Music videos capitalized on a merging sensibility in the 80’s. During the era, artists like Duran Duran, Weird Al Yankovic, and Michael Jackson took their musical outlets into a video form, and have blossomed their career trajectory by supplanting their music with eccentric videos.
It is a bygone era. Music videos were a cultural revolution. Even much further past the 80’s, let’s say, the dreaded 90’s, music videos had a sort of global impact. Case in point. Many have a hard time imagining Britney Spears budding career and debut to the mainstream without seeing her in a school girl skirt dancing in the hallways for her music video of Hit Me Baby One More Time. Boy groups have symbolic and significant music videos, and everyone has a hard time forgetting some of those classic Pearl jam/Nirvana videos from the grunge peak. Music videos at the mainstream level had a certain ingraining methodology to them. Now granted, those videos have staying power because they were huge bands with huge songs, and young girls in skirts never hurts, but there is also a cultural shift that leaves music videos not just secondary or thirdly, but off the market almost entirely.
The main reason for this is, quite simply, video overload. now I say that in the sense that YouTube and social media and the ease of video distribution have sort of watered down the video “market,” so it seems. Videos are grossly accessible, recording technology is available on all levels, and it seems that the accessibility of recording “anything” is, well, greatly attainable. The ease of widely distributing that video content is easier, and the means to make that video look professional, nice, high quality is more attainable. The point here is that with so many videos available for your viewing pleasure, what does a music video (studio made) offer that can’t be found anywhere else?
So the studios innovate. Lady Gaga videos tend to be something special (1. because she has the budget and 2. because she places an emphasis on artistic pop form). Her videos are 10+ minutes and tell a story- quality baring some subjective nature.
Kanye West’s music video for Runaway was 30 minutes long and turned into what is essentially a glorified student art music video. It was also widely successful in promoting his music in alternative ways.
On the other hand, fans make their own music videos, if it doesn’t get flagged and removed off YouTube for copyright infringement of course. but why would a studio invest a healthy handful of cash into developing a music video where fan can make one of almost equal quality for $200 bucks and a standard camera?
With the influx of video content, the music video is, and has lost almost al its steam as a marketing tool. In some ways, this is good. It allows the music to breathe on its own without subjecting it to a video component that can adjust a message, devalue the music itself, or hurt the music. When has a terrible video made a song sort of unbearable? On the other hand, great videos hold over time and imbed themselves with the song.
On the other hand, this is bad. The entire artistic component of music videos have bee relegated to making a video cheap, if at all. There was a certain charm to classic videos that helped accentuate the song and an artistic adventure for those who explored music and video together.
Music videos have become a standard flair of promoting a lead single. Now they are an extraneous component that may see some views on the official artists supervised channel. the death of any art form is depressing, for the most part, but it allows art to move forward in new directions. yet i always found music videos to be more commercial than what was appropriate, so perhaps the destruction of music videos as a mainstream form has allowed them to be more than just a way to commercially push a song or album.
There is discomfort in knowing that things change and mediums adjust entirely. Music videos have little commercial appeal, so having them relegated to underground excess and creativity could fuel a counter culture where we explore the two mediums to greater effect.
Image Source, illumination, 2010, Photo Camera Music Video Film
Ryan Merkel is a cool writer guy and contributor all over the internet, from blogs on music to magazines about music to sites about playing music. He is currently founder of SunState Investing and is head editor of the music entertainment magazine, CultureTease. He has written two novels, and is currently working on a third full-length novel, surprisingly, not about music. His novel “Splatter the Noise” earned accolades for independent publishing. Be sure to check out: www.sunstateinvesting.com
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