Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Spotlight Site: VBS.TV

We occasionally draw your attention to exciting developments in the world of music video. This week it's VBS.tv, a new place to find exclusive behind-the-scenes footage, interviews and music videos from underground artists and directors. ...

Tired of "television's deathlike grip" on your leisure time? Looking for some smart independent news coverage? Do you want fun music programming without an annoying VJ? Well you're in luck. Shane Smith is here to give you exactly what you want.

Smith is the executive producer of VBS.tv, a new streaming online channel founded by VICE records and legendary music video director Spike Jonze. The website has a variety of content, from weekly series to documentary features, and is entirely independent. It's "on" 24 hours a day and consistently updated by contributors all around the globe. Smith was kind enough to share some additional insight into the VBS.tv experience with us...

How do you choose the videos that are posted on the site?

It used to be people would make a music promo, send it to MTV and get on television. So the network was getting free content and the bands wanted the airtime. But now to clear rights for a music video you have to talk to all these people and clear 5 different things – why the fuck are they making these things in the first place? Music has become such a hotbed of litigation. So we want to show everything, but it’s just not possible.

How did this project start?

It was a combination of things; and it was a mistake really. Spike Jonze asked us, “Are you guys shooting all your articles?” and we weren’t, we felt stupid but we also thought it sounded like a good idea. Then we put together this DVD, which was fairly popular, but DVD takes a long time; it’s 6 months after you shoot before you actually make the damn thing. Digital is the future, music and everything.

We have over 2,000 contributors in 36 different countries, and no matter how much marketing stuff there is - content is going to be king. So we said, let’s just start shooting shit, and then it was like, ‘whoa, we can actually make a TV network.’

Is there a theme to the content on the channel?

We didn’t start out with a theme, but as we started going to places like Baghdad and Sudan, we got angry. And then when we started doing our environmental shows, we got even angrier. So we definitely found our tone for programming like that, but for music and entertainment we just wanted to do stuff that you couldn’t see anywhere else. We’re all about counter-culture. They talk about the liberal media in news, but 5 big companies own all the news on TV, and they are all worried about whether or not they can keep Budweiser advertising deals, and so by definition they are conservative - there is no liberal media in television.

Why is this preferable to starting or watching a broadcast channel, other than it being cheaper?

The viralocity of it; being able to share something with everyone. Popularity is a phenomenon online, not because you’re on NBC at 9 p.m. on Thursday. It’s about the interactivity, the ability to make a show however you want, and we can actually say ‘hey if you’ve got a good idea or pitch, send it over and we’ll look at it.’ Being able to watch a program, send im’s to your friends, get on message boards – it’s going to destroy TV.

How involved is Spike Jonze in the project?

Spike designed our whole interface, the look and feel, he’s shooting for us and he comes in every two weeks for 3-4 days and looks over pieces, helps with editing etc. He shot some of the Arcade Fire stuff you see up on the site right now, and is shooting a concert with them also.

Why should people come watch videos on VBS.tv rather than on YouTube?

YouTube just has everything, you might see this great report from Baghdad but the next video is a baby farting or something like that. And the Yahoos, MySpaces, Googles – they’re all going to make deals with NBC, CBS etc. It’s just going to be the same old TV content online.

What we’re trying to do is give you something specific and new; no one else is doing long interviews with Devin the Dude. What’s going to differentiate us eventually is a brand and content.

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Depth of Focus Videographies: Radiohead / Bjork / Michael Jackson / Bowie