Music Video Production
Music videos are created with the intention of boosting the artist/band’s popularity; this can be done by portraying a message, invoking audience reactions through intriguing imagery and creating a brand image that is recognisable to the audience. The main purpose of a music video is to generate money for the record label through promotional uses; a music video promotes a single, which promotes an album which then promotes a tour for the artist. A music video will never fail to promote a single which will have a domino effect on the album and tour promotion too. It can be important to have a music video to ensure that the artists’ get the most exposure they need.
In the 1940’s, Disney’s film ‘Fantasia’ housed the first music video. This involved animated mushrooms dancing in sync with each other and to the beat of the music. This video has components that are still used today; synchronised/co-ordinated dancing, one person/character standing out from the rest, cutting to the beat and tempo of the music. This has been carried all the way through into modern music videos, especially in the pop genre; typically, the main focus of pop music videos is the artist so they will get the most exposure. This is illustrated in the Fantasia music video with the little mushroom being different to the bigger ones who are dancing in sync.
A similarity between the two music videos is that they both have a focus on one character/person. Selena Gomez’s video has a lot of genre specific content; there are multiple close-ups of the artist singing and dancing, cutting to the beat of the song. This music video is also voyeuristic as the artist is dancing very provocatively and the audience is watching her. Voyeurism is the act of ‘spying’ on someone in a Big Brother style, especially in relation to females. This then introduces a sense of sex appeal as sex sells in the media industry. We are also put in the position of a ‘male lover’ as we are seeing her dancing provocatively and being shown close ups of her parted lips. This introduces the ‘male gaze’ as the artist is being shown in a way that appeals, typically, to a male audience. The concept of the male gaze correlates to the lyrics and song title ‘Come and Get It’ as it suggests that she’s sexually available. This is good for the artist as it will get the video more attention resulting in the artist getting more attention too.
Despite there being a correlation between the male gaze and the lyrics ‘come and get it’, the music video itself has disjuncture; the lyrics and the visuals have no relation with each other. This makes the music video interesting to watch, but not gripping like other videos that have a narrative and hook the audience in an interesting story. Disjuncture is used in music videos to introduce a new meaning to the song as the visuals are saying one thing, and the lyrics another. This can work in the favour of some music videos as it can make them more memorable. The disjuncture used in the ‘Come and Get It’ music video doesn’t necessarily make it more memorable, but it does introduce another meaning with the reference to the elements and Asian culture.
Following on from the previous point, this music video alludes to the four elements (earth, wind, fire and water) as well as symbolic references to Asian culture. The elements are represented in the visuals of the various bodies of water, fire, the sky (for wind) and the rocks and ground for earth. The Asian culture is shown through the drummers in the video along with Gomez wearing a bindi and dancing in a Bollywood-esque style. These references add depth to the music video and make it more interesting to watch than if the artist was shown in a typical pop genre style of dancing and singing to the song.
Following on from this, in the 1950’s Tony Bennett released the song ‘Stranger in Paradise’ which had an accompanying music video. Tony Bennett was the first to utilise TV to promote his song; in the 1950’s there were TV’s in shop windows that would play content to draw in customers, and Tony Bennett’s songs would be played on these TV’s. This was also the first music video to showcase the artist’s personal image; the video shows the artist walking through a park singing along to the song. As Tony Bennett was an American artist it was pioneering to show his music video on British televisions; it was shown in Britain first because it was one of the first countries to have televisions.
In the 1960’s The Beetles released a black and white film called ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ which was created to advertise the band and the album. This was a clever way of allowing the audience to feel as though they were getting to know the band, thus increasing their popularity. All throughout the film, their pride in Britain and their heritage is showcased through their outfits and locations that are used. ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ set out the visual vocabulary of all later music videos as it was so successful in promoting the band and its image.
A modern example of artists allowing their fans to feel as though they are getting to know them is One Direction’s ‘History’ music video.
One Direction’s music video has small clips of the band members that their fans possibly haven’t seen before, which reflect the feeling in The Beetles’ film of the fans being able to get to know the artist. The clips in this music video are more intimate and show the band member’s personalities. The main purpose of this music video was to show the fans how far they have come as a band and to allow them to feel as though they have been through everything and grown with them. This was also marking the band’s hiatus and used this video as a display of everything One Direction have managed to achieve since being put together on The X Factor in 2010.
The video is also like a homage to them; it is illustrating their lives as part of the band from the beginning to the end. It is demonstrating through the visuals and the lyrics what they have overcome as individuals and as a band. This video is celebrating them being together for 5 years before taking the hiatus in December 2015. According to mtv.com this music video came at a point in time where their fans really needed something to keep their faith in the band; the promise of ‘this is not the end’ coming from the message from the song reconnected the fans with One Direction. (MTV News, 2016)
The 60’s also brought along Top of the Pops which was a show where artists and bands could perform their songs ‘live’ on television in front of an audience. If the artist/band couldn’t make it, a British TV dance troupe called ‘Pans People’ would dance on stage in replacement.
