The Hot Seat: Nic Jones, Vevo

Published in The Music Network


Australia’s frenetic digital music marketplace has another new entrant, Vevo, which touched down here last week. The streaming service is owned in part by Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment. It’s in business Down Under through an exclusive partnership with local digital content expert MCM Media. Unlike most other newcomers riding the digital music wave, Vevo is all about the videos. Somewhere in the vicinity of 45,000, the company claims, all of which can be streamed online at and through free mobile apps for iPhone, iPad, Android and Windows Phone 7. Nic Jones is the executive tasked with taking Vevo to the world, and it was his decision which brought the company to Australia in just its third roll of the dice, following the 2009 launch in North America and the 2010 rollout in the U.K. & Ireland. Born in Australia, and based in London, Jones joined Vevo last year from Starcom MediaVest, where he was chief digital officer. Previously, he held stints at MSN in Australia and Yahoo.

Why does Australia need a local Vevo affiliate?
It’s not good enough to launch a business over here which has Americans or Poms deciding what’s right for the Australian market. It’s important that we have local programming and local ad sales here. We’re all about connecting fans to artists. You can only do that locally. The aim is for all markets to launch local versions. Obviously the tyranny of distance is vitally important to have that local feel, and for the consumers to feel it’s their site and not just an American-based site.

It’s a ridiculously busy year for digital music enterprises arriving in Australia. Why now for Vevo?
It’s a fabulous market. Australia has a passion for music. Live is the best micro-market to understand just how passionate a market is for music. Australians not only go to a lot of live events, but they’re prepared to pay a lot of money which those global bands require to tour. Also, we need to gain the rights for music, and APRA is a really good collecting society to be working with. That’s not always the case with every market. Finally, there’s the opportunity to monetise the traffic. You need a mature digital market where advertisers and agencies are used to and comfortable buying ads on video-on-demand platforms. Music streaming services are really coming into their own now. The market that has the highest user of these services is also the market which is really hard for advertisers to get ahold of through traditional formats like TV. We see that all coming together in a serendipitous moment, so it’s a really good time to be launching Vevo globally. In the UK, we’ve seen tremendous growth of around 30%-40% year-on-year.

So what’s the goal here?
We feel we can build and grow a strong business here. We did 41 million video streams on YouTube this March in Australia, with over 5.5 million unique users. MCM’s sites do around 7-8 million. So we’re doing around 47 million (monthly streams) if you add the two together. Australia bats above its weight in terms of the population size and the number of videos watched. One Direction in March was the most-watched band in Australia, doing more than 2 million video views. One of the ways we draw people in to spend longer and consume more, is playlisting and discovery. It’s about understanding what people are watching, and programming the site to encourage them to discover and consume new music.

What ad partnerships do you have in the bag?
We do have some advertisers, but we’re not publicising that at the moment. We’ve gone live and announced it, now it’s time for (MCM Media) CEO Simon Joyce’s team to get out there and start selling some ads. We’re launching now because we want the ad market to know about us. We have plans for a much bigger consumer launch a little later in the year.

What’s MCM’s role in this partnership?
We’re embedding local producers and programmers. They’re providing a sales team and back-office services. They have close to 100 people. It’s a close partnership and a model we’ll probably roll out in other markets if I can find other partners as good as MCM.

What other platforms are you pursuing?
We’re looking at various IPTV platforms in Europe at the moment. We see interactive TV as a very important part of the experience. We’re beholden to Microsoft’s next iteration of Xbox here, which is due before the end of April. That brings Vevo into the lounge and into the centre of the home. We’re on Google TV and hopefully on Apple TV in the future.

There’s talk of a defection away from YouTube. Any truth in that?
Well no. We have a global partnership with YouTube. We rely on them for distribution, but we sell the advertising. We’re keen to be available on as many platforms as possible. Clearly we’re on all the mobile platforms. Android is a very important part of that. We’re very close with YouTube and want to remain so.

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