New platform could save the music industry

17 Jul 2008

Video saves the radio stars! A new music video web service out of Dublin could provide the music industry with the monetisation strategy it dearly needs.

Big-four label Sony BMG has already signed up and the other labels Warner, Universal and EMI may join in the year ahead.

The Muzu TV service launched in Dublin yesterday promises to create a personalised TV channel for music fans to manage their favourite music and present it on their various social networking sites, such as MySpace.

Users can also interact with bands and labels and share music legally and at no cost.

But what’s in it for the hard-pressed music industry? Muzu TV has created a platform that allows labels like Sony and bands such as The Ting Tings to develop a homepage but also generate revenue through an ad-supported model developed by the company where revenues from ads are shared 50/50 between Muzu and the labels/artists.

Another aim of the site is to allow unsigned bands to generate revenue from advertising and possibly sign record deals. The company’s Dublin headquarters boasts a recording studio where bands can drop in and create videos.

Muzu is the brainchild of Ciaran Bollard and Mark French, and so far a wide cross-section of the industry including artists, venues, festivals and music magazines have signed up.

These include over 200 labels and content producers such as Ministry of Sound, Defected Records, Cherry Red Records, Eagle Rock, Planet Rock Profiles, SPV, Hollywood Music and Ninja Tune, to name a few.

The site includes rare footage such as interviews and documentaries about Phil Lynott and Bob Dylan.

Artists from Sony BMG who feature on the site include The Ting Tings, the Foo Fighters, Kylie, Justin Timberlake, Beyonce and MGMT.

Muzu, which has offices in Dublin and London as well as an R&D base in Waterford, is quickly generating a buzz in the technology world, having already presented at TechCrunch.

The company in recent months has raised €6m in venture capital from Oyster Capital, Enterprise Ireland and a number of private investors.

Co-founder Mark French explained the company has spent the last two years building technology, negotiating with labels and artists, and having amassed a strong digital content library, is ready to hit the road.

“We are officially live in Ireland and the UK and the plan is to go live in mainland Europe in the third quarter and in the US in the first quarter of 2009,” French said, adding he is confident that the other big three record labels will join the Muzu TV revolution. “We are in negotiations.”

He said artists are creating a lot more content than the obvious DVDs and CDs and there is an important route to monetisation that must be grasped by a music industry anxious to arrest its decline in the face of threats such as piracy.

“Bands are creating a lot more content than what’s on albums. They are on the road, there’s behind the scenes stuff such as how a guitarist came up with a riff or bass line. In many cases, bands have a lot of content they haven’t had the opportunity to digitise yet which could be worth potential revenue through ads viewed by fans as they consume the content.

“The other beauty of the service is that it creates a platform for bands to manage their digital content, such as tagging it to be available in certain parts of the world or to users of a certain age.

“This is a great facility to get all of a label or band’s video content into one place for the first time. Fans can then take the content and broadcast it on different channels around the web.”

Co-founder, Ciaran Bollard, described Muzu TV as an artist-led initiative where artists’ and labels’ concerns about copyright and quality of content can both be addressed..

“We built this as a communications platform for the music industry. It’s unique insofar as we are a video site for fans that results in sharing revenue with the copyright holder.

“The key focus for fans is they can create their own music channel online and totally personalise it and re-broadcast it on their favourite social networking sites.”

Bollard said the company is currently working on optimising Muzu TV for the mobile phone and within a year predicts the service will be available on alternative platforms such as the Xbox 360.

By John Kennedy

Pictured: Mark French, Minister Eamon Ryan, Ciaran Bollard and Darragh from The Dark Room Notes at the launch of

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years