The Big Four’s Digital Arms Race: Google’s Victory?

AA digital research company has published data showing significant presence of the Big Four record labels on youtube.

comScore: Leading Digital Market Research

Data published by comScore, Inc. (NASDAQ: SCOR), a leader in digital market research, shows youtube as an increasingly important market for the biggest record labels’ promotion of their artists.

With each of the Big Four having some official presence on the video-sharing website, there is scope for increasing dependence on website like youtube in the music industry’s transition from the analogue era.

Although each of the Big Four has its own youtube channel, the competition among those channels is not the most intriguing aspect of the digital arms race. Rather, there are several youtube channels, which, although operating under a separate name, are actually owned by one or more of the Big Four.

Vevo, a joint venture among Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, and Abu Dhabi Media, ranked in the USA’s top ten most viewed video content properties in July this year. Vevo is also licensed to upload video content provided by EMI.

According to comScore’s research, Vevo drew 62,053 unique viewers in July, amassing 502,683 viewing sessions in total.

Not all of Vevo’s viewers come through youtube, but it is fair to say that youtube represents the key battleground in the Big Four’s digital arms race.

In spite of the goodwill by Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, and EMI on the joint venture of Vevo, there is one conspicuous omission in the deal: Warner Music Group.

The omission of Warner Music Group is open to speculation, but whether the label is suffering as a result is ambiguous.

Vevo, supported by several companies, did attract more views than Warner Music Group did in the month of July, with 844,053 views to Warner’s 197,090; but questions remain over the long-term benefits of reducing the emphasis on branding.

While Vevo is attracting more views than Warner Music Group, doubts remain as to whose brand image will benefit in the long run. Warner’s name is still associated with the videos it provides on youtube, and although the remaining members of the Big Four also have their own youtube channels, their increasing reliance upon Vevo could yet serve to vitiate their brand image.

That is not to say that an overwhelming emphasis on brand is always pivotal to success. Following Google‘s acquisition of youtube, Google did not rename youtube to include the Google brand; yet few people would argue that Google’s acquisition of youtube has done anything to damage Google’s performance – rather, Google has gone from strength to strength.

And regardless of the scuffles of the Big Four, Google’s importance to the digital arms race has never been greater. Providing the platform for battle is a niche market, but Google will be more than satisfied with that role.

Samuel Agini is the editor of Andrew Apanov’s Dotted Music.