The launch of Vevo Tuesday (Dec. 8) is a necessary experiment for major labels aiming to take a more direct role in charting their digital destiny. After years of letting video sites build a business on their content, music companies must take new steps in using online video to promote artists and generate revenue. But which are the best paths -- controlled distribution or wide distribution? To own a service or license to services?

The many online video hubs already provided the music industry with a powerful vehicle for promotion, but they were not delivering the revenues the labels were hoping for. Whether Vevo can do both is at the heart of this new experiment.

The most important point is that UMG is placing a bet that close control of its content is better than licensing that content. And even though it could work, the strategy flies in the face of 10 years of failed attempts. In the early part of the decade, the majors tried to have a hand in new services. Later, they just invested in them. Now, UMG is back to creating a service.

With Vevo, UMG has continued a tradition of investing in online services that grant it control and ownership. While past results have yet to prove successful, they may not be indicative of UMG's future performance with Vevo. Music companies excel at finding, nurturing and promoting artists. They tend not to excel when operating at the retail level. But they have continued to try.

It seems UMG is following two key tactics with Vevo that may lead to success where other major label-funded ventures did not: borrow the technology (rather than build it, buy it or invest in it) and limit content to that one site, Vevo. While Vevo will not be immune to the conflicts that are inherent in owning both content, and having YouTube as a partner means Vevo will be based upon a proven product.

And UMG believes high-quality video content can attract good advertising revenue. Vevo CEO Rio Careaeff said the company is aiming for CPMs from $25 to $40, far higher than typical online video sites yet more in line with the CPMs achieve by Hulu. And the ability to better control its video content is attractive for an industry that received nothing for MTV airplay (outside of promotion) and met with resistance when it tried to monetize their videos online.

But a big unknown is whether UMG should limit the distribution of its video content to Vevo. Labels' attempts to create and enforce artificial scarcity and to control the online distribution of their works has failed throughout the decade.

Early in the decade, the majors had a number of costly, failed experiments. PressPlay (a joint venture between UMG and Sony Music) and MusicNet (a joint venture between RealNetworks, AOL Time Warner, Bertelsmann AG, EMI and Zomba) failed to catch on. Jimmy and Doug's Farm Club, a UMG creation, went nowhere. Vivendi, UMG's parent company, bought MP3.com in 2001 in hopes of promoting its content. It later sold MP3.com to CNET in 2003. In early 2002, Vivendi's Net USA division launched MP4.com, a video streaming site that went nowhere. Bertelsmann, owner of BMG Music, acquired Napster in 2002, sold it to Roxie in 2003 and paid out hundreds of millions in settlements related to lawsuits filed by labels and publishers.

As the decade continued, the majors shifted to the role of equity investors and stood to benefit from whatever upside the startups realized. But those investments have not resulted in the massive sums paid for the likes of YouTube ($1.65 billion) and Last.fm ($280 million). All four majors own stakes in struggling MySpace Music, for example, and WMG invested in Imeem and Lala. The days of high-priced exits appear over, however, as Imeem and Lala were sold at far more realistic prices than what occurred years earlier.