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MTV unveils new website for fans to reach artists

By Sabrina Ford

NEW YORK (Reuters) - MTV on Thursday unveiled plans to launch a new website, Artists.MTV, to connect fans with their favorite performers on personalized pages that put the artists' brands, not MTV's, front and center.

Artists.MTV, which is expected to go live this summer, will allow stars and unknowns alike to take control of their page, promote themselves and generate income by selling products and services directly to fans.

Shannon Connolly, VP of Digital Music Strategy for MTV Music Group told Reuters the goal of Artists.MTV is to help artists "get heard, get promoted and get paid - most importantly."

The website, which was at the South by Southwest (SXSW) music, film and interactive conference in Austin, Texas, is being created with Topspin, a direct-to-fan software platform. It allows artists to sell music, t-shirts, or other merchandise on the site, as well as book a gig. Artist pages will feature virtual tip jars allowing fans to "tip" the performers.

"Creating ways for artists to afford to keep doing what they do is a huge challenge in the music business today," said Connolly. "Technology has really interrupted a lot of the traditional methods through which artists sold product and built their careers."

MTV also plans Full Frontal, a TV program highlighting selected artists across MTV's networks who are picked based on data from Artists.MTV and an industry panel including musicians and record executives.

"There's nothing more powerful than television," said Connolly. "Internet famous is not the same as television famous - still."

MTV and sister networks VH1 and CMT will each promote a different artist monthly. That artist will have videos played and could appear on the networks, as well as hear their music featured on TV shows like "Jersey Shore" and "Mob Wives."

Artists also will compete for other opportunities such as streaming a concert live on MTV.com or commissioning an original song for a TV commercial.

"It's a new door," said Connolly. "In the past, the way an artist worked with MTV was through record labels and managers - that was the one door. When we launch this, we're essentially creating a new door and any artist can come through this."

An accompanying app will include a feature called "My Artists," allowing fans to "follow" their favorites artists' pages and receive push notifications of any updates.

Van Toffler, president of Viacom's Music Group said, "There is infinite choice out there, but with this, we want to provide a meaningful road map for consumers to weed through the chaos and discover the musical gems that should break through."

Artists and fans can sign up at www.artists.mtv.com to receive updates and participate in a private beta launch beginning in May.

(Reporting By Bob Tourtellotte; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)

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