YouTube: Our VEVO Deal Is Being Renewed (for Now)…

This is called hugging it out, at least for now. According to John Hirai, who heads music for YouTube Japan & Korea, the deal with VEVO is likely to be renewed for at least a few more years, if it hasn’t been already.  “There are some things that were written in the press that are not entirely true, because I’ve been involved in the negotiations myself,” Hirai said recently at MU:CON in Seoul, South Korea.

“But what I can tell you is that I think you’ll see YouTube and VEVO continue to have a partnership for the next coming years.”

That’s sort of reassuring, but also loaded with lots of conditionals.  And who can blame YouTube: one juicy rumor was that VEVO was considering a shift towards Facebook, perhaps more old school sabre-rattling than actual intent.  But the balance of power seems heavily tilted towards YouTube here, simply because YouTube supplies so much of the viewing volume.  In fact, one estimate – which VEVO has downplayed – is that YouTube still supplies around 90 percent of total views, which obviously makes it easier to say ‘bu-bye’ if negotiations break down.

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Maybe the percentage is better expressed as ‘a sh*t ton.’ Hirai declined to offer any specific stats, citing Google policy, though interpret this as you will.  “I don’t know the exact numbers,” Hirai continued.  “But I think all of their viewcounts, including their website, I’d have to think a majority comes from YouTube.”

Hirai stuck to the script and pointed to content-friendly solutions like Content ID, though serious questions are bubbling on artist compensation – or lack thereof.  And VEVO brings some copyright-unfriendly baggage to the table.  Just recently, the company – a major label joint venture – was caught screening a pirated football game at its party at Sundance, and indie publishers have long screamed that VEVO has been pocketing their royalties.

Meanwhile, the broader discussion was PSY, with Hirai sitting at the epicenter in Seoul.  In a perfectly candid response to Digital Music News, Hirai admitted that it’s basically impossible to predict these viral phenomena, though he was able to identify certain factors that fueled the growth.  Most importantly, a completely open structure that enabled unlimited parodies was critical, as was a language-agnostic, comedic appeal.  That, combined with the involvement of Justin Bieber manager Scooter Braun and an infectious horse dance, created what is likely to become the largest music video in YouTube history.