Music and Marketing

Interview: Sean 'Diddy' Combs Says You'll Soon Tune Into Revolt TV, And So Will Brands

Musician, Mogul Wants to Tap Potential of Music Videos, Give Home to Displaced Artists

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"I want my Revolt TV."

Those are the five words rapperpreneur Sean "Diddy" Combs dreams will one day roll off the tongues of throngs of music fans. After spending 18 months laying the groundwork -- hiring an all-star team of execs, making flashy appearances at big ad events like Cannes, and more quietly, flying around the country to pitch big multinational marketers -- Revolt is set to launch.

The question is: Can Diddy get it done? Can his network become the MTV of a new generation?

When the network premieres on Oct. 21, it will be available in 20 million to 30 million Comcast and Time Warner Cable homes in major markets like New York, Chicago and Dallas. But Mr. Combs is also counting on digital access to many more young people (his preferred term for millennials). And with offices on both coasts, Revolt has about 100 employees developing programming, fielding talent applications and getting the brand on every device and social-media platform.

Just prior to our interview, Mr. Combs was poring over submissions from prospective on-air talent who had responded to a YouTube video the star posted in search of fresh faces for the network. By speaking directly to the audience through social media, Mr. Combs is trying to stay true to his mission of making Revolt a brand for the fans, by the fans, and not just his network.

We chatted with the mogul about the untapped potential for music programming, how he plans to build a home for displaced artists and why marketers should align themselves with Revolt. Our conversation has been lightly edited.

Advertising Age: What void do you believe Revolt will fill? Why is this the right time to launch a music network?

Sean Combs: The overall dream is not just to be a music TV network. We want to be the No. 1 music brand. Currently, music doesn't have one central headquarters. We don't have our ESPN of music, our CNN of music, our Golf Channel of music. We want to be a home for artists who are now homeless. Right now, if Jay Z has a great idea for a video, he has to premiere it on HBO because at least it's cool. Revolt is designed to be a home for the next generation of musical artists, and we are investing in the artists and fans of the future. Revolt is for artists, by artists. This won't just be the P. Diddy network.

Ad Age: Why should brands align themselves with music?

Mr. Combs: Music is the most powerful form of communication in the world. It brings us all together. Even religion separates us, but a hit record unites us across religious beliefs, race, politics. If brands align themselves with music, they align themselves with the elusive community of millennials. We offer advertisers not only a partnership, but a way to understand millennials. Some agencies have extremely smart people, but with all due respect, don't know how to talk to millennials. Just look at the name "millennials." That name that they call them isn't cool enough for them. At Revolt, we call them young men and young women; young people -- it's more personal.

The No. 1 thing is credibility and truth. We won't align ourselves with an advertiser or artist unless it is credible and the truth no matter what. We have over 100 people working for us now and in every department across the company we pledge allegiance to the brand. You can never go wrong when you stay true to the brand. It's not just about us making money; it's about us making music.

I look forward to making history with brands. I don't just want a business relationship with brands; I want to partner and create things people will remember forever.

Ad Age: Given your career and the experience some of your executive team brings, many people will assume this is an "urban" network. Is that true? How broad will Revolt be in the genres of music it plays and artists it features?

Mr. Combs: We need people to know we play all types of music. I come from a world of hip-hop, but I love all types of music and that's what Revolt will reflect. It will be home to electronic dance music, pop, hip-hop. I have a mission to bring back rock 'n roll. Everyone is welcome. There's a perception that because I am from the world of hip-hop and African-American that's what Revolt will be. But really Revolt is about a level of excellence. Some people sneak through the back door. But with Revolt there is a standard. When you see the red Revolt branding on your screen it's a badge of honor that reflects back to the day of "Soul Train" or "American Bandstand." There are a lot of semi-artists with wack music that have snuck in the last decade. We have high standards and want to make the world of music a better place. We are looking to push artists to give the most of themselves. There's a time for one-hit wonders. What makes us different is curation and our track record; we know how to pick them.

Ad Age: What is the programming strategy for the network? How much of the schedule will be music videos, music news and packaged music programming vs. general entertainment?

Mr. Combs: In the first 24 months we want you to turn on the channel from whatever device or site -- Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr -- and get the best music the world has to offer and real-time news and interviews. I am a marathon runner. I ran the New York City marathon and almost died. I tried to run like a two-minute mile early on in the race. I was crazy enough to think I could win. After seven miles I thought I would die, but I slowed down my pace and kept going. The first couple of miles with Revolt we want to run at a nice pace.

The programming will be music, music, music. In 20 years we haven't had the right kind of curated music done in the right way. It will be news shows where we ask the tough questions that when artists are on they know they have made it. It could be festivals or sponsoring a nightclub event. When you turn to this network I want you to know you will see music content and high journalistic standards.

I don't want to over promise and not deliver. What I can promise for the next 24 months is when you tune in to Revolt you are going to get turned on to new art. We won't try to be everything to everyone.

Ad Age: How does Revolt plan to serve a generation that is increasingly watching content digitally, cutting the cord and listening to music on demand via platforms like YouTube and Vevo?

Mr. Combs: We are creating music and content for a certain community and demographic that consumes content on all different devices. The definition of "TV Everywhere" is you wake up in morning and grab your phone and hit Revolt then take it with you on your way to work or school, run home and turn on the TV network because you don't want to miss anything. Young kids want 15-second clips. They know quickly if it is something they want. I don't think other networks are designed like that.

We will be in 20 million to 30 million homes when we launch, but when we tell people that, deep inside that's not the whole truth. In the next three years we will be available to 1 billion people globally through technology.
But we also need to have boots on the ground: we need to be at Coachella, backstage at concerts, in the studio with Beyoncé. This generation respects credibility and Revolt reporters will be out there in the mix and part of it.

Ad Age: Talk about marketing. How do you plan to make Revolt a household name?

Mr. Combs: I want Revolt to become a household name through word of mouth and virally. I don't want to force feed it down people's throats by going on every talk show and radio show.

Ad Age: What networks do you see Revolt aspring to emulate?

Mr. Combs: We aspire to be the ESPN, CNN of music, Fox News if you are a Republican -- we want to be taken seriously. We want people to have fun, but want them to take us seriously. ESPN has different genres of sports -- football, basketball, track and field, the major league World Series and the little league World Series; they ask the hard questions; they give you quick clips with things like the top 10 plays of the day; news that's thought provoking and evocative. We want to be the ESPN of music.

Ad Age: How do you personally consume content and how is that shaping Revolt?

Mr. Combs: Revolt is social by design. I get my content and hear about things through social conversations; that's how I was turned on to "Game of Thrones" and "Breaking Bad." If something isn't live I don't have to have it on. I like to be a part of the conversation and if there isn't a conversation I need to be a part of then I can tape it or search for it later. Revolt is going to be something you have to have on. With MTV we used to say "I want my MTV." It is going to be, "I have to have my Revolt."

As powerful as music is right now there is no one outlet that represents music. That's my dream.