If you've ever gone looking for a music video on YouTube, you've undoubtedly come across videos watermarked with the words "VEVO" on them. You may even remember at one point how many of your favorite artists actually had YouTube channels that had "VEVO" in their name.
But a lot has changed in the past few years, and the walled garden of Vevo content is now more like a patch of grass carded by a two-foot high fence.
In other words, it's never been more accessible to upload music videos to Vevo. But is it worth it — and what are you giving up when you do?
Why Vevo Exists In The First Place
Vevo launched in 2009 as a joint venture between Universal Music Group and Sony Entertainment, with a licensing agreement with EMI. (Warner Music Group didn't join until 2016). The goal was basically to leverage the popularity of music videos — many of which the majors owned the rights to — for more money from "coopetition" like YouTube.
Initially, it seemed fairly successful. The company clocked tens of millions of hits in its first month, produced additional content, and launched an app that Vevo hoped would help ultimately siphon traffic away from YouTube. The ultimate plan was to create its own subscription service and become the de facto go-to hub for music video content.
But much of that fell apart, and by 2018 Vevo announced that it was abandoning its subscription plans and pretty much only hosting its content on YouTube. There's still a Vevo app as well as access via some TV streaming devices like Roku.
What Are The Benefits Of Releasing Through Vevo?
Let's get right to the meat of it: why would you want to release through Vevo in the first place? The obtuse answer is, "It depends who you ask."
But if you start with asking Vevo themselves, you don't have to look much further than their pitch to artists on the website. "For over a decade, fans have come to recognize the Vevo logo as a verified indicator of the premium, official content from the artists they are searching for and those they’ve yet to discover," it says.
Sure, that's not the only pitch, but "brand recognition" is a big one. For years, that little Vevo watermark dominated the top music videos (and subsequently the top videos on YouTube). Combined with the fact that many of the top acts had channels with the word Vevo at the end (like "KatyPerryVEVO" etc.), it wasn't hard for fans to assume "Vevo" was some sort of stamp of quality — and for artists to wonder how they could get it, too.
Standard DSP Stuff
Other than the little logo mark, most of what Vevo pitches nowadays is largely similar to DSPs like Spotify, Apple Music etc. That is, they pitch their audience and network effect for potential growth.
Vevo has a team of curators who will place music videos on certain playlists as well as promote them across their social media. They also create original content for some artists and use that as additional leverage. According to at least one artist manager, it's a big plus.
"I love it, mainly because I have great relationships there," they told RootNote. "It has helped my clients exponentially because we can get playlisting there that suits different genres."
Depending on who you distribute through and what your agreement is, Vevo can also pay out slightly more to rights holders. This is because they have their own ad rate and network negotiations, compared to most YouTube creators who simply opt in via the standard ad revenue sharing agreement.
The Cons Of Releasing Through Vevo
Do the pros on paper outweigh the cons? Again — it depends who you ask. (Don't worry, we'll have a recommendation at the end of this article). One manager told us, "I feel like I wrestle with my thoughts on Vevo every week." Another said, "There is a perceived status attached to Vevo verified artists. Does it translate to business? Nah."
That's because in practice, Vevo is a lot closer to a standard "MCN" (which stands for multi-channel network) than anything particularly revolutionary. And as any established YouTuber can tell you, MCNs are a bit of minefield when it comes to value prop versus what you're giving up.
Without a doubt, the biggest con with distributing your music videos through Vevo is a lack of control. When you upload to YouTube directly, you control everything from thumbnails and descriptions to tags, premiere time, listing status, and more. And you can change it at a moment's notice if you need to.
When you distribute a video to YouTube through Vevo, you have to make those changes through your distributor. It can take days. Things get lost in translation. Headaches manifest. Your videos don't just appear in your YouTube Studio backend per usual. You don't have the option to A/B test titles or thumbnails. Even when you have your "Official Artist Channel" set up, the analytics on Vevo videos are more limited than native uploads.
For artists who like complete control over your brand, it's just not an efficient way to distribute your content.
