It’s been over 25 years since MTV first launched, so plenty of people have probably forgotten what a splash it made at the time. A whole television channel about music? It seemed crazy in a way. A few years later VH1 launched, targeting a slightly older demographic, but with the same commitment to music (and in Canada, the iconic MuchMusic launched at around the same time). Now a music startup called LP33.tv wants to take up the same kind of position on the Web — an all-in-one community that features new bands, shows videos, allows fans to interact with their favourite artists and so on. But can it compete?
Andrew Bentley, the co-founder of LP33.tv, has a long history in the music business. His mother and father ran a number of popular music clubs in Britain when he was growing up, he said in a recent interview with me, and famous musicians were always around. Andrew wound up working at Virgin Music and then at EMI, but says he became dissatisfied with the bureaucratic approach that the company had towards the business, and the lack of imagination when it came to the Web. “I left after a meeting we had about the Internet, at which it was basically decided to sue our customers,” he says.
Although Bentley says he had the idea for something like LP33.tv — which he describes as a kind of VH1 for the Web — it took some time for the Web to evolve to where it made sense. Earlier this year, he launched a private beta under the name MyAWOL, which stood for “Artists Without a Label.” After America Online launched a site called MyAOL, however, it became obvious that the name didn’t really work, so the company changed to LP33.tv.
The most obvious thing about the site is the video player that tops the page, which autoplays interviews with featured artists and other mini-shows the LP33 team puts together. The videos can be embedded, and there are related video thumbnails below the clip. There are the usual tools of a music site: artist pages with contact info, blogs, streaming tracks and so on, and LP33 provides tools to set up an online store (the artist keeps 70 per cent of the revenue). But Bentley says one of the features that makes LP33.tv different is the effort that they put into highlighting new acts — not just featuring their content, but setting up photo shoots and even performances.
“We’re just trying to be incredibly artist-friendly,” he says. “I don’t think we should try to screw the artists any more — I think they’ve had enough of that already, quite frankly.”
The LP33 co-founder says the site plans to work even more closely with the groups and artists it features, to the point of connecting them with producers and other contacts. There’s no question that Bentley is well-connected: LP33 is backed by a number of music-industry heavyweights, including several members of the rock group Genesis — although former Genesis singer Peter Gabriel isn’t one of them, since he has several of his own Web efforts underway, including an ad-supported service called We7.com and a music-recommendation service called The Filter.
Will any of that help LP33 to succeed? The site seems a little cluttered to me, and not all that easy on the eyes (although it’s better than MySpace Music, which isn’t saying much). But Bentley’s focus on discovering new talent could set the service apart, at least for now.