Universal Music Group Eyes YouTube as Spawning Ground for New Pop Stars

5:16 PM PST 07/21/2014 by Roy Trakin
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Company gives Awesomeness Music, a partnership with Brian Robbins, Steve Rifkind and Russell Simmons, a label deal.

Universal Music Group is banking on YouTube to yield the next generation of recording stars.

The music major has launching Awesomeness Music with TV producer Brian Robbins, veteran music exec Steve Rifkind and hip-hop impresario Russell Simmons to form the record label based on their online network Awesomeness TV.

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“The multi-channel networks have made it easier to do street marketing,” Rifkind, CEO of the Awesomeness label, told the New York Post. “It’s great for A&R and it’s making stars overnight with the press of a button.”

MCNs aggregate the YouTube channels of amateur video makers with the promise of higher production values and better access to advertising dollars.

The label already counts artists such as singer-songwriter Niykee Heaton and the singing sister sextet Cimorelli, who will release records in August and September, respectively. They will sign another two artists by the end of August.

Universal CEO Lucian Grainge sits on the board of DreamWorks Animation, the owner of Awesomeness TV, along with ex-Hulu boss Jason Kilar and Vice backer (and former MTV ruler) Tom Freston.

Dreamworks' Jeffrey Katzenberg paid $33 million last year for the teen-skewing MCN.

Awesomeness TV was founded by Robbins, the producer of traditional TV shows including One Tree Hill and Smallville, which aired on the CW network.

With 1.2 million subscribers, Awesomeness has a hit musical show in Side Effects, about a group of kids who lose their mom and then create performances. It drew two million views in a week, according to the producers.

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Awesomeness Music is the second MCN-linked label created in partnership with Universal. Last July, Universal joined with Simmons to release music from All Def Digital (ADD), another YouTube-focused site based on music and pop culture.

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