“We are not just about dance anymore.” That’s the message that prefaces DanceOn’s pivot towards becoming a music business, and according to CEO Amanda Taylor, the company “pushed five new artists into Billboard’s Top 40” last year. Leading up to its presentation tonight at the Newfronts, the company announced it has formed a new parent company called “izo” to capitalize on a proven ability to break new music artists and bring brand partnership opportunities to those artists. Think of izo as a new music marketing and distribution mechanism much like radio was in its golden age.
Music seems to be a natural extension from DanceOn’s original ethos — a video destination focused on the language-less vertical of dance and choreography. And, at the time of its launch in 2011, dance competition shows like “So You Think You Can Dance” were already glamorizing dance and elevating the profiles of choreographers. Flash forward past four seasons of its own dance competition series “Dance Showdown,” numerous indie series, a choreographer network, and partnerships with brands like Coca-Cola, Reebox and Toyota — DanceOn has certainly capitalized on the dance category, reaching over 75 million followers worldwide.
Last year, DanceOn helped put major music trends on the YouTube map and Billboard chart including “Whip and Nae Nae,” which was one of YouTube’s top trends last year. They do it by having their network of creators create videos around the music or artist, in the same way a DJ would says Taylor, causing a ground swell for the song. DanceOn did this for both indie artists they found and for projects commissioned by the labels themselves.
“I think about our content creators as the next generation of DJs. We have amazing directors, amazing choreographers and talent. They are going to put their own spin on [the music]…in the same way that a DJ or VJ would. And they do it to scale, on an international platform.” added Taylor, who will remain the company’s CEO.
“The way that Youtube works, in some ways, it’s more powerful than radio. [Videos] have an awesome shelf life, and that is why I think one of the reasons that some of the songs that we have been working on stay on the charts for so long,” she says of their strategy.
izo, which “was inspired by the musical term “intermezzo,” the musical piece that connects different works of music together” according to a release, will also look to expand on its existing music related programming ““Artist Request,” and “The Edge,” while also introducing its audience base to new artists and music experiences. DanceOn will continue its focus on the dance category and the two brands will collaborate given music and dance are interwoven.
What one must call into question is whether DanceOn, er, izo can take on an already cluttered music market. With Tidal, YouTube, and Spotify recently making big splashy plays in the music/video streaming space, it may be difficult for izo to compete with established companies as these, despite its partnerships with Warner Music Group, Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and TuneCore. Often, though, it’s the labels that stir up the most complication for music-related businesses.
Many have noted that Spotify’s recent move into video was likely driven by the struggles of working with the music labels given various complicated licensing issues. For Spotify, building a hybrid business that can sustain without the labels could give an extra edge when working with the labels. What’s more, in looking at how Vevo has struggled over the last few years, one might question how izo can work to not repeat Vevo’s history.
“Music video continues to be one of the hardest markets to hve an impact in. It is an incredibly crowded space, with many formidable partners vying for the audience’s attention. It is also very complicated and filled with expensive licensing landmines which make the road to profitability long and treacherous,” said said Vevo’s former head of video Doug McVehil, who now serves as GM of artist management and production company MDDN.
Taylor isn’t concerned though. She believes that izo’s independence from the labels is a factor working in the company’s favor as well as the proposition that izo is set on becoming a music marketing powerhouse and one that’s community driven by music and dance lovers.
“I applaud [DanceOn’s] intention to help new artists,” added McVehil. “The music business needs all the help it can get raising the visibility of new acts and breaking through the noise.”