Pans People was effective because their performances were provocative; the dancers wore little clothing and performed choreographed dances to the latest songs.
Top of the Pops boomed in the 70’s as it created innovation and competition amongst bands and record labels. Good music videos produced more popularity and song sales. TOTP was a good platform to showcase new music and get yourself known in the industry.
Queen made their debut in the 70’s with ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’; the song had to be showcased as a music video, as on radio it sounded like 3 different songs. It was also hard to get the airtime to play it on radio as it was so long. Bohemian Rhapsody is the most expensive record ever made as its one of the most elaborate recordings in popular music videos.
For each different part of the song, there is a corresponding change in the visuals on screen. The first part of the song is demonstrated with the band members being the main focus; the only thing that can be seen is the four band members singing along to the song. This is then followed by an as-live performance. As the beginning of the song is quite slow in tempo, the video matches this by having mellow lighting and slow actions within the visuals; the transitions between shots fade in and out to give a relaxed, more intimate feeling. The lyrics in this part are quite deep with Freddie Mercury saying he ‘sometimes wished he’d never been born at all’ which calls for a more emotional visual representation.
For the next change in tempo, the visuals cut to the beat notably along with illustration as the lyrics depict seeing a silhouette of a man; this is exactly what is shown on the screen. This is the only use of illustration in the music video as the main style is as-live. This part of the music video consists of various different shots of the bands members singing the song; when the song changes again, it switches to solely as-live. As this song couldn’t be played on air, it was very important for the band to be the main focus of the music video to ensure that they got as much exposure as possible. The video was extremely successful and secured the band number one spot on the singles charts for 9 consecutive weeks.
In the 1980’s MTV came along and changed everything again; the TV show predominantly focused on rock artists in the early stages. With the beginning of MTV came the ‘MTV Generation’ which had an impact on the way the audience viewed things as well as their patience; this generation was more demanding and had a shorter attention span than previous audiences.
In 1983 the ‘colour barrier’ was broken with Michael Jackson’s song ‘Billie Jean’ as he was the first black man to appear on MTV. He was also the first person to create a music video as a short film (Thriller) which led to 90’s music video directors later going on to creating feature length films.
1997 had more electronic influences in the videos that were shown on MTV which led to the show being the main outlet for artists to be seen by the audience. However, MTV soon began to show less music videos due to the introduction of the internet where people could go and look for the music they wanted to listen to online.
1998 introduced ‘Total Request Live’ in which the audience could request what song they would like to see on the TV; the show would play the top 10 most requested songs of the day which the audience would vote for. Audiences could interact with the producers of the show and become more active and involved in the industry.
MTV nowadays typically shows reality TV shows such as ’16 and Pregnant’, ‘Ex on the Beach’ and ‘Teen Wolf’. There are now TV shows dedicated fully to music such as Kerrang!, 4Music and VEVO. This is an example of ‘extension of outlets’, other examples include websites (YouTube), online downloads, as well as CD and DVD sales where the artist can get more exposure.
An extension of income is when a music video encourages the audience to go out and buy the single/album. If the music video is successful in raising the profile of the artist/group it can also encourage tour interest/attendance. Music videos are also a good opportunity for product placement; this is another extension of income. Anything that helps increase the amount of money the record label earns is an extension of income. Extensive product placement can make the music video look like an advertisement for the product instead of the artist. However, it can be important to have product placement as a method of earning more money.
An example of product placement is Miley Cyrus’ video for her song ‘We Can’t Stop’. This music video features the product placement of two different products; Beats Pill and EOS Lipbalm. These products feature within the first 27 seconds of the video, and do not appear again which aids in not making the video look like an advertisement for these products.
Synergy is when two media products collaborate to mutually benefit each other. When an artist and producers of a film collaborate the artist gets exposure from the film, the film gets exposure from the music video. Synergy can give an artist a good amount of exposure and promotion to further their success and their career. An example of this is the collaboration between Paramore and Twilight with the song ‘Decode’. The music video features clips from the film and a similar mood and setting to that of the film.
As well as clips from the film, the video is set in a forest which appears to be the same one used in the film which indicates a relationship between the two media products. The music video also is predominantly in the style of as-live which is rock genre related. There are also multiple close ups of the main singer who is miming/lip synching along to the song. The combination of clips and as-live footage makes this music video effective in creating a balance of promotion between the two media products.
Moving on, there are producer strategies for major labels, independent labels and self produced work by the artist themselves. Each one produces a music video for a different purpose. For major labels the purpose of a music video is simply to make money e.g. more advertising (such as more product placement). An example of a major label strategy is Vevo; they house many different music videos online and gain a profit from the advertisements that are shown before each video. Vevo is owned and operated by Universal Music Group, Google, Sony Music Entertainment and Abu Dhabi Media. YouTube hosts the channel with different bands having their own ‘Vevo channel’ (DonBrocoVEVO, FooFightersVEVO etc) with Google and Vevo sharing the advertising profits from all of the Vevo channels.
