Shop for Tunes on YouTube

One of my favorite refrains is “Who will pay for video entertainment on the Web?” I’ve accused the various publishers of throwing spaghetti on the walls of cyberspace to see what sticks. Well, look out because here comes another flung strand of pasta.

In a blog entry last week, Google announced “Today, we’re taking our first steps to providing YouTube users with this kind of instant gratification, by adding “click-to-buy” links to the watch pages of thousands of YouTube partner videos.” For example, videos from EMI Music will have links that will let you buy the music track from either iTunes or Amazon. So you watch a video on YouTube, you like the music, you click on the link, you get it. Simple. And Google gets a little for helping make the sale, which helps pay for YouTube. And EMI gets a little from iTunes or Amazon, which helps pay the musicians and encourages them to make more music that you’ll like and will click to buy.

It may seem strange that these pennies could add up to enough to make a viable business, but remember that the incremental cost of the sale is nearly zero once the system is set up. It may take a while to pay off the initial investment in time and hardware and programming, and there are ongoing communications and energy costs, but if enough viewers click and buy the tracks, everyone should do well.

It’s an interesting experiment, and worth watching to see if it pays off.