aggregated from sources the network licenses.

Unsigned acts and the biggest stars can create pages, Ms. Connolly said. The network, which hosts about 10,000 artist-specific sites, expects to have more than 1 million pages when the service becomes available.

"Music fans should be able to search for any artist and never strike out," Ms. Connolly said. The pages will also allow artists to post once and publish everywhere, she said, adding that the product is designed to centralize posts, whether on Facebook, Twitter or other online sharing services.

MTV won't force artists to use its chosen retailers, Ms. Connolly said. Artists can use their MTV pages to direct visitors to tracks for sale at Apple's iTunes, to tour promotions from Live Nation Entertainment or to ad-supported music videos at Vevo.com.

"The goal here is to give artists the opportunity to monetize what they do," Ms. Connolly said. "Artists can get heard, get promoted and get paid."

After May, judging on the basis of audience and industry recommendations, MTV , VH1 and CMT will select an artist each month to feature on-air in videos, music for TV shows and promos, Van Toffler, president of Viacom's Music Group, said yesterday at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas.

MTV has signed up high-profile artists to launch the service, said Ms. Connolly, adding that MTV would provide specifics when the service goes online.

-- Bloomberg News --

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