What was the role of music videos before MTV

4 Dec

It is a tricky task to track back the origins of music videos. The roles has been changing indeed.

If we look deeper into the history we will find Talkies (1927), which were movies with speech and sound made during the period when most films were silent. After that Soundies (1941 – 47) brought a selection of short musical films, which covered the whole range of era’s most popular styles. The major focus of Soundies was an entertainment.

Performance videos has been made in order to entertain, but also to advertize the artist. Here we see the role of music video as a promotional tool for the fist time. Few examples: Elvis Presley (Love Me Tender), Bill Haley (Rock Around The Clock), Pink Floyd: Live at Pompei, Jimmy Plays At Berkeley…

Performace videos were first seen in tv shows like Ed Sullivan Show, Ready Steady Go!, Top Of The Pop, America’s Top Ten and many others. Later on we are seeing mostly performance videos from the feature concerts.

The concert music videos has been made also to support world problems and raise money for charities and causes.

Many movies, which would include music on the purpose in order to create special feel and support the plot. (The Wild One, Rebel Without A Cause, Fantasia, Tommy, Quadrophenia, American Graffiti). Some of these films later turned into musicals.  The Wiz, Grease, Saturday Night Fever… Musical films were made on various topics and played different roles. It seems that musicians left the conventional way of advertizing only their music and just let their creativity to unfold and tell stories.

Beatles’ director Richard Lester came up with a promotional video which would not be just a performance video, but a short movie on its own: A Hard Day’s Night. This comic document story was a huge commercial success. Many other artists followed with various styles and approaches: Bob Dylan presented his video Don’t Look Back as a poem, Jimmy Cliff made a social commentary on Jamaican culture at the time in his video for the song The Harder They Come, Devo approached his music videos in alternative way to express the creativity (e.g. Jocko Homo)…

Documentaries played an important part in music industry e.g. Woodstock, Rolling Stones: Gimme Shelter… The role was to inform about events, artists.

Over those years the genre music videos and consequently the role of this genre has developed quite a bit. Beginning with entertainment, progressing as a promotional tool for the musician, but also a promotion tool for causes. Playing a supporting role in the movies. Presenting itself as an art form, a social commentary or a source of information.

MTV might have influenced our perception of music videos as a promotional tool of a musician, but if we look closer we may see many of these roles from the past back in nowadays music video scene.

See the playlist for music videos 1927 – 1980: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLC2DA08A8FBA7F5AA


Goodwin Andrew (11/1992), Dancing In the Distraction Factory: Music Television and Popular Culture, University of Minnesota Press


The Power Of Internet

29 Nov

Our daily dear partner.

Can you imagine the world without the internet? Personally I can, but I can also see all the problems and complications that we would have to suffer. Internet surely did contribute to the commercial business.

The internet has been invented in 1974, however, it was not the same internet as we know today. We ‘regular users’ have only started to use internet in 1992.

1992: World Wide Web released

1995: Commercialization of the internet, Ebay, Amazon

1997: The term “weblog” is coined

1998: Google!

2001: Wikipedia

2003: MySpace becomes the most popular social network

2003: iTunes Store

2004: Web 2.0

2004: Facebook

2005: Youtube

2006: Twitter

2007: TV shows online

2007: mobile web

With the invention of Web 2.0 people got the oportunity not only to watch, but also upload and interact. Youtube has brought a the biggest competitor to MTV – Vevo (channel on Youtube). Music videos became easily and quickly available online. People do not have to wait till MTV shows the programe, they can access their desired artist immediately. Time is money.

Average american teenager spends 2 hours online.

Moreover you don’t need to be a famous director to be well known with your videos. Just think, create, click, click some more and wait a bit. Amateurs were often perceived as ‘more real’ for the audience. Audience can more identify with a guy singing on the sofa in his teenage room than a rock star on the stage. They would support them, sometimes even worshiped them. Their popularity would grow fast and for free.

This is cool! Check that out! Have you seen these? Don’t miss those! (We really are trying hard not to miss anything.)

How has the development of the internet affected the role of music videos? Massively. We have definitely a greater range of artists and styles. However, who knows if that singing guy is not just another star from corporate business, who has calculated his future for him already. We have more freedom of choice, but we should not forget that we still remain victims of advertisement.







Directors label

27 Nov

The guys who have changed my point of view on music videos.

I remember that time, 5 years ago a friend of mine has brought a dvd with cool looking cover. We sat down and watched Spike Jonze’s selected works. I was amazed. It was not just an ordinary advertising of musicians, this was something more than that. These were short movies – very original, clever, visually thrilling. I became  obsessed with getting to know ‘the gang’ (label).

