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Can a New YouTube Music Site Save The Music Industry?

Microphone and Record
Microphone and Record

Today three top music labels are teaming up to launch Vevo, a new music video destination site hosted on YouTube, in an attempt to create a new revenue stream for a struggling industry.

Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and the Abu Dhabi Media company co-own the site, which was announced last spring; just yesterday EMI Music announced it'll also distribute its videos on the sites, leaving Warner Music as the outstanding music giant to sign on. Just like Hulu is the main destination for TV content, Vevo aims to be the go-to destination for all music videos.

Vevo is keeping the details of the site under wraps until its launch tonight, but it says in March it will start syndicating the videos and ads across the web, including to AOL , MTV.com, and Yahoo .

The question is, in an era when MTV is better known for its reality TV shows than for music videos, what's the market for music videos online? The music videos are certainly worth something and worth monetizing — the site's expected to launch with 15 major advertisers. It seems better to monetize these videos than not. The amount and scope of content it'll make available seems pretty remarkable; we'll see if it can create the kind of brand affinity MTV had for its videos in the 80s.

The music industry has been the poster child for what NOT to do when it comes to piracy and technological innovation. Billions of dollars of intellectual property have been stolen through easy-to-use and accessible piracy sites. iTunes emerged as the dominant force in digital downloads; without real rivals to Apple's service the music giants had little negotiating power. Better late than never, and by creating a new model around music videos rather than just songs, the labels are moving the discussion forward.

Questions? Comments? MediaMoney@cnbc.com