Case study: Noisey

Vice, in which WPP Group has a stake, launched its YouTube channel Noisey, a repository for music videos and interviews, in February 2012. Noisey was already known as the brand under which Vice publishes music-related content on its own websites, but the media group felt it had a compelling enough case to pitch to YouTube owner Google for one of its commercially commissioned channels.

According to Vice series producer Alex Hoffman, Noisey’s first concern was to serve its existing audience: “We wanted it to be in the spirit of Vice but also separate from it, and weren’t in the first instance thinking about how brands and labels could get something out of it. That was important, but first and foremost we thought about what our viewers would think was missing in music content.”

The original aim was to avoid adding to the “pile of stuff” that is published around music and to shun generic album reviews, instead opting for both weightier and more iconoclastic videos. It also now acts as a conduit for bands to get their music videos out to Noisey’s audience.

The first of them was by hip-hop artist MIA and since then artists and labels have approached Vice seeking to be included on the Noisey channel. In most cases no money changes hands, as both benefit from the agreement – bands from the exposure and Noisey from the free content. It is an online model that Hoffman says has now completely taken over from music platforms on traditional media, such as his former employer MTV.

He adds that the way Noisey approaches the task of curating content is relatively subjective and not driven by obsessions over web traffic. But he admits that the number of plays a video gets will inevitably inform future selections and that he will have a certain level of expectation for particular pieces of content.

“We went into this pretty blind as to what are good numbers. Like with most areas with Vice, we didn’t go in with major pressure to hit figures. The general idea is just to make stuff that’s good and exciting and fits the brand, and hopefully that will inevitably mean that people watch it. Since February, it has had 90 million views.”

Though Hoffman doesn’t say Noisey will lead to Vice establishing a UK record label, he foresees greater collaboration between the music channel and recording artists. In the US, Vice does have its own record label, Vice Records, through which it releases recordings by bands such as Black Lips.

“At the moment that’s just a US thing, but we really like the idea,” he says. “There have been certain artists this year that we have got onto Noisey quite early and they have become part of the family. It doesn’t mean they don’t do things for other broadcasters or magazines but there are definitely some artists we’ve been involved with over the year that hopefully we’ll continue with.”

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