The series include works of filmakers who have helped to redefine music videos and filmmaking over the last decade. Released in 2003 by Palm Pictures – Spike Jonze, Chris Cunningham, and Michel Gondry, the subjects of the first three volumes. Four new volumes were released in 2005, this time featuring Mark Romanek, Jonathan Glazer, Anton Corbijn and Stéphane Sednaoui.

Read more:



Dire Straits – Money For Nothing (1985)

27 Nov

Entertaining commentary on MTV.

Now look at them yo-yo’s that’s the way you do it
You play the guitar on the MTV
That ain’t workin’ that’s the way you do it
Money for nothin’ and chicks for free

Money For Nothing was directed by Steve Barron (Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean, A ha’s Take On Me), who happened to be one of the pioneers in music video industry inspiring the media to create MTV. In 1985 Money For Nothing got MTV Video Of The Year Award.

Money For Nothing is a true commentary on MTV business as well as an entertaining depiction style of the band. It is a combination of (one of the first computer generated) animation with real performance with applied effects. All together it gives us a lesson in an entertaining way.

This was the first video played on MTV Europe. The network went on the air August 1, 1987, 6 years after MTV in the US.

Read more: http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=1091

Structure Of The Essay

27 Nov

How has the role of music videos changed over past 30 years?



showing the importance of music videos, questioning


the role: advertisement of the musician

DVDs, Torrents

the role: art


the role: advertisement plus an accessible entertainment

New roles of music videos

promotional tool of musicians

promotional tool of causes


expression of creativity


What is the music video now?

Main Body

From Talkies to MTV


Talkies, Soundies, Tv shows

Promotional tool of the musician

Elvis, Beatles…

a promotion tool for causes

Concert for Bagladesh…

a supporting role in the movies


an art form

Bob Dylan…

a social commentary

Jimmy Cliff…

a source of information



Promotional tool of the musician

MTV – revolution! (1981)

Madonna, Michael Jackson

Social or Political Commentary

Jean Baptiste Mondino’s Le Danse Des Mots, Dire Straits’ Money For Nothing

Art form

A-ha’s Take On Me, Michael Jackson’s Thriller

Directors label

Art form

Director’s Label (1994)

Internet takes over

Promotional tool of musicians

My Space (2003), YouTube (2005)

VEVO, Britney Spears, Lady Gaga

Promotional tool of causes

U2 & Green Day, Hear It Loud, Pogo

Social or Political Commentary

M.I.A., Public Enemy

Expression of creativity

internet, tv, events

Ok Go,  Chemical Brothers contests, stopmotion animation, lip dub, amateur videoclips, vjing

Art form

internet, tv, events, cinema

Lady Gaga, Kayne West, stopmotion animation, vjing, Future Shorts



What is the role of music videos now

Introduction Of The Essay

21 Nov

How has the role of music videos changed over past 30 years?

What would Lady Gaga do if music videos did not exist?
She would probably:

a. run around in the forest with other monsters.
b. sell flowers in the corner shop.
c. become another singer with a piano.
d. invent them.

What do you think? Would the world be the same without music videos? Probably not. What is the role of music videos and how far does it reach into our lives?

Music has already been one of the most popular art fields since the beginning of time. It has even become a good business with the invention of the radio. So why not to make it even bigger business? Television came and gave birth to a new commercially very appealing genre ‘music videos’. If it wasn’t MTV, it would probably be some other channel or perhaps Lady Gaga few years later. Music videos were perceived and presented as a promotional tool. MTV has, without a doubt, revolutionized the music industry. As the Buggles sing Video Killed the Radio Star.

With the invention of the Internet, the music videos grew into another dimension – entertainment. It was no longer only the music that attracted the consumers, but fans wanted to see more: the new mental outfit of Lady Gaga, the winner of ‘make your own music video for Chemical Brother’s song’ or laugh over Beastie Boys ridiculous full length stories in HD etc. As quickly as the music video came, it has changed its form and contents. Thanks to serious development in technologies music videos became very accessible and interactive entertainment.

Nevertheless, it was not only technologies that have formed ‘music videos’. The creative people quickly understood what could be done with this relatively young and very likable genre. Numbers of views move masses. Music videos is therefore used also as a powerful weapon of manipulation. Style, fashion, social even the political views, these elements have all already appeared in the world of music videos. Moreover music videos have in many cases been presented as an art form. Sometimes we might even feel that the musician is not the prior thing anymore, but the production of the music video itself takes the lead. It is no exception to see a music videos in film festivals on a cinema screen.

Commercial or alternative, manipulation or freedom of interpretation, it all depends which artist is behind it and what is his/her belief. What is the role of music videos now? Are music videos still advertising the musicians? I believe the role has changed in many different ways.





