In October of 2015, hip-hop superstar Drake dropped the music video for his single “Hotline Bling,” quickly going viral and as of today collecting over 1.7 billion views on YouTube. Much of the attention at the time was focused on his eccentric dance moves and the unique style of the song itself, but the video also sparked interest in the clothes he wore as he bopped and crooned. GQ and Elle both ran pieces on the three outfits Drake sported in the video, and a spokesperson for Moncler –– the brand behind the shiny red puffer jacket he sports in the beginning of the video –– told Vanity Fair that the day after the music video’s release its website sold more than twice the number of jackets it typically sold on an average day.
Amongst those who saw the jacket in the music video and pined after it was Gurps Rai. Although articles would later come out identifying each item featured in “Hotline Bling,” when Rai saw them the day the video was released their origins had yet to be traced. He searched the internet trying to discover where he could purchase it but came up empty-handed and frustrated. He wondered to himself with the technological capabilities at our disposal today, why wasn’t identifying and purchasing the jacket as simple as tapping it within the video itself?
Although Rai did eventually find out the jacket he was searching for was the Moncler puffer, he couldn’t shake from his mind the idea that there was a huge opportunity being missed that would be mutually beneficial for retailers and musicians. An entrepreneur at heart, Rai had already spent much of his career seeking and identifying early trends in the market. While working in financial services he was involved with the global market, and was also one of the early investors in cryptocurrency. In doing further research he found that others had attempted to create video platforms with tagging features in the past, but were using clunky interfaces that proved too distracting from the viewing experience to be effective. Like so many entrepreneurs before him, he thought: “there has to be a better way to implement the ‘See it. Want it. Get it’ journey.”
Rai had caught on to the fact that it was time for music videos to transform, utilizing the information technologies such as artificial intelligence and augmented reality that are already present in many other industries. Many people –– especially those in the established music industry –– may consider the heyday of music videos to have already passed, harking back to the late 20th century when MTV was a cultural phenomenon that helped launch artists such as Michael Jackson and Madonna into superstardom. However, the power at the time still lay in the hands of the major record labels who had the capital to produce what were essentially advertisements for the albums, knowing the boost in record sales could make up for high production costs.
The value of the music video in this sense is undeniable. They can be a powerful tool for artists, providing them with an alternative medium to cultivate their image and also help raise their profile. A music video done well can allow artists to build a mythos around themselves, creating their own universe that fans can connect with. Unfortunately, the costs associated with doing so in the current model makes the decision of whether or not to produce a music video a tough one for artists, and the lower margins associated with streaming –– the more popular way to consume music today –– only serves to further exacerbate the problems with monetization.
With the advent of 5G, video streaming is also becoming more pervasive in our social media platforms. From the rise of Twitch to Instagram Live to the old faithful YouTube, it is becoming increasingly clear that music videos are not only an important element to incorporate into an artist’s creative process, but also into their business models. Smartphones rule the world, meaning that at pretty much every moment an artist has a chance to reach a new fan and show them a different facet through their music and even their live shows. The problem still remains though: how can artists lacking the backing of a major record label take full advantage of what music videos can offer without breaking the bank in doing so? Or put shortly, how can music videos be monetized?
Enter droppTV, the “shopatainment” brainchild of Gurps Rai’s initial search for the elusive red puffer jacket. An app created using artificial intelligence, machine learning and computer vision algorithms, it has the ability to recognize products within video content and tag them in real time. Perhaps even more important though, it does so in a way that provides a seamless interface in which products can be purchased by simply tapping on the product –– no pop-ups or sidebars –– that prevents the viewing experience from being interrupted. In this way, music video artists have the ability to build and maintain a connection with those viewing while also better monetizing their creation. Essentially, with dropp’s shopatainment, artists can wear whatever merchandise they’re looking to sell in the video, and viewers can click on it to buy while simultaneously viewing their content and never leaving the video.
droppTV creates perpetual commission for artists, who are able to keep 100 percent of the sales that are made through their music videos. This differs greatly from the YouTube monetization model which relies on views. If an artist releases the music video through a record label it will inevitably appear on the label’s account and depending on the contract they may not see a cent of the revenue if it goes viral. Alternatively, releasing a music video independently can be just as much of a gamble, as it would need to generate thousands of views before it even started earning money, let alone enough to recoup the cost of shooting it in the first place. From designer items to their own merchandise, through droppTV suddenly anything and everything within a music video is monetizable.
This model not only helps artists generate additional revenue, but also lines up with consumer trends. Shoppers today are increasingly looking to retail as a form of entertainment, seeking to support the brands that are able to provide them with the most unique experiences. As video and streaming capabilities have improved drastically over the last few years thanks in part to evolving technologies such as 5G, shoppable entertainment – or “shopatainment,” – like the dropp platform is all about creating a seamless experience between consuming content and shopping.
The music industry is by nature an audio business, but as technology continues to evolve video is becoming inextricably intertwined. In many ways we failed our artists in the past when it came to ensuring they were properly compensated for their contributions as the rapidity at which the streaming revolution rose caused a lack of long-term thinking. As we stand at the precipice of a new revolution in which video may reign supreme, this time there must be more ventures like droppTV who are seeking to ensure the monetization methods are beneficial to all.