The way in which music and videos are combined has shifted since the first experiments in this area. We take a closer look at the development of the music video, and what you can do with it as a product and a form of expression in the modern music industry.
BackgroundIn the 1960s, The Beatles featured in films like A Hard Day’s Night, Yellow Submarine and Help. In each case, the film was named after the album, which was used as the soundtrack. There was also a song on each album with the same title as the film. This was a specific type of project, perhaps only possible for bands with as much success as The Beatles. For other bands, this era was the beginning of live performances being broadcasted on TV. Filmed entertainment emerged in the late 1940s, and was the only way musicians could be seen ‘on screen’ for many people. Mass audiences watched artists like Elvis Presley from the comfort of their own homes, without having to own a record player, or needing to pay to hear the music of one particular artist.
Bands rarely claimed ownership and artistic vision of their presence on screen at this time. Although Michael Jackson also experimented with the ‘feature film’ concept, making a 13-minute film for Thriller in 1983, music video broadcasting in the sense that we know it now really began in 1981, with MTV. Music videos were made to fit the running time of a song, and promote sales of physical copies. It was still limited to major signed artists, but music and video were developing together in new forms long before YouTube was even feasible.
Power ShiftAs mentioned in our previous blog on how to build a music portfolio career, there are now several examples of artists who have reached success and recognition through their own creativity with videos. It was impossible for musicians to work in this way before Internet connections, digital handheld cameras, and laptops or computers with editing software became widely available. Artistic decisions and editing used to be organized and executed by professionals in the video, art or film industry - not by the band themselves. Now that YouTube is a user-generated platform with millions of viewers, any artist can create and optimize a channel. This can be used no only to promote your music, but also to earn money from it. The music video has become a new product, and it can be under the control of the artist! There are many other platforms including Vimeo and MyVideo.de that also allow musicians to upload their own content.
Video OptionsNot every musician wants to make music videos, or is interested in being a visual artist. However, most musicians also know that they cannot really be taken seriously in the modern music industry without a music video. There are many interesting options for you to consider when choosing what kind of video would be the best product for your band.
Live videos are the easiest format. It’s good to have a few online. If you have fans or friends who are willing to film some of your gigs, you have an immediate wealth of material. However, beware of terrible quality videos, shaky hands, and half finished versions of songs. Live videos can be great to show that your band also sounds good on stage, or show the small variations between live and recorded songs. They also demonstrate that you’ve been busy playing shows! You don’t want them to make you look bad, however, so make sure that you monitor your live presence online carefully. If people upload too much low quality material, ask them to take it down, especially if you’ve moved on and started making higher quality videos!
An especially good way of capturing live performances is to work with a blog that features live artists, and films them. This captures the quality of intimacy in a live performance, but adds the professional camera work and beautiful ideas and settings that aren’t always possible from a crowded gig or a friend’s filming technique. Most of these sites follow the example set by the French Blogothéque model.
Playing Your Instruments is the next level up from a live video. It features your band all playing your instruments, but you can use extra artistic devices, including costumes, cuts, a set, and lighting. This gives you a chance to keep the video fairly simple, but with a few extra touches you can show something more about your aesthetic, or the feeling of the song. This video for The Look by Metronomy is a good example of a band shown playing their music, with animated seagulls!
Abstract videos. One of the good things about the development of the modern music video is that you don’t have to feature in it. Many artists work with old footage which can be made into a kind of audio collage, or collaborate with video artists who can create uniquely designed visuals to fit their music. This is liberating if you who don’t want to be the face of the product, or if you really enjoy making visual art alongside your music that is not related to the people or instruments in the band. Interactive music videos are also becoming popular, as music and technology become increasingly intertwined.
The music video as product - conclusionWhen looking at the types of music videos that can be made today, you can see that the art is going beyond a basic marketing tool. Many independent artists, labels and blogs are now making videos that are unique products, containing as much love and effort as the recordings themselves. Music videos can be the result of interdisciplinary collaborations between visual and audio artists, not just created to accompany a song, but to make something new! Videos might help you sell physical copies of your album, but they can also help people understand your music, and how you or other artists imagine it in visual terms.
Vevo remains YouTube’s largest channel, and continues to promote video content for artists signed to major labels. This shouldn’t put you off! Take the opportunity to recreate your music as a new type of product - the opposite of a single vinyl copy, but equally worthwhile and interesting as a modern response to the changes in traditional ways of music consumption.
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