What are the types of music videos?

20 Nov

There are many types.

Depending on various criterias we can divide types of music videos. Yet some of them use combinations of more types. In my opinion there is no precise division.

Firth is discussing the form and content (1988). Consequently he divided music videos into three broad typologies: performance, narrative, and conceptual. These types describe  selected by the director or artist to attract viewers and to convey a direct or indirect message.

Performance videos, the most common type (Firth 1988) feature the star or group singing in concert to wildly enthusiastic fans. The goal is to convey a sense of the in-concert experience. Gow (1992) suggests “the predominance of performance as a formal system in the popular clips indicates that music video defines itself chiefly by communicating images of artists singing and playing songs” (pp. 48-49). Performance videos, especially those that display the star or group in the studio, remind the viewer that the soundtrack is still important. “Performance oriented visuals cue viewers that, indeed, the recording of the music is the most significant element” (Gow, 1992, p. 45).

See examples: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL86F8F0A1A3CCB853&feature=mh_lolz

Narrative videos present a sequence of events. A video may tell any kind of story in linear, cause-effect sequencing. Love stories, however, are the most common narrative mode in music video. The narrative pattern is one of boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back. Action in the story is dominated by males who do things and females who passively react or wait for something to happen (Schwichtenberg, 1992).

See examples: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLD0950CB49E969357&feature=mh_lolz

Conceptual videos rely on poetic form, primarily metaphor (Firth, 1988). The conceptual video can be metaphysical poetry articulated through visual and verbal elements. “These videos make significant use of the visual element, presenting to the eye as well as the ear, and in doing so, conveying truths inexpressible discursively” (Lorch, 1988, p. 143). Conceptual videos do not tell a story in linear fashion, but rather create a mood, a feeling to be evoked in the experience of viewing (Firth, 1988). Conceptual videos contain the possibility for multiple meanings as the metaphor or metaphoric sequence is interpreted by the viewer. “Thus the metaphorical relations between images structured according to musical and visual rhymes and rhythms play a suggestive role in soliciting multiple meanings from us, the viewers/listeners, that resonate with our experience–something we can feel and describe” (Schwichtenberg, 1992 p. 124).

See examples: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL33044A11683B95F6&feature=mh_lolz

I made a division based on elements I perceive as the strongest ones on the music videos. As I was researching, I found out that some elements are very close to other ones so I named the categories with double names. I kept the basic categories: narrative, performance and concept. I added following subcategories:

‘Women/ Sex’ videos sell sexuality. Women are portrayed as a femme fatal. Madonna triggered the big wave with the sensual style of her videos. ‘Justify My Love’ was very shocking at the time. Nowadays pop charts are filled with provocative divas.

See examples: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL6F3FF1535D9A46B1&feature=mh_lolz

‘Political/ Social’ videos deal with political or social problems, questions of etiquete, discrimination, beliefs, opinions. The aim of these videos is to make the viewer aware of the issue or even to provoke him into further thinking and acting. An Indian artist M.I.A. has recently made a strong commentary about discrimination through her video Born Free.

See examples: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLE378EC840B15B5DE&feature=mh_lolz

‘Dance/ Choreography’ videos usually accompany rhytmic songs. Michael Jackson has been a king of his style, king of pop. His videos became very popular mainly because of his choreographies.

See examples: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL9BED7988F769C629&feature=mh_lolz

‘Face/ Body’ videos focus on emotions. It’s the artist who wants to share the feeling with you. Sinnead ‘s video ‘Nothing Compares To You’ is simple and yet very powerful.

See examples: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL74CC13F68C47E444&feature=mh_lolz

‘Parody/ Comedy’ videos are fun. There might be a lot of double meaning visual expressions, commentaries etc. Costumes often appear to make the artist ridiculous just as Bloodhound Gang did.

See examples: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL57FBAC72D9113DDE&feature=mh_lolz

‘Dreamy/ Surrealistic’ videos are a special sort of concept videos. It’s a mixture of elements which create certain atmosphere/ feel/ mood. Eurythmics has expressed ‘Sweet Dreams’  as  a sequences of real shots with odd visuals. Often special effects are used.

See examples: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLFD0C68DAF2B42D9A&feature=mh_lolz

‘Stopmotion/Animation’ videos require a lot of preproduction and patience with production. However, this time consuming process gives you original results. A friend of mine once said about the video Strawberry Swings: There is no other band than Coldplay capable of conceptualizing, producing, and realizing a video like that to completion. I agree.

See examples: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLA9229B034D5F6290&feature=mh_lolz