Independent labels have a different purpose for music videos; they typically see them as ‘works of art’ rather than a platform for more advertising. Independent labels give up and coming directors opportunities to establish themselves with smaller, more niche artists before moving up and working for a major label. Independent labels have little to no connection to the major labels and have much smaller budgets for their artists to work with. Because of this, the videos won’t necessarily been seen on mainstream music channels on the television. Despite this, many popular artists would’ve once started out with an independent record label to help establish them in the industry.
Unsigned artists tend to produce their own music videos meaning they have an extremely small budget. Luckily, people can pick up a camera for pretty cheap, or they can even loan one, which makes it easier than ever to make a music video. The people that make these videos are typically unknown artists who want to get out into the music industry despite having no financial support. Unknown artists tend to utilise social media to get themselves known in the world, typically using YouTube as their main visual platform. Justin Bieber’s career started with him singing on YouTube and now he is one of the most popular pop artists in this generation.
No matter whether an artist is signed by a major label or an independent one or not signed at all, a music video is vital to building the artist up and allowing them to strive in the music industry. It is even more important nowadays as everything is so visual; many more people are listening to music online than on the radio which calls for a more active approach in building an artist’s presence in the industry.
Andrew Goodwin is a media theorist that introduced the idea that there is a relationship between the lyrics/music and the visuals through illustration, amplification or contradiction. He came up with the idea that there are genre-related styles and iconography. He also introduced the concept of voyeurism in music videos as well as the four intertextual references; pastiche, homage, parody and referencing.
Narrative music videos typically tell the audience a story of one or more characters in a linear display. An example of a narrative music video is one from Foo Fighters. The music video for their song ‘Walk’ features Dave Grohl walking through the city in an attempt to get where he is going; on the way he encounters different scenarios that aren’t ideal.
Not only is there a narrative to this music video, but it is also a pastiche video. It is greatly influenced by the film ‘Falling Down’ (1993). The main character in the film eventually snaps from the pressures of everyday life and goes on a ‘violent rampage through Los Angeles’ (Rolling Stone, 2016). Dave Grohl takes the role of the main character in the film and is seen going through similar situations on his journey to the Foo Fighters’ band practice.
This music video also has illustration throughout the video; the lyric ‘your signal in the distance’ is displayed by Grohl checking his phone and realising the battery is dead. There is also illustration seconds later with Grohl checking his watch moments before the lyrics ‘I believe I’ve waited long enough’. The title of the song ‘Walk’ and the lyrics ‘Learning to walk again’ also relate to the visuals as Dave Grohl is seen walking throughout the streets of Los Angeles. The illustration in this music video adds more detail to the story that is being told.
When the beat drops in the song, we see Grohl ‘lashing out’ for the first time; this means the visuals match the music which is something that Andrew Goodwin talked about in his theory. The tone of the music video is set after we see him first lashing out which triggers a domino effect of bad situations throughout the whole video.
The video then displays an as-live performance by the Foo Fighters when Grohl finally reaches the band’s practice space. We see the whole band performing the song in a warehouse setting which allows the audience to understand where he was trying to get to during the whole video.
An example of an animation video is ‘Feel Good Inc’ by Gorillaz. The entirety of this music video is animation displayed in a surreal style. The main meaning of this song is to represent the way the media is ‘dumbing down’ people in society and takes away their personal freedom. This is represented in the way the main character is looking up at the other on the flying piece of land who appears to have freedom.
This video’s visuals and lyrics contradict each other; the main animated character repeatedly says ‘feel good’ while the video is very dark and has a melancholy vibe which actually contradicts ‘feeling good’. Contradiction is another thing that Andrew Goodwin mentioned in his theory. This video also has a very surreal vibe; the windmill on its own landmass flying through the air isn’t something that would happen in everyday life. However, due to the meaning of this song the windmill and sole character on the floating landmass represents isolation and freedom at the same time.
Animated videos introduce another level of depth within a music video as more things are possible. With live-action videos, the directors are somewhat limited to how surreal and original they can make them without the use of some animation or CGI. Animated videos are also more interesting to watch as they are less common than the usual live-action/as-live videos, possibly making them more memorable.
Tame Impala’s song ‘Feels Like We Only Go Backwards’ is very much in an impressionist style; there is lots of use of bright colours and movement in the video along with it looking like a painting brought to life.
Impressionist music videos typically have a lot of colour and movement and draw in the audience by having intriguing imagery. This music video is definitely original and memorable as it is so different to all of the other music videos that have been mentioned previously.
This video was actually made by using 1000 separate plasticine collages all made by hand. The constant movement in the video maintains the audience’s attention as it gets them wondering what they are going to be shown next.
In conclusion, music videos are extremely important for established and up and coming artists to get themselves known in the industry. They provide good exposure and are a good tool to use to gain more fans and money for the record label. Nowadays it is vital to have a music video as it allows the fans to see the music visually.