Tape.tv “Humbugs wouldn’t stand a chance”

Conrad Fritzsch | © Tape.tv
Conrad Fritzsch | Photo (detail): © Tape.tv

Conrad Fritzsch, the founder of Tape.tv, tell us how to make money with an online music channel, why Tape.tv goes down well with musicians and viewers alike and what rooftop concerts really are.

Conrad Fritzsch (43) is the managing director and founder of Tape.tv, the most successful German music channel on the Internet. Fritzsch grew up in Berlin and spent a long time making TV commercials for a living. In 2008, he and his workmate Stephanie Renner founded Tape.tv, which is headquartered in Berlin at what used to be the Australian embassy in East Germany. In contrast to YouTube, Tape.tv also airs videos by artists under contract to big record companies, which receive a share of the profits in return.

Mr. Fritzsch, your online music channel Tape.tv is often described as the new generation’s MTV. Since 2008, Tape.tv allows viewers to compile personalized menus of video clips they wish to see, though you also air content lined up by your editors. Tape.tv is now used by over three million Germans and counting. What is the market niche you’ve filled with your idea?

Conventional music TV was simply getting worse and worse. MTV, for instance, was almost insufferable: they were running nothing but ringtone commercials and cheap productions. There was less and less good music on the radio, too. We wanted to change that. My workmate Stephanie Renner and I thought to ourselves: why don’t we combine the simplicity of television with the flexibility of the Internet? Users can sit back and listen to what they’re served. But this isn’t any old channel, it’s tailored to each user’s taste. You can choose a music genre that particularly interests you, for example. But you can also select individual clips. Apparently we touched a nerve with this personalized cocktail.

How would you describe the typical Tape.tv user?

That’s hard to say. We aim to offer a service for everyone: everyone should find the exact music that interests them. Our core target group are all between 20 and 40.

The channel’s soon to be available on mobile devices as well

Tape.tv doesn’t just show music videos: you also produce your own little shows and broadcast live events. In 2012, for instance, you organized a series of concerts on rooftops in Berlin. Is that enough to hold on to your audience?

We try a lot of stuff out and have to evolve constantly. The rooftop concerts will be continued in 2013, they were a big hit. We’re putting the French band Phoenix on the roof of Berlin’s Red City Hall, for example. What’s more, we’re working on a service for mobile devices. Tablet PCs are getting bigger and bigger and more powerful. Tape.tv should be receivable everywhere and all the time in future.

For the time being, people can watch your channel free of charge, Tape.tv runs mainly on ad revenue. Is that going to stay that way?

Yes, that won’t be changed. But by 2014 at the latest we want to start offering extra comfort services that you can book in addition – for a fee.

So are viewers prepared to pay?

That’s the big question! We think nobody would spend money just for the videos, because they’re available for free on other sites. So we want to offer users more service, for example HD-quality videos or exclusive clip premieres. We’ll probably end up with some sort of subscription plan. But we’re not quite sure yet. Another key future objective is internationalizing the service.

The channel has a good rep in the music industry

You want to go abroad?

Yes, I’ve already held exploratory talks with French and English partners. Both markets are very interesting to us. The French, for example, are very into music. Though Poland and Turkey would also be exciting prospects, since the population in both countries is relatively young.

The word in the industry is that Tape.tv has an “attitude”, which is something artists particularly respect. What do you do to win bands over to your channel?

We try to tell stories – of artists and their music. We want to know what sort of people are behind the music and we take them seriously. It would be fatal if we were to be perceived as nothing but an advertising tool for the labels. To us, music is something tremendous, in every genre. That’s our attitude. It can be seen in our rooftop concerts, for example: the only musicians that perform there are ones that can really sing. You can’t edit stuff like that, humbugs wouldn’t stand a chance.