Insomnia (insomnia) wrote,

YouTube strikes deal with Warner Music.

YouTube has inked a deal with Warner to distribute music videos, behind-the-scenes footage, artist interviews and original programming for their artist's fans. Warner and their innumerable subsidiaries represent many of the world's leading artists,  from Bjork to Brian Eno, from Depeche Mode to Lou Reed, from Neil Young to Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, with a little Linkin Park to boot.   

"We've been in discussions with many of the labels, television networks and movies studios," said Chad Hurley, YouTube chief executive and co-founder.

So, why am I bringing up this major, yet somewhat predictable corporate deal now? Because there was nothing particularly predictable about it, when I approached Warner Music with a similar deal back in 2002, with the goal of having a weblog for every Warner artist possible hosted on LiveJournal, featuring direct interaction between artists and fans, videos, mp3s, and other things that Warner felt fit to release in order to promote their artists.
There was no money involved in the deal, but I *DID* offer Warner free accounts, and as much free, expedited technical assistance as they needed and we could provide to enable their success. They were very enthusiastic about the deal, as they had just started examining weblogs as a "breaking demographic" and marketing tool at the time, and frankly had not been approached by anyone regarding deals except for people who wanted to charge them an arm-and-a-leg to adopt a technology that was still somewhat in its infancy.

My offer made the the deal easy for them, and they were set to go forward with blogs for about 15 bands or so, including the Red Hot Chili Peppers, with more bands to be added in short order.

We were just about to go forward with the deal when the founder of LiveJournal decided that he didn't want to pay me the rather insanely, pitifully small salary I had anymore. After that, it was frankly quite easy to let the significant business deals I was working on eat silence and die a foul death.

The simple fact is that the founder of LJ hated dealing with business, he hated dealing with management, he hated dealing with users, and he hated dealing with growth. That's okay, if you're willing to let go a bit and allow someone else to deal with it. He wasn't.

As you might imagine, what I could achieve in my role of handling the business side of LiveJournal was significantly curtailed, because LJ was severely curtailing growth, especially with invite codes. It is hard to attract people to your site when they can't get in... and those who would want to have a weblog that would attract attention to what they were doing wouldn't want to place it behind a gated community where people can't easily get access to it.

If your site can't -- or doesn't -- grow, all you can do really is commoditize it even more than it already has been, which was essentially what was starting to happen to LJ around that time, much to my dismay. I like profit, but if you have a web company and need to choose between profit and growth, you should pretty much always opt for growth if you can, as growth drives profitability more than crass commercialism -- if you don't believe me, just ask Google or Craigslist.  

As a result, LiveJournal ignored business for years and allowed sites like MySpace, and, to a lesser extent, YouTube, to eat their lunch.

Not that I'm saying that LiveJournal should've become another MySpace, but the facts remain that LiveJournal was in a position to capitalize on chat and music -- and the popular, community-based cultures that tend to grow up around them -- years beforehand.  Personally, I have no problem with people adding music to their journals, especially since I read their posts via my friends list.  I even added a quiet, looping ambient bit of sound to my journal once, for testing purposes. That said, as a site feature, I would've liked to see it possible while logged in to turn all music off by default.    

There were other major business deals that LJ lost when they lost me, including, as I explained at the time, ones which would more than pay for my salary... but really, the Warner deal was probably the one with the greatest potential as far as growth and popularizing blogs. I just think it's a shame that a truely community run, open source project  didn't capitalize on the idea first, as it might've caused a lot of people to really rethink the true value and potential of open source.

Maybe it's just me, but I feel as though the open source movement has been treading water lately.  Sure, there is still progress in existing pieces of software, but outside of Firefox, most of the public just doesn't use, see, and identify with anything open source at all. We've been through fifteen years of the Linux movement, but as far as most consumers are concerned, it's still not quite ready for prime time.
So, what do you think... can open source deliver on a popular product that it doesn't take a developer to love, other than way, way behind the scenes? And, if so, how are they going to do it without a flair for business, marketing, design, and all those things that open source tends to take for granted?

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