The Washington Post

Vice takes on MTV with new site

From its print beginnings in 1994, with its features on drugs, alcohol, naked women and scantily clad women, Vice has grown into a publishing powerhouse, known for its dvd series “Vice Guides to Travel”; its two-million-visitors-a-month Web site, with the popular feature “Do’s and Don’ts” advising hipsters how to dress; and its belligerent style of documentary shorts that air on CNN showcasing suicide forests, cannibals and Libyan warlords.

Now, Vice has set its sights on taking on the mainstream maker of cool. “We’re launching the next MTV,” Eddy Moretti, the executive creative director of Vice, said about the media company’s next venture, is not populated with Jersey teenagers drinking excessively. It’s MTV the way MTV once was — edgy, raw, cooler-than-thou. Even MTV’s founder Tom Freston has given the company a vote of confidence in the form of a cash investment.

The site is Vice’s Guide to Music — a gorgeous interactive video site, with a slick interface and over forty short documentaries on bands you’ve only ever heard of if you run with the most global, underground artistic crowd out there. This is a world where beautiful, half-naked Japanese girls throw eggs and ice in pace to their punk techno singing, where a man in a bunny mask turns Elvis songs into heavy metal, where a Brazilian beauty pops champagne and serenades you with old-timey Brazilian rock-and-roll.

When YouTube, MySpace and music-sharing sites flourished online at the turn of the century, the potential to discover new music seemed limitless. You’d just go online, scan through videos and stumble onto an aural treasure.

Except that didn’t happen. Tuned into our iPods, and adrift among too many options, we lost the editorial guidance once offered by radio DJs and MTV veejays.

“Music has never been more important, but it’s also never been so fragmented and contested,” Moretti says. “I wouldn’t even know how to begin to find new music on YouTube.”

Noisey wants to be a musical guide on a global scale. The site will introduce three new bands a week, chosen by its staff at offices in 34 countries around the world. For now, the shows consist of a short introduction to the musician, then four songs filmed at a live concert of the band’s choosing.

Vice also has the added benefit of being an early adopter of video skills. While most Web sites are only beginning to understand the importance of video online, Vice has been focusing on online videos since 2007.

In partnership with Dell and Intel, Noisey is not the first site dedicated to presenting live music shows. NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts have quietly been offering up concerts of bands filmed in the offices of the radio network for three years. Recently launched Pitchfork TV produces video of concerts with a staccato, hand-held feel.

Moretti says he admires both of those sites, but they’re of a different style, and music lovers will want more than one offering. Noisey wants to be the global music powerhouse to Pitchfork’s U.S.-centric site, and it wants to be the brash upstart to NPR’s calm, intimate feel.

True to its name, the site is a cacophonous celebration of music, with hip-hop in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and blissed-out electronica in Kyoto, Japan.

As for the company Noisey is trying to emulate,’s home page advertises Paris Hilton appearing on a fictional show, Justin Bieber showing up on a reality show and a Teen Mom marrying.

I’ll put my money on Noisey for music lovers.

From my Sunday column.


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