Exclusive: UMG Signs Licensing Deal with Kyte

Universal Music Group recently closed a deal with Kyte, the media platform which enables companies to connect with audiences in real time on the internet or through mobile phones, Billboard has learned exclusively.

Under the worldwide agreement, all UMG record labels and their artists are "going to be working with the Kyte system in order to publish Kyte channels based on their brands to their fans and communities," says Rio Caraeff, executive VP of eLabs, UMG's business digital division.

"We're using Kyte to allow artists an easy and convenient way to create new video of what goes on in their lives - backstage, at the gym, in the studio, in their living rooms," says Caraeff. "It allows them to be creative and contribute that content in real time into their own channels. This way fans can have more deeper, intimate access to the artists they care about."

According to Caraeff, the plan is to provide all artists with Kyte enabled Nokia phones that will permit them to upload content directly to their Kyte channels (i.e. YouTube, MySpace) as well as their official Web sites.

"What we like is that while artists were uploading videos to the Internet already before this deal, it was completely unstructured," Caraeff says. "Some stuff went on YouTube, others on MySpace, others on Web sites. None of it was in one place, and no one knew where it was half the time. So, it was hard to pay publishers and artists and to keep track of these assets. Now, Kyte's given us a vessel so fans only have to go to one place. Plus, it catalogs and connects all that so it can be reused and repurposed, it provides a channel via which artists can talk with fans and a way to monetize and build a business around it."

In order to monetize the deal, as Caraeff mentions, UMG will incorporate advertising and corporate sponsors to help offset the cost of operating the channels.

Kyte launched three years ago. "The idea was to make videos interactive so audiences can engage," says Daniel Graf, founder of Kyte, who adds you can chat, leave comments, etc on all Kyte channels. "The beauty about Kyte is that it's very cost effective and it has so much functionality. It's a one-stop, online offering for mobile and other various channels where you can get it all."

So far, artists from 50 Cent -- who has been using Kyte the longest of any artist, according to Graf -- to PussyCat Dolls, Ludacris, Lady GaGa, Busta Rhymes, Akon and Lil Jon, among others, are using Kyte. In the future, it will be up to the discretion of the label and individual artists if they want to start their own channels. "Some artists have already shown interest, wanting to learn more about it," says Caraeff.

Currently, Kyte is partnering with television channels, radio stations, publications and other artists/labels, according to Graf. And, while details were scant, he also reveals there will be some "very exciting announcements in Q1. For now, our deal with Universal is very interesting. We couldn't have started the year off any better."

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