The Music Video: A Lament – Part II

Funny how once one gets going on a subject, suddenly it starts getting the thought processes going, thinking on the subject matter in new ways that weren’t realized before. That’s how it is often for me. And since I tend to write my posts here in an as-I-think-of-it matter, all sorts of ideas are bound to emerge merely as a result of writing. This is exactly what happened with me with the last post and is the whole reason why I’ve been thinking about the purpose of the music video for the last week or so! I guess the rant wasn’t finished after all…

I suppose if one goes back to the early 1980s and looks at the whole reason why MTV was created in the first place was to provide an outlet to get music exposed over TV in a way beyond just live performances. Music had been showcased as something near video format before the days of MTV by bands like the Police and even Bob Dylan, in his iconic “Subterranean Homesick Blues” montage. But now it was getting round-the-clock treatment in a way never seen before. Coupled with teen and celebrity culture to boot, it was a record label’s dream. Of course, this was back when the cable TV landscape (and I think it was the same in the US as it was here) was barely above a dozen channels. It was much easier to hold a viewer’s attention, to say nothing of the eventual emergence of the Internet.

Some interesting points were mentioned to me on this angle: if in fact this was the primary reason for the music video all along, then its decline as of late makes alot more sense. With the ascendance of other means of exposure, especially in the form of the mp3, the all-music channels were suddenly left in an untenable position. If they can’t hold the audiences like they used to, then the advertisers won’t be there like they used to either. So something’s gotta give. Ultimately, it meant that the more music-oriented programming slowly fell by the wayside to be replaced with programming that had very little to do with music at all, the wave of so-called “reality” TV. Now the networks like MTV and VH1 in the US, MuchMusic and M3 here are now shells of themselves, devoted to music in name only.

So where does that leave the music video? Despite the fact that its champion of so long has diminished a great deal, it’s not all doom-and-gloom. It just means that it’s had to adapt. DVD collections of music videos by various artists have proven popular, or even by certain directors, such as Chris Cunningham and Michel Gondry. And now there’s YouTube, something that the labels have been using their advantage for awhile now.

So maybe it’s not an overall decline in the music video, it’s just that the delivery method has changed, which in itself is a major move. As Marshall McLuhan said: “The medium is the message.”

But I still think there’s room for videos on TV. After all, shouldn’t the music stations be about music?

More Favourites – I can’t believe I forgot to mention them in the last post on this topic, but Tool is another favourite maker of music videos. Adam Jones’s strange, other-worldly creations have been a favourite of mine since their beginning.

Sober (1994)

Stinkfist (1996)

And of course, there’s always the delightful weirdness of Peter Gabriel.

Sledgehammer (1986)

I give an Honourable Mention to Soundgarden’s “Burden In My Hand”. While it’s only the band walking through a desert, the cinematography is excellent.

Burden In My Hand (1996)

Published in: on March 21, 2008 at 3:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

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