Nearly four years after Vevo launched as an on-demand online hub for music videos, a competitor has emerged. ZUUS, a new music service for the Web, iOS, Android and cable TV, is looking to establish itself as the Pandora for video via curated music video channels based on genre, decade and even mood.
?Co-founded at the top of 2012 by Steve Goldstein, a veteran of Viacom and BET, ZUUS spent the better part of the last year building out a technology that could properly curate and recommend music videos, much like audio services iTunes, Pandora, Spotify, iHeartRadio and Songza. Goldstein says that with many startups focusing on on-demand services, there is a huge opening in the video-curated experience. “In order for artists to be discovered, you have to make it easy for people to discover different genres and seamless types of music experiences first,” he says.?
Unlike Vevo, which is a joint venture between Sony and Universal with distribution by — and, as of earlier this month, investment from — Google, ZUUS is an independent network with involvement from all three of the major-label groups and more than 100 indies. “The marketing teams at all the labels are well aware of us, and a co-conspirator in helping us build their artist brands. Having Warner was a particular leg up for us,” says ZUUS chief marketing officer Chris Gannett, a former chief marketer at CORE Media Group (“American Idol”) and Sony Music VP.
?ZUUS is in the middle of closing its Series A funding, but has been staffing up in New York, Los Angeles and Nashville. Early hires include programming chief Andrew Schiffman, a 12-year senior director of music programming at MTV and VH1; label vet Nikki Hirsch (VP of music strategy and artist relations); and Red Bull vets Karma Gardner and Brooke Emerson (new business development). The networks and digital extensions are ad-free, but Goldstein notes that a combination banner and mid-roll ad model, similar to Pandora, will be introduced in late 2013 or early 2014. A summer-festival marketing strategy also debuted in June, with ZUUS creating original content at events like CMA Music Festival and the Village Voice’s 4Knots New York Music Festival.?
Though digital is a priority, with Facebook, iOS and Android apps at the helm of its outreach, linear TV is also a big part of ZUUS’ rollout, with digital cable channels already available in more than 50 million homes. The biggest is ZUUS Country, a rebrand of the previously named the Country Network; ZUUS acquired it earlier this year and launched new programming. An R&B/hip-hop channel is expected in third-quarter 2013.?
Vevo, for its part, recently gave lean-back music video watching a try with the March debut of Vevo TV, a 24-hour digital channel devoted to curated music videos like in the heyday of MTV, on iOS, Android and Windows phones, as well as Xbox and Roku. The company announced in November 2012 that it had paid out $200 million in revenue to the music industry since its founding in 2009.
?Goldstein hopes ZUUS can eventually achieve similar levels of revenue. “Music videos were created to help increase sales on the backend, and we’re seeing from people using ZUUS now that they’re buying more music than they have in years,” he says. “We understand there is a need for the labels to make money off their intellectual property and the ability for the business to make money.”