Music Videos:

Blurring the line between art, entertainment, and marketing.


I frequently get into arguments with my friends as to what the purpose of a music video is. You see, some of them believe that music videos are purely used as marketing material, and they cite awful examples as “proof” of this. However, I believe that there’s a very blurred line between entertainment, art and marketing.

Directors who do music videos well (check out pretty much any of the work from Blink directors) appreciate that there is one key difference between a mediocre video, and a great one. Incidentally, these directors also apply the same rule to their adverts.

Let’s take David Wilson for example. He’s the man behind a raft of incredible music videos for artists such as David Guetta, The Maccabees, Arcade Fire, and Keaton Henson. What do each of these videos have in common? They all tell a story of some kind.

Keaton Henson: You Don’t Know How Lucky You Are

The benefit of storytelling in a music video is that it gives the viewer the option to fully immerse themselves in the story, to experience it at a deeper level.

Forward thinking Director’s such as Chris Milk have take this notion of immersion all the way through to viewer interactivity. In Wilderness Downtown (for Arcade Fire), he asks the viewer to enter the address of the home where they grew up. The video then reacts around this — dishing out a heavy dosage of nostalgia in the process. It features aerial views of your old house, street view, and beautiful cinematography. It’s engaging not only because of the fact that there are constantly new stimuli, but also because it is deeply personalised for the viewer.

Light Light’s Do Not Touch achieves similar results with an entirely different approach. The video is effectively a “crowd-sourced” game, where the viewer is given a raft of tasks, which they can choose to follow or not. Throughout the whole “video”, the cursor movements of each viewer are recorded and layered on, resulting in a mass of white arrows crowding in to different parts of the screen.

Light Light: Kilo

Why is it engaging? Because each and every person that takes part shapes the music video in some way. There’s also the beautiful division between conformists and nonconformists — those who are there to take part, and those who are there to willingly disrupt. The beauty of it is that as a viewer, I get to make this choice.

The key to these two “videos” is that even if you’ve never heard of the artist before, you’re likely to engage with them. And what’s more, the combination of the song and the story-based video can become greater than the sum of their individual parts.

I’m sure many of us can recall examples of where a great video has actually led to us — counter-intuitively — being more engaged with the audio-only version of the song as our memory places us back within the experience of the music video.


As ever, if we’ve inspired you to join the debate, feel free to wax lyrical @yourvinehq

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