Vevo's Apple TV and Android apps offer a more customized experience

Log in, pick your favorite artists, and start watching -- as long as you like Top 40 music.
Nathan Ingraham
N. Ingraham|02.11.16

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Ask most people what comes to mind when they think of Vevo, and the answer will probably be the massive number of Vevo-sponsored musical artist pages on YouTube. If you watch a popular music video on YouTube, it's probably through the artist's channel in partnership with Vevo. However, the company wants to be known for more than just YouTube -- it wants its own apps and website to be a place for people to discover music and, yes, watch the most popular videos.

To that end, the company rebuilt its iOS app from the ground up to offer users a personalized music experience based on artists they loved and the things they played the most. Today, the company's expanding that experience to two big platforms: Android and Apple's tvOS. Both apps launch today and are available in Google Play and the Apple TV app store, respectively.

Giving users a deeper, more customized experience has been a priority for Vevo since launching that new iOS app last fall. Now, only both Android and iOS, new users are prompted to create a Vevo account, tell the app its favorite artists and start "hearting" videos -- that personalization helps Vevo start serving up tailored personalized playlists. Keeping people in the app means the company can start pushing users towards its own original music-focused content, as well.

Gallery: Vevo app for Android and Apple TV | 9 Photos


"A few years ago, the mobile web and app experiences were basically identical," says Vevo VP of growth and product marketing Aaron Burcell. "The app never learned from the user, but once you register and share some info on yourself, the app gets a lot smarter." This kind of personalized learning will definitely make the experience of using Vevo's apps better, but it's also table stakes at this point. And when you think about the fact that YouTube recently launched a music app that has years of your YouTube history to draw from to recommend more music, it feels like Vevo has an uphill battle in front of it.

That said, the new Android app is a lightweight and solid tool -- just as on iOS, the "spotlight" section features videos and playlists customized to your interests, including a "new for you" playlist that's updated every Monday, similar to Spotify's much-touted "Discover Weekly" playlists. There's also top-10 of the week playlists across different genres as well as artist-focused options.

Unfortunately, Vevo still has a way to go before the experience really feels tailored to the user. First off, picking your favorite artists when you first launch the app will be an exercise in frustration if you're not a fan of Top-40 radio. When I first launched the app, I was inundated with pop stars to rank -- but if your music taste falls at all outside the most mainstream music you can think of, you're going to be waiting a long time to find artists to add as favorites. Fortunately, you can just search for specific musicians and add them to your favorites list.

Also, the playlists that Vevo serves up doesn't always take into account those artist preferences -- I gave Justin Bieber a definitive dislike, and yet a Bieber-focused playlist showed up in my spotlight page. These are the kinds of things that Vevo will have to work on if this app is really going to compete with YouTube, but given the immense breadth of content the company has at its fingertips, it should be able to get there eventually.

As for the new tvOS app, it's very much more of a lean-back experience, as you might expect. By default, you'll see a "spotlight" playlist that's personalized based on your favorites; you can also flip right over to a favorites page of videos and artists as well as top videos by genre. While you're watching a video, you can quickly favorite it from the remote, but most of the organization features are only available on mobile or the desktop. You can also search, but the Vevo team imagines most people will just use the app's browsing features to find things they want to watch rather than use the semi-awkward on-screen keyboard.

Either way, Vevo's ambitions to be a platform in its own right (rather than just a name you see on YouTube) are clear. And if all you want is a string of the biggest names in pop music, Vevo has you covered. Those who prefer a deeper, more customized music experience will likely want to look elsewhere, but Burcell told me that the company is working on making the service work better for those with more "eclectic" tastes. Once that happens, Vevo's apps will be worth a closer look -- but for now, it doesn't quite match the depth and breadth of things you'll find on YouTube.

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