Do Fans Really Care About That Watermark?
The status perceived with Vevo videos has likely waned as music fans have gotten further from its early 2010s impact. In fact, there are plenty of fan-made videos on YouTube even just trying to describe what Vevo was.
As more and more people get their introduction to new music through streaming platforms and social media, the search for the accompanying video is more just about figuring out "who that band is" than trying to decide if they've achieved any benchmark of success thanks to a Vevo watermark.
In its heyday, Vevo laid claim to the majority of the most popular videos on YouTube. Now, Vevo doesn't even own the lion's share of most popular music videos. Even artists like Wiz Khalifa, Ed Sheeran, and Psy opt out of uploading through Vevo.
Given the option, would somebody choose to click on a video with the Vevo watermark over an identical video? It's hard to say, particularly because you shouldn't upload two version of the same video. But if somebody is looking for the video to a new song they just heard, they probably aren't going to *not* click on it because they don't see a Vevo watermark (and then choose a different video that does have it).
Transparency is cool. And a lot more artists are demanding it from the tech companies they rely on to distribute content. That means a lot of middlemen like Vevo need to step up.
When you upload a video to YouTube directly, you get full access to all kinds of data — including exactly how much money that video earned from ad revenue every day. Vevo simply doesn't provide that level of information within your dashboard because it's still not "technically" your video — even though it shows up under your channel name when you have a Official Artist Channel.
And though Vevo has some cool programs designed to shine a light on upcoming talent, there's no really transparent way to find out if you or your artist has a shot at those programs. It kind of comes down to "who you know," not necessarily the quality of your content.
So, you kind of have to decide — is it worth it for you to give up control and transparency for a potentially increased shot at exposure? Well that's the age old industry question, isn't it?
The Reality Of Music Videos On YouTube, Vevo Or Not
Music videos continue to be the most popular content on YouTube. It was that way 15 years ago and it's that way now. Even if children's music videos like "Baby Shark" have carved off bigger and bigger chunks of viewership. It's still mostly music content that leads the way.
And yet YouTube doesn't really position music videos for success the way it used to. Certainly not for financial success.
The most lucrative videos that get shown to the most people are typically at least 8 minutes long and chock full of great search engine optimized terms. They're usually in specific niches and cover anything from product reviews to financial advice to podcasts.
Basically, YouTube has fully embraced medium and long-form content as its bread and butter. Which puts the standard 3-minute music video in a real pickle. There's no place to stick ads in the middle of it and it's not going to get a ton of YouTube-suggested love because music is usually pretty specific to an artist or genre.
That doesn't mean there aren't people excelling in the music space. There certainly are, including cover artists and people making intriguing live renditions of their performances. But in broad terms, music videos are now more "package assets" that serve as a reinforcement for a new track and digital ad campaign than they are a discovery device.
They're still incredibly valuable — just for slightly different reasons than back in 2009.
So Should You Distribute To Vevo?
It used to be a lot more expensive to get your music video on Vevo's network. You had to go through a distributor, many of whom charged (or still charge) at least $99 to do it. Now, you can upload unlimited videos to Vevo for $99 a year via DistroVid, making the upfront distribution cost a lot easier to digest if you have at least a few videos every year.
And if you're an artist on a label, it might not be up to you. Your deal might stipulate that you let the label handle all facets of distribution, and that's just how it goes. But if you've got control over what goes out, where, when, and how, then you definitely have some choices to make.
And it's not always an easy one.
If you or somebody on your team has relationships with people at Vevo that increase your likelihood of actually gaining more exposure through their network, then that's one thing. But if you're a completely independent artist just hoping to score some love, the reality is a lot more stark.
Also, if you put a lot of energy and focus into your YouTube channel, you'll probably want to control all of your content as much as possible. If you don't really care that much and just see your YouTube channel as a place to host the occasional music video, lyric video, and live performance, the stakes may be lower.
But one thing is for certain: make your decision based off realities, not perception. Not being on Vevo doesn't mean anything anymore, and plenty of artists opt to distribute their videos to YouTube themselves to great success.