The fall and rise of the music video

9 Jan

Editor’s note: Sorry for my lack of posts recently. I had my laptop stolen. However, I am now a proud owner of a MacBook Pro so expect even more posts as I try to warrant these burnt pockets.

At its commercial peak, in the late 80s and early 90s, music and the music video simply gushed cash. Records were not just selling, but driving the industry to colossal heights. Videos were essentially another advertising channel for recorded music, supplied for free to music channels such as Mtv.

However, as we all know, the internet, aided by Napster and idiotic thinking on behalf of the Majors, flipped the music industry on its head. CD sales collapsed and so did music video budgets. Subsequently, Mtv sidelined its core existence for reality television in an attempt to stay relevant, a sign of music video demand. A new home was found on YouTube, amongst piano-playing cats and rambling teenagers. Through this home of the bizzarre and controversial the music video has been building its revival.

One reason for the revival is that production costs have fallen heavily thanks to developments in technology and competition driving prices lower than ever. It only take a semi-decent digital camera and a computer to get your visual master-piece up on-line for a global audience. Even for the more high-profile of artists high definition cameras, editing software and computing-processing power is much cheaper!

Another reason is the lavish digital homes that have emerged over the past years – Vevo being a prime example. The service, heavily invested by Sony Music and Universal Music, is a website that showed 261m music videos to 50m  viewers in America and Canada alone. And that was just in November. “On YouTube”, says Rio Caraeff, Vevo’s Chief Executive, “A viewer might proceed from a slick Lady Gaga video to a grainy home movie of cats dancing to a Lady Gaga soundtrack.” Selectivity and quality control is they key to Vevo’s success.

Personally, the over-ruling factor for the revival is viral. Back in the heyday, you had a selection of controlled outlets for music; radio, tv, tours, journalists. Music videos less so – Mtv. Today a video can potentially reach all corners of the globe and for free. OK Go champions this art with content that is unique, exciting and virable (I am coining this term). Check out OK Go’s This Too Shall Pass below, a 22m virus sensation.

Despite the improving economics of the music video, the fast-money days are over. However, for the music fan, there is more choice than ever where and when they want to consume. That can’t be such a bad thing?


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