Music Killed the Video Star

When music and music videos became more accessible, one thrived, and one didn’t.

The first video ever played on MTV was the aptly named, Video Killed the Radio Star. This message heralded a new era, and with it, a new generation.

What followed were 35 years in which artists worked hard to capture not only the ears but also the eyes of audiences around the world. They realised that to be successful, you had to master screen as well as sound.

It was an era of pushing the boundaries of this new medium. With a TV in every home and MTV streaming music videos non-stop, kids of the 80's were treated to things they had never heard or seen before on a regular basis.

Iconic artists created videos still considered incredible today. Michael Jackson’s 14-minute-long Thriller was not only a visually exciting trip across horror genres that introduced a much-imitated dance, but was also a step towards Jackson revitalising pop music — and that’s what made it special.

In the 90's artists continued to find new styles of music and video. There was ever-increasing originality in both the sound and the visuals. They challenged already-established concepts and created unique music videos that remain in our minds today. Fatboy Slim’s Praise You was a low-budget joke video that not only got everyone talking, but also got them to sing and dance along.

At the time, it was easier for a great video to rocket you to stardom. It was easily as important as the music; they were intrinsically linked. You could guarantee that if your video was popular it would be repeated day in and day out until you became a household name. There were a limited number of choices, and if you managed to become one of those choices then your career was pretty much a success.

Then we went online, and EVERYTHING CHANGED

MTV stopped playing music videos. People turned to the internet for their audio-visual fill. They consumed far more music and video content than previous generations. The originality of those iconic videos soon wore off. People started to create their own music and videos. The number of genres became more and more expansive, and what started to take prominence was the music itself, but in a way never seen before.

There is so much music in the world today — and that’s great. There will (almost) always be someone who finds your music is to their taste. In the 80's I couldn’t be a fan of indie electronic music, it didn’t exist. Things are different now, and the accessibility to music sharing platforms means that we are spoiled for choice.

The 80's interpretation of ‘indie electronic music’

In this growth, the music video has changed and become something completely unrecognisable from what it once was. With so many options for music and artists, the importance of what we listen to has switched back to being about the music itself. A great music video now stands alone as just that: a great music video.

For a music video to rise in fame, the song doesn’t have to be amazing. Take OK Go and their 2014 I Won’t Let You Down. That was a great music video, and I may play it for friends as something that has a great concept, but I can’t for the life of me remember how the song goes.

Still can’t remember how it goes

In today’s world people are able to have niche tastes, and although they may watch visually stunning music videos, at the end of the day they will go and listen to their ‘Feel Good Indie Rock’ playlist on Spotify. Unless both the song and video are exceptional, it will fail to capture more listening attention than the artist’s already established fan base.

Unless you’re going to do something truly amazing, the music video is just an added bonus for fans. Some fans love alien bar fight music videos as much as other fans love dangerous motorcycle footage

This also means that music videos that do manage to grab our attention mostly belong to the mega-stars and their big-budget productions. In TIME Magazine’s list of 30 best music videos, from 2005 we see Lady Gaga, Beyoncé and Kanye West offer up some flashy and lengthy videos to accompany some OK songs. The videos themselves are artistic in a cinematographic way, and that’s why they top the list. Whereas, in the past, a great song with an interesting concept for the video could be considered in the top 100 videos of all time, now the focus is on the video itself, not the music.

Prequel to Orange is the New Black?

A good music video is a plus if you love the song, but if the song is average, then the video will have to be incredibly unique if the artist wants to make an impact, and while this impact may ensure views, it may not necessarily ensure sales. Unless you’re Psy. I can’t explain that — except to say that humanity is broken.

So has the music video lost its way? Has music killed the video star? Or is the music video simply evolving into a new form of entertainment made for the YouTube generation? Whatever your opinion, I think you’ll agree that videos have come a long way from The Buggles and their predictions of the future, and it is possible that music has killed the video star — or at least forced them apart.


Do you agree? Let me know in the comments below. If you like this follow me and recommend. As ever, check out Jukedeck if you’d like to easily create unque music.