Venzo Digital focuses exclusively on providing free digital music distribution to iTunes taking a 20% revenue share. This week they announced the addition of music video uploads to iTunes in addition to music, ringtones and mobile apps. Venzo also debuted Intranet Voice, introducing voice navigation to their site, and payouts now reaching over $2 million to musicians. Last week I spoke with CEO and Founder Kevin Rivers about the news as well as future plans for Venzo Digital.
Venzo Adds Free iTunes Music Video Uploads
Venzo Digital today announced the addition of music videos to their iTunes upload service. It's the newest option that they've automated making it possible to offer it without upfront or hosting fees while taking a 20% cut in revenue from sales.
I spoke with Kevin Rivers, Founder and CEO of parent company Rivers Companies, about how that works and he basically said their goal is to find ways to automate all their services so that they can keep costs down and pass them on to artists. Music videos have been their most requested feature so he's happy about being able to offer that to customers.
In addition to albums, singles and music videos, Venzo offers app and ringtones uploads. He says he encourages all artists to add ringtones to the mix whenever they upload new music. He revealed that, believe it or not, ringtones account for 55% of their total revenue on iTunes. Rivers pointed out that Apple helped reduce industry ringtone prices which reignited sales.
While that surprised me, the fact that they also offer music app uploads for free to iTunes really caught my attention. Artists send in content, Venzo uses a basic template to create the app and then uploads it using their account. However they also offer premium options and the ability to take the code and upload it through other iTunes accounts.
$2 Million in Artist Payouts, Debut of Voice Commands
Venzo also announced passing a key milestone having paid out over $2 million to artists using the platform. Venzo currently licenses over 500,000 songs in addition to content such as ringtones.
On a more futuristic front, Venzo now offers voice-command navigation for their site though it's currently only available for use with Google's Chrome browser. Apparently Chrome's the only browser that has implemented voice commands though that's eventually coming from others as well.
I have to admit Rivers was more excited by this news than was I. However the long-term potential for mobile voice commands strikes me as the most powerful potential implementation of this service. You can find out more about Intranet Voice in this video.
Venzo Digital's Early Days
Kevin Rivers launched Rivers Companies back in 2004 while still in high school. He began with a digital label that included his own music and got to see the artist/label's side of the emerging world of digital distribution. However sales weren't that great and eventually his label was dropped by Royalty Share who provided him with iTunes distro.
He decided to go straight to iTunes and was then able to upload directly. This gave him the chance to compare business models for both distribution and sales leading him away from Tunecore's flat-rate model, which he felt cost way too much for indie artists, and towards a model inspired by iTunes with a focus on revshare.
Rivers still maintains the label for his own music which allows him to continue to have insight from that side of the game.
For example, Venzo now provides daily reports on iTunes sales and revenue since that gives artists and labels much more visibility especially in the first days of a new release or marketing campaign when such information is vital. Venzo also provides automated financial reports from iTunes rather than requiring manual download.
The Future of Venzo Digital
Kevin Rivers says their approach is a gamble in the sense that it depends on customers' sales. This is especially true given that customers aren't charged for uploads they give away free. But, to Rivers, newer musicians should give some things away for free, such as mobile apps, while established artists can charge. Allowing for that choice means they're helping new artists build which should pay off for Venzo in the long run.
Upcoming plans include an overhaul of the platform that will open up more possibilities in the mobile space. That's particularly important as mobile continues to grow.
In addition, they're hoping to offer a basic physical distro option via Amazon's CD on demand service. However they won't do that until it can be automated on their end since automation is a key element of their business model.
While that certainly doesn't replace physical distribution, as Rivers noted, going the bricks and mortar route is tough but publish on demand services could at least help with that aspect, especially for new artists that may just want to be able to pick up some CDs when they go on tour without being required to order more than they need.
Of course there were other aspects Rivers wasn't ready to reveal. But the overall picture of Venzo Digital is of a service that allows artists easy access to the top selling digital music outlet, iTunes, with a full range of digital products.
For more on how Venzo Digital works, please see their FAQ.
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