Article by: Jonathan Pappo
Although many of our fondest memories of music videos come out from the 1980s, the term “Music Video” was actually established way back in 1959.
To put it in perspective: music videos are tied to the earliest forms of film shorts, better known as “talkies”, “soundies”, and “shorts”. The early ones we all know and love are the animated films, like Disney’s Fantasia or Warner Brothers’ Looney Tunes. Some of these were created as promotional tools for music that would later be featured in upcoming films, and to tie it to what music videos would eventually become, a lot of famous videos have been based off of musical numbers in older films. Just look at Madonna’s “Material Girl”, which is a direct homage to “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” from the film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
The next era of music videos was a huge push for artists and bands to mix their art with visuals. The coming of The Beatles, The Stones, and Bob Dylan led the path to long-form music films, and The Beatles raised the bar high, combining multiple music sequences with comedic shorts to create a feature film (A Hard Day’s Night). Soon after, more time, money, and energy were being put into video production and promotion. The 80s saw the creation of MTV, which completely revolutionized the distribution and access to music videos, along with being the era for some of the most iconic music videos of all time: Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”, Madonna’s “Like a Prayer”, and Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want To Have Fun”, just to name a few.
Now we’re in the age of digital distribution for music videos - a time when anyone can film and upload a music video to YouTube or Vimeo and share it around the web. So with all the music videos that are out there nowadays, how do you make yours stand out? And is there a point of still putting one out? The answer is yes - but here are a few tips and ideas to make sure that the music video is doing all that it can do for your band.
1) Choose the song wisely. Make sure that the song you select to centre a music video around has a strong message that can relate back to the storyline or main thread of a music video. Even if that message is only clear to you, as an artist, it will make creating your music video that much easier if you are passionate about the project. Choose something that will best highlight the theme and tone of your project.
2) Think outside of the box. Easier said than done, but how many videos have you seen with a cheesy storyline or visuals of lo-fi cameras? It’s overplayed and boring. Display your band in its truest form while capturing the audience. And even more so, don’t take yourself too seriously. Look to the past for cheese to appropriate in the future: videos like Wham!’s “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go”, Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby”, and one of my personal favourites: The Offspring’s “Pretty Fly For A White Guy”, which is a perfect example of how sometimes the cheesiest and corniest videos can transcend their own ridiculousness.
3) Stay away from low quality videos. Just because you don’t have a massive budget, it doesn’t mean your video should suffer. Lots of great artists create lo-fi music videos without jeopardizing their vision. A great example of this is Canadian artist Aidan Knight and his video (with an off-the-floor performance) of “Knitting Something Nice for You”. It’s simple, low-budget, but has enough of a creative twist to make things interesting. Think ‘big picture’ - this video will represent your band for decades to come, so why not invest a little.
And if we’re talking about the digital age, we’re also thinking interactivity. Arcade Fire has perfected the art of Interactive music videos with “We Used To Wait”, where they took the viewer’s childhood home address and personalized the music video experience in Google maps. Most recently, the band released a new video for their single “Reflektor”. Fans can open a website on their phone, sync the video with their computer, and become part of the experience.
Now we know not every band has the budget of Arcade Fire, but you still find innovative ways to engage with fans. Paramore’s video for “The Only Exception” asked fans to write Valentines Days cards to them. Not “interactive” per se, but definitely a way to get your fans involved and draw attention to the video. The Shins and The Beastie Boys have also recruited the help of their fans for their music videos, by having them submit live footage of their performances. The Love Machine also recently released a brand new video for their song “Sorry My Dear”, which features Vine videos created by both the band and their fans.
Sometimes you don’t need an interactive or fan video, you just need something that grabs someone’s attention and makes them laugh. OK Go made a routine on treadmills and filmed it for their song “Here It Goes Again” and it was a smash hit.
At the end of the day, music videos are even more important today, as there is now global access to your work. Fans love them, music industry professionals still watch them, and they are a great way to draw some attention and expand your fan base. Just remember to be creative and think outside of the box.
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Audio Blood is a Canadian music marketing, publicity, and promotions company specializing in full-service national and regional artist and brand development campaigns for artists, labels, and events.