New sites help artists show different side

Not long ago, radio and television were the prime targets of a band’s album promo circuit. Things have changed drastically in recent years, with the Web serving as a leading platform for musicians whose fans have grown accustomed to accessing video footage of their favorite artists online, on demand and for free.

One popular online destination that labels and artists have been turning to since 2005 is Pepsi Music. Formerly known as Pepsi Smash, this long-running partnership between Yahoo Music and the Fortune 500 soft-drink manufacturer features exclusive live performances from top recording artists, and mixes things up by providing a plethora of unique content. “We’re not just capturing exclusive content, we’re creating our own,” says Neal Weiss, executive producer of Yahoo Originals. “When we started as a company dreaming bigger, this was the outgrowth of what a full video experience could look like on the Web.” To date, Pepsi Music has featured more than 300 artists in 500 music segments and has generated upward of 650 million video streams. It is one of Yahoo’s longest-running music programs and one of the most successful corporate partnerships in the Internet company’s history.

In addition to showcasing artists like Rihanna, Green Day, Maroon 5 and Mary J. Blige belting out their own tunes, Pepsi Music boasts original shows including “Mic Pass,” in which rappers such as Raekwon and Jadakiss improvise a few bars of a tune before “passing the mic” onto another rapper. There’s also “On Location,” which sends such talents as Jordin Sparks and Jay Sean to unusual settings (think diners, grocery stores and Central Park), surprising unsuspecting onlookers in the process.

Then there’s “Cover Art,” which features musicians performing songs written by other artists they admire. The show has generated millions of views and has aided artists’ eternal quest to reach a broader fanbase. For example, Mandy Moore’s cover of Rihanna’s “Umbrella” ended up being reposted on numerous blogs, and All-American Rejects’ acoustic, accordion-enhanced version of Britney Spears’ “Womanizer” blew up virally on fan sites and YouTube.

Ken Bunt, Hollywood Records’ senior VP marketing, says he regularly encourages his artists to appear on Pepsi Music programs for several reasons. “I think it’s great to have unique programs like ‘Cover Art’ that give potential consumers or fans a different view of the artist,” he says.

“(Hollywood Records’) Jesse McCartney’s cover of T-Pain’s ‘Buy You a Drink’ did exceedingly well on Yahoo,” he adds about the pop star’s clip, not to mention the unquantifiable number of times it has been reposted elsewhere on the Web. “Jesse started adding it to his live performance sets, and it went over extremely well. Then T-Pain saw his performance on Yahoo and they ended up hooking up a few months down the road when Jesse was recording. The whole thing has come full circle.”

As Chris Slater, who produces Pepsi Music programming for Yahoo, points out: “Labels have identified ‘Cover Art’ as a way to come away with a new piece of art to promote or generate buzz for a new album. At a time when the music industry is changing dramatically, it’s a natural fit.”

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