With Artists.MTV, Musicians Will Take Over Their MTV Profiles

MTV is handing musicians the new keys to a new website called Artists.MTV.

Van Toffler, president of Viacom’s Music Group, was scheduled to announce the initiative during his speech at South by Southwest this afternoon. Beforehand, I got on the phone with VP of Digital Music Strategy Shannon Connolly to talk about MTV’s plans. She said Artists.MTV comes out of a larger discussion about the role that MTV wants to play in the changing music industry. In some ways, it sounds like the music section of MySpace reinvented, but Connolly called as a “pro-artist initiative” that’s “letting artists take control of their MTV presence.”

Right now, the MTV website already has 10,000 artists pages, which are automatically generated and include basic elements like videos, news, and a biography. (For example, here’s the page for Lady Gaga.) With the new program, Connolly said musicians will be taking over these pages, allowing them to share what they want with their fans, and to make money at the same time. So musicians will be able to feature the music, photos, and news that they want, and MTV will be able to dramatically expand the number of artists who have profiles on its site to more than 1 million.

MTV has already been talking to some artists about the effort, and Connolly said one of the big concerns was that these pages would become just another site to keep up-to-date. Connolly is hoping that instead, these pages can unify an artist’s online presence by integrating and pulling content from their social networking accounts.

As for making money, MTV is partnering with music service Topspin to allow artists to sell music, merchandise, tickets, and more from their pages. It’s a revenue sharing deal, but MTV says artists will see the “majority” of the profit. Artists can also set up tip jars, where fans donate however much they want, and all of the profit goes to the musician.

The network is also announcing a new program called Full Frontal, where fans, artists, producers, and managers will choose one artist per month who will promoted across MTV’s properties.

“In the past, the way that an artist worked with MTV was through a manager or a label,” Connolly said. “When we launch this, we’re essentially creating another door. We’re distilling it down into a very simple value proposition — be heard, promoted, and paid.”

MTV plans to start its “artists only” private beta in May, followed by a fan beta later this spring, and a full launch later this year.