In today’s society, music video serves as a huge market for international artists, the companies who represent them and the thousands of businesses who sponsor their production. Music video is not a new concept however, but rather one that demonstrates the convergence process of music, sound and image over decades. Convergence is, according to Jenkins the "culture, where old and new media collide" and "a technological process" that "represents a cultural shift" (Jenkins, 2006).
An early example of the point where music video became a concept is with the 1929 video of Bessie Smith singing 'St Louis Blues' in a short dramatised clip (Council, 2008). Also, the 'talkie' film The Jazz Singer attributed to being the which was the first real product of the combination of music and singing with image. Following on from this were events such as the 1940 release of Fantasia, Walt Disney’s animations to famous classical pieces. In general, this period between the 1930s and 1960s was also marked with the ever-growing popularity of musicals like The Wizard of Oz (Guiffre, 2012). The convergence of film and singing put emphasis on placing voice and music with an image or movement. Artists known for their audio-visual performances were then given the ability to use music videos to display their uniqueness and expand their audience (Guiffre, 2012). By and by, an individual song began having it’s own associated ‘video’ or footage sequence.
A revolution for music video began with the establishment of the Music Television (MTV) channel in 1981. The new station converged two popular mediums being television and music video with the sole concept of broadcasting content at an international level. Essentially, music video found its 'home' on television. At present, there is has become publically discussed how MTV hardly plays music videos anymore, opting to produce and air programs like reality series Jersey Shore (Middendorp, 2005). This decline then leaves the question, what platform is there for music videos?
With MTVs switch from "priority music video coverage" (Middendorp, 2005) to more TV series orientated broadcasting, the music video phenomenon seemed to lapse for a period of time in the late 90s to mid 2000s. Today, music video seemingly finds a new home in the online world, being very popular through the YouTube platform or other online video sharing websites. Focusing on YouTube, Hilderbrand describes the site in her article YouTube: Where Cultural Memory and Copyright Converge as “the medium of its moment” because, from a business perspective, the platform gives “resulting potential for exact target marketing” (Hilderbrand, 2007). She goes on to suggest that sites like YouTube have contributed to the “culture of the clip” or the public drive to create, distribute and view clips of film, image and sound. Music videos have found a place on YouTube particularly through its links with VEVO, a music website officially launched on December 8 2009. The marketing slogan of VEVO is ‘Music Evolution Revolution’ although I suggest that this revolution started with the creation of sites like YouTube that have brought back the clip culture and thus music video. Further to this, the switch to online broadcasting or access to music video sparked the development of the site VEVO by international music conglomerates, presumably so they were able to exploit the newly developed online clip, music and video culture. Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group, Abu Dhabi Media and EMI operate VEVO and also allow their subsidiary labels the opportunity to use VEVO. YouTube plays the part of hosting VEVO video content despite the companies having already been licensing content to YouTube for a matter of years (Stelter, 2009). With VEVO, the musical giants were able to have more control over advertising associated with the videos that could provide greater profit margins.
Hilderbrand also raises the element fan cultures play in media. In particular, the online culture can act as a big fan base for famous music artists as well as those who are looking for somewhere to showcase their talent in order to develop a following or even make it into the industry. An example of this would be Justin Bieber, found on YouTube and becoming one of the 21t century’s biggest teen pop icons (Hoffman, 2009). His music video for ‘Baby’ now has more than 700 million views, all through VEVO and its host by YouTube.
Ultimately VEVO is a real-world example of industrial and technological convergence. The big music conglomerates owning the company shows industrial convergence whilst having the site being made available on platforms like the iPhone, Android, Blackberry and consoles like the Xbox 360, show how its also a clear example of technological convergence. VEVO is attempting to break the barriers in having a global outreach. Despite only operating in the US, Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and Brazil, VEVO had looked to expand to a wider range of countries by the end of 2010 but has yet to do so. A lack of cultural convergence has been attributed to this, with issues in language barriers and technology, such as YouTubes script translator, being unable to change any element in a copyrighted music video (Van Buskirk, 2010).
Linking back to hoe YouTube could have “resulting potential for exact target marketing”, perhaps VEVO doesn’t see any other countries beneficial to boosting advertising rates and that no dependable market is available in the smaller economic markets of minority countries. The select VEVO content embedded in YouTube makes it available in over 200 countries where the actual site and apps of VEVO are unavailable.
What I believe drives music video today, is how it has developed into a clever marketing mechanism, where the global music giants in fact use celebrity and elements of the video to generate profit. This shows a form of convergence where business and the music industry and forming more integrated relationships. The most public example of this would be the music video for Rihanna’s Umbrella had sponsorship from Covergirl cosmetics so that the footage could be incorporated into their new ‘Wet Slicks Fruit Spritzers lip gloss’ advertisements. Larger corporations also use music video for product placement that serves as target advertising and promotion. As well, in the Umbrella music video, the actual prop umbrella was designed by Totes, who, post the videos success, were claiming to sell thousands of the product (Creswell, 2008).
Another selling point of music video is how the online quality doesn’t necessarily have to be hi-fi, in fact lo-fi looks can give low budget videos more attention – the concept here that ingenuity can prevail over money.
Lo-fi has more opportunity for community parody and copycat remakes, as Hilderbrand points out in her text that YouTube has more or less been developed by its “millions of home viewers”. It perhaps even gives “garage bands” the opportunity to become online viral sensations. Conversely, lots of money that produces a lo-fi or simple look can also become a sensation.......
In summary, music video today is the result of decades of convergence. Firstly, it is the convergence of sound and image in film beginning with talkie films and the ever-growing popularity of musicals in the 1930s-1960s. Secondly, the development of music television stations and programs which provided the first major platform for videos to be broadcast on a larger scale. Thirdly, the convergence of now multinational conglomerate music production and management companies and their solution in VEVO to combat the lapse in music video culture, as well as it's rebirth in the online digital world. Music video today is the product of these decades of converge in business and enterprise, technology and corporate exploitation, but also an extensive
part of the music industry today.
Burgess, J & Green, J. YouTube: Online Video and Participatory Culture. (Wiley Books, 1st edition, 2009).
Council, G. (2008). Music Video A Brief History. Available: http://www.slideshare.net/crosswaysfederation/music-video-a-brief-history
Creswell, J. (2008). Nothing Sells Like Celebrity. Available: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/22/business/media/22celeb.html?pagewanted=all
Guiffre, L. (2012). (Online) Music Video. Lecture 3, Week 3, presented at Macquarie University for MAS 110 'Introductory Digital Media Production'.
Hilderbrand, L (2007). Film Quarterly Vol 61. YouTube: Where Cultural Memory and Copyright Converge.
Hoffman, Jan. (2009). Justin Bieber is Living the Dream. Available: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/03/fashion/03bieber.html
Jenkins, H. Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. (New York University Press, 1st edition, 2006).
Middendorp, S. (2005). The Decline of MTV and VH1 as Priority Music Channels. Available: http://voices.yahoo.com/the-decline-mtv-vh1-as-priority-music-channels-2526.html
Van Buskirk, Eliot. (2009). EMI Licenses Content to VEVO in 11th Hour Deal. Available: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/08/business/media/08vevo.html?_r=1
Van Buskirk, Eliot. (2010). YouTube Globalisation Continues with Four New languages. Available: http://www.wired.com/business/2010/08/youtube-globalization-continues-with-five-new-languages-exclusive/