Public radio stations around the country were early in the game of shooting high-quality video of musical guests–big names, indie darlings, emerging voices–who come by the studio. Now VuHaus gathers these once-scattered treats onto one sleek, discovery-enabling platform.
With new video coming regularly from music heavyweights like KCRW (LA), WFUV (NYC), KEXP (Seattle), and KUTX (Austin), as well as from established names like Mountain Stage, and WXPN (Philadelphia) / World Café, VuHaus bursts with eclectic sights and sounds. Genre-agnostic, the site’s curation team and special guest artists put together timely and thematic playlists, and introduce new artists of note.
Before VuHaus, public radio stations in major markets were hosting video sessions and tossing them up on YouTube. Musicians would stop by, lay down some amazing performances, and that was that. While the resulting videos would garner views aplenty, they didn’t capture the stations’ spirit, keep viewers engaged, introduce them with similar bands, or help music fans benefit from public radio’s proven track record of uncovering the best in music.
“Stations were invested in video, but weren’t getting anything out of it,” notes Mike Henry, a long-time public radio consultant and one of the driving forces behind VuHaus. “They started a dialog between themselves. We sat down and decided on a website, a branded way to face the consumer that wasn’t overtly public radio.” The interface is purposefully minimalist and easy to navigate.
VuHaus is attracting a coveted demographic for public media: young, tech-savvy viewers/listeners. “The majority of our traffic comes from social media,” comments Head of Marketing Michele Tharp. “Many of our views come from the VuHaus embeddable player, which can be found on NPR Music’s and other public media websites. Most views are happening on mobile devices.”
Video may seem like a strange zag for non-commercial broadcast radio stations, but it fits well into the habits of a new generation of music fans. “That’s where music discovery is taking place,” VuHaus President Erik Langner explains. “The majority of music is discovered via video, especially among younger fans.”
It’s a powerful platform for established musicians to debut new work. Jason Isbell, for example, decided to play material from his new album a few weeks before its release, as an exclusive at KUTX in Austin, and the video blew up on VuHaus, the only place it was available online for his fans.
The platform is also a boon to independent and emerging artists, for whom a station session may be their first high-quality, multi-camera shoot. VuHaus powers discovery through careful curation, putting artistry first. Humans are involved at every step of the process: Stations book the bands, produce the sessions and submit their videos, and then VuHaus’ in-house curators classify and spotlight them. “Related Artists” are determined by people, not algorithms. Artists themselves are invited to create playlists of their favorite fellow performers or songs. Greg Holden spent hours watching and creating his.
VuHaus’ non-profit mission demands the human touch, as the goal is not scale or advertising revenue maximization, but supporting and encouraging music around the country. ”For us and our stations, it’s highly mission-driven,” Langner notes. “We are committed to giving artists, regardless of commercial appeal, a way to get out there. We don’t worry about page views, we worry about quality.“
There’s an advantage for stations, as well as listeners/viewers and artists. Unified, they carry more weight and can have a national presence, a benefit to ensure public radio expands, moves forward, and continues to serve its audiences in evolving ways.
“We’re growing rapidly on all fronts, both viewership and partners. We’re picking up new stations and markets,” Langner says. “For the stations, VuHaus is both an opportunity and a hedge. The stations don’t have the scale individually to move the needle in the digital and mobile space. If we want to be relevant for future generations, we need the scale, the national impact, the collective ability to enter into partnerships and provide meaningful places to encounter culture.”