Before the digital age, conventional wisdom on music videos was that it was something of a promotional loss leader: Bands rarely,, if ever, made a dime off them, but they helped artists gain exposure. With the advent of YouTube and Vevo, however, a few incredibly popular acts (think Gaga, Bieber, Rihanna) began making some money from videos; but for most artists videos generated little significant revenue. Enter San Francisco-based start-up BAMM.tv, a company that thinks it can turn the music video business on its head.
"The current music industry is out of balance," says Chris Hansen, CEO of BAMM.tv. "Artists have accepted that they won't make money [from videos] and that's wrong. It doesn't have to be that way."
On the BAMM.tv website, the company claims it is "rewriting the rules with a new approach to music video creation and distribution." And after speaking with the Hasen, looking at the business model and seeing the end product, the company may be on to something.
BAMM.tv's business model is as follows: They work with artists to create quality High Definition live videos of band performing in the company's state of the art San Francisco studio, which includes a sound stage, engineer, set designers, lighting engineers, a full-recording studio and videographers. The final videos I saw of bands like the Stone Foxes, Kill Rock Star's Thao and Mirah and the rapper Wallpaper looked and sounded great.
The best part: BAMM.tv doesn't charge the artist a single penny for the videos or the production -- It's completely free. Once the videos are done, BAMM gives one video to the artist to use for promotional purposes and how ever the band wishes as long as it complies with the creative commons license. The other videos stay with BAMM.
In return the artist signs over global distribution rights for the remaining videos to BAMM.tv. The company then uses its distribution network to globally promote the band's videos and generate income. Bamm says it currently has 11 distribution partners, including deals with Taiwan's Chunghwa Telecom which charges viewers a subscription fee to watch videos, SelectTV, which provides TV content for luxury hotels and Fuugu TV, a television app for mobile devices.
Bamm.tv also has a global deal with Samsung where its app is distributed on each of its tablets and smartphones. In addition, an iPad app is in the works that will be distributed through Apple's App Store.
BAMM does a 50/50 net profit share with artists. With this type of revenue split, the amount of money each artist receives depends on how popular they are -- or to be more precise, what percentage of plays their songs account for in the totals.
It's important to note that BAMM has yet to pay any bands. Hansen claims that the average band payouts should start around $500 per quarter, eventually scaling to a range of $5,000 to $10,000 per quarter, over the next few years. We've tried to minimize the overhead and the middle men so there isn't so many people taking a piece of the money."
I asked San Jose-based artist Bill Lonero about the prospect of working with BAMM.tv to create videos for his distribution network. As an independent artist, he was all for it, noting the value the promotion would bring to his band. But Lonero's reaction to the propect of making money from the videos was disbelief, underscoring Hansen's statement that artists - and indeed the music industry -- have accepted they can't make money off music videos..
"There is a lot of money to be made with music videos," says Hansen. "When you simplify things, it's very easy to find deals that make sense to everyone."