Universal Music Group and Google-owned video supersite YouTube are close to striking a deal to create a standalone site for music videos, according to anonymous sources cited by CNET News.com and the Wall Street Journal. The site would be called Vevo (uh, what?), it would be the largest music video site online, and it would probably attract much higher advertising rates than YouTube.

I don’t think this is something users were crying out for — I can find music videos on the regular YouTube site just fine, thanks very much. That’s why it’s a bit faulty to imagine that YouTube and Universal will create the online equivalent of MTV — which, as every annoying pop music fan likes to remind us, has largely abandoned videos — because YouTube itself already serves that role.

But while Universal already makes tens of millions of dollars from YouTube, I’m sure it would like to make more. And with the downturn, Google is also taking a closer look at its bottom line, lending some urgency to its attempts to find a real revenue stream. Vevo seems more likely to make money than a pay-to-download plan (not that YouTube can’t pursue both), since the labels will likely force YouTube to cripple the downloads with the same digital rights management (DRM) that iTunes is finally eliminating.

YouTube’s official response to CNET’s queries is a generic “we are always working with our partners” message. Meanwhile, the video site just crossed 100 million viewers in the United States, according to comScore — traffic driven, one imagines, by YouTube’s many music videos. The site is also in the process of renegotiating its video licensing deals with the major music labels.