Music videos: what an amazing medium. Though they’ve been around for decades, it’s taken a long time, as is so often the case with a relatively new medium, for music video as a art form to find its feet. As opposed to being just a visual backdrop for music to play over the top of, as the classic band on stage music videos so often are; this medium, now more than ever, can be so much more.
The problem in asking you to take music videos seriously is that, from its inception, the whole enterprise has been exactly that: a money making venture.
So, in order for me to let you continue reading, I’m going to have ask you to put aside the perception (and truth) that most record company produced modern music videos are primarily made as a device for boosting music sales.
The whole shebang kicked off in the 60’s with range of bands being video recorded for promotion purposes. The Beatles took a more artist approach to the whole thing and used the mock documentary style of their ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ film for many music videos. Okay, as I’m not altogether that interested in this era of music videos, I’ll stop there. Suffice to say the medium has been around for a good many decades.
I want to continue now from the 1990s as it’s at this point that (some artists in) the medium started moving away from from the hum drum. Directors were employed to introduce a unique style to the videos they were working on. Directors like Michel Gondry, Chris Cunningham, Spike Jonze and Mark Romanek rose to prominence, and it is from this point I believe the music video discussion starts to become interesting. Though there were some earlier pieces of artistic interest, such as Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” which employed a lot of special effects, it was in the 90s that music videos took a shift towards being an artistic short film. Though it’s fair to say that there’s still a push for record companies to spend lots of money on making interesting and innovating eye candy to go with their artists music, it’s undeniable there’s a new player in town.
With the shift to internet broadcasting and low cost video editing solutions, the world of music video exploded. You’d have to be living under a rock to have missed how virtually overnight YouTube has become one of the biggest innovations in online entertainment and much of this material is produced in peoples home or in low cost studios. Just as high quality music production can now be done by just about anyone on a home computer with relatively inexpensive software, so too has the “video clip” found its own in the hands of non-professional (but often talented) home producers.
Where’s this all going? Back to where it started: music and video. Now that technology is cheaper than ever and there’s more expertise online in form of virtually any tutorial or how to webpage you can imagine, bands are doing it themselves. They’re making the music, shooting their own videos, mixing the two and distributing online through a gamut of different delivery systems. What’s so cool about this is that it’s made it easier than ever for artists to produce true audiovisual pieces. Not music that’s inspired by a movie made in 1972, or a supplementary video produced well after the song was written, but rather music videos that are genuine audiovisual pieces.
The style and vocabulary of music video has changed in recent years, as has the perception of it, and it has grown to be a true and credible multimedia art, perhaps one of the first modern forms to join mediums and become a kind of multimedium fusion; a fusion that perhaps in time, will come to be thought of in its own right, as being meaningfully indivisible.