Friday, August 31, 2012

The Phenomenon of Digital Media Convergence in relation to Music Video Online and YouTube.

Bryce Gleeson - 42851424

MTV launched in 1981 with the theme ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’ but now it may well be more relevant to question whether Internet has killed the television star (Neil Vidyarthi , 2010). Digital media convergence is a long and more complicated process than initially thought of. It begun at the very start of the technological revolution with the introduction of analogue data, existing on physical media such as videocassettes and film negatives (Jenkins, 2006). Through ever increasing knowledge, digital forms of data were produced and replicated much more efficiently, making information much easier to duplicate and communicate. From this, traditional analogue media was left behind as it was bound to its material form and one-directional communication, and this made way for digital media convergence, where traditional media forms are now digitized and interconnected by ways of communication for media production and consumption. This has had a major impact on the landscape of digital media since the introduction of new media, and in particular, music video online and Internet video broadcasting has been a product of digital convergence. Throughout this article I will discuss how online music videos have been swept up in this junction of digital media forms and the impacts that they have had on society and culture, referring to the rise of digital media and YouTube’s affect on the current online music video landscape and the historical aspect behind music videos in relation to digital media; the social and cultural developments that music videos online have had on digital media convergence; and why internet video is so successful throughout today’s society with reference to local examples of YouTube broadcasting.

Music video has had a long history, with the precursor of silent films performed with live music in the late 19th century, then later with the first feature length musical film ‘The Jazz Singer’ in 1927, bringing music and motion picture together in an early example of media convergence. It wasn’t till much later that Music videos were created as an advertisement for record sales, before then going online in the digital revolution of the 1990s (Neil Vidyarthi, 2010). Online music video has been one of the most influenced mediums of digital media convergence because of the impact that it has had not only on the music industry, but also development of digital media technologies and services. Digital media developments have influence the trends of music consumption due to convergence and this is seen the diagram below, illustrating the decrease in consumption of physical sound recordings (CDs etc) following the introduction of new digital media forms such as iTunes and the iPod at the beginning of the 21st century. 

In terms of music videos, MTV launched in   1981 viewing a range of diverse music videos. However, with the trends of new technologies and consumption, the company made a transition from airing actual music videos to viewing reality style shows to generate better ratings. This saw a decline in music video accessibility between 2000 and 2005, leaving itself open for competitors and a new phenomenon of music video broadcasting (Neil Vidyarthi 2010). 

At the forefront of online video is the phenomenon of YouTube, launching in 2005. The change in MTV broadcasting was a major contributing factor to YouTube’s success in a cultural determinist way, in that audiences were in demand of a place they could view music videos that could not be seen on MTV, therefore determining the phenomenon of online video broadcasting and YouTube. What is interesting is that it was not promoted by multi-million dollar branding campaigns but by popularity and viral Internet word of mouth, via email, blogs or social network profiles (Hilderbrand 2007). YouTube however was not limited strictly to music videos but also provided a service where users could upload home videos as well as television excerpts, trailers, commercials etc (Hilderbrand 2007), with their slogan ‘Broadcast Yourself’ appealing to millions of users world wide. This slogan alone relates to digital media convergence through the social context of people using easily available filming devices and personally uploading them via the Internet as the sole author of the video. This however is where copyright concerns have come into the limelight with larger corporations feeling threatened. It began to seem inevitable that YouTube would face a legal battle against a media conglomerate and this came in 2007 with Viacom suing YouTube for copyright infringement (Hilderbrand 2007).  YouTube realized that they would need to create a system to credit video authors, thereafter developing an algorithm to detect copyright material and displaying advertisements to develop a revenue to pay original video creators (Neil Vidyarthi 2010).  This also works on the amount of views a video receives, with YouTube sending the user a notification via email asking to place advertisements at the beginning of their video. 

It seems inevitable that MTV has lost its stance as the home of music videos with a new cab-in-the-rank, VEVO, now becoming the home online music video broadcasting. It has now become the number one destination for online music video thanks to its collaboration with YouTube (Austin Carr, 2010). This demonstrates a convergence of digital media services competing between each other for consumer popularity.

YouTube has not only had a major impact on the commercial music industry, but also the amateur and up-and-coming music scene. Everyone has heard the ‘Justin Bieber’ stories of being discovered on YouTube, but this phenomenon of online video broadcasting has opened a whole new experience to users and become part of modern day popular culture. The simplicity of YouTube’s features are an appealing attribute to users and along with the convergence of modern hand-held cameras and web-cam, it has become an easy and convenient online broadcasting service to use, as well as an effective tool for promoting information and arts such as music. We could look at the example of the OK Go video clip “Here I Go Again”, which became a YouTube sensation - with the band members performing a choreographed routine on a treadmill using a low budget camera - but this was uploaded by their record label, therefore providing a large audience of subscribers already (Hilderbrand 2007). A better local example of an amateur YouTube music video is Sons Of Alamo’s “Taller Trees, They Talk” music video. This is a local Sydney band that produced, edited, and uploaded this video personally and has received great success, having almost 10,000 views in the first 6months of being posted. 

This video demonstrates today’s landscape of digital media convergence assisting independent music artist who do not have wealthy record labels behind them to fund their music. Instead it enables artists to produce quality recordings and videos and reach a large audience. 

Through digital media convergence we can see that online music video has undergone great change and with the phenomenon of YouTube. The development of online digital media has not only had an impact on the music industry, but it has also influenced social and cultural trends of self broadcasting and this is made possible and much more accessible through technological developments and communications. This convergence of multiple media forms has affectively reached a much more broad consumer market, which is vital in today’s current media landscape. 


  • H Jenkins, 2006, Convergence Culture, New York, New York University Press, pp 1-24.

  • T Flew, 2008, “Approaches to new media” from New Media: An Introduction, 3rd edition, Oxford, Oxford University Press, pp. 38-57.
  • B Winston, 1995, “How Are Media Born and Developed?” in John Dowling, Ali Mohammadi, Annabelle Sreberny-Mohammadi (eds) Questioning the Media: a Critical Introduction, London, Sage, pp. 54-74.
  • L Hilderbrand, 2007, “YouTube: Where Cultural Memory and Copyright Converge”, Film Quarterly Vol 61.  
  • J Burgess and J Green, 2009, YouTube: Online Video and Participatory Culture.  Polity Press.
  • Robert A Gehring, 2009, ‘Shipment of Physical Sound Recordings 1990-2007,’ Statistical graph.
  • Neil Vidyarthi, September 23 2010, ‘A Brief History Of MTV, Vevo, YouTube and the Online Music Video’, SocialTimes, viewed online at:
  • Austin Carr, September 9 2012, ‘MTV Bumps Vevo as Top Online Music Destination, Igniting a Web Video Flame War’, Fast Company, viewed online at:
  • Sons Of Alamo 2012, 'Taller Trees, They Talk', YouTube, accessed 30/8/12,  

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