A music video is a short film or video that accompanies a complete piece of music, most commonly a song with lyrics. Modern music videos are primarily made and used as a marketing device intended to promote the sale of music recordings. Although the origins of music videos go back much further, they came into their own in the 1980s, when MTV's format was based around them. The term "music video" first came into popular usage in the early 1980s. Prior to then, such clips were described by various terms including "promotional films" or "promotional clips".
Music videos use a range of styles of filmmaking, including animation, live action filming, documentaries, and non-narrative approaches such as abstract film. Some music videos blend different styles, such as animation and live action.
Sergei Eisenstein's 1938 film Alexander Nevsky, used extended scenes of battles choreographed to a score by Sergei Prokofiev, a score that had already been composed before shooting began, so that the scene could be edited in accordance with the music.
Animation artist Max Fleischer introduced a series of sing-along short cartoons called Screen Songs, which invited audiences to sing along to popular songs by "following the bouncing ball". Early 1930s cartoons featured popular musicians performing their hit songs on-camera in live-action segments during the cartoons.
The early animated films by Walt Disney, his Silly Symphonies, were built around music. The Warner Brothers cartoons, even today billed as Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies, were initially fashioned around specific songs from upcoming Warner Brothers musical films. Live action musical shorts, featuring such popular performers as Cab Calloway, were also distributed to theatres.
Blues singer Bessie Smith appeared in a two-reel short film called St. Louis Blues (1929) featuring a dramatized performance of the hit song. It was shown in theatres until 1932. Numerous other musicians appeared in short musical subjects during this period. Later, in the mid-1940s, musician Louis Jordan made short films for his songs, some of which were spliced together into a feature film Lookout Sister; these films were, according to music historian Donald Clarke, the ancestors of music videos.
Another early form of music video were one-song films called "Promotional Clips" made in the 1940s for the Panoram visual jukebox. These were short films of musical selections, usually just a band on a movie-set bandstand, made for playing. Thousands of soundies were made, mostly of jazz musicians, but also of "torch singers," comedians, and dancers. Before the Soundie, even dramatic movies typically had a musical interval, but the Soundie made the music the star and virtually all the name jazz performers appeared in Soundie shorts. The Panoram jukebox with eight three-minute Soundies were popular in taverns and night spots, but the fad faded during World War II.
In 1956, Petrushka, directed by John David Wilson for Fine Arts Films aired as a segment of the Sol Hurok Music Hour on NBC. Igor Stravinsky conducted a live orchestra for the recording of the event. In 1957 Tony Bennett was filmed walking along The Serpentine in Hyde Park, London as his recording of "Stranger in Paradise" played; this film was distributed to and played by UK and US television stations. According to the Internet Accuracy Project, disk jockey-singer J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson was the first to coin the phrase "music video", in 1959.
In the late 1950s the Scopitone, a visual jukebox, was invented in France and short films were produced by many French artists, such as Serge Gainsbourg, Françoise Hardy and Jacques Dutronc to accompany their songs. Its use spread to other countries and similar machines such as the Cinebox in Italy and Color-Sonic in the USA were patented. In 1961 Ozzie Nelson directed and edited the video of "Travelin' Man" by his son Ricky Nelson. It featured images of various parts of the world mentioned in the Jerry Fuller song along with Nelson's vocals. In 1964, Kenneth Anger's underground experimental short film Scorpio Rising used popular songs.
In Canada, for Singalong Jubilee, Manny Pittson began pre-recording the music audio, went on location and taped various visuals with the musicians lip-syncing, then edited the audio and video together later. Most music numbers were taped in studio on stage, and the location shoot "videos" were to add variety.
In 1964 The Beatles' first major motion picture, A Hard Day's Night, used filmed live action sequences accompanied by music. The US TV series The Monkees from 1966 to 1968 also consisted of film segments that were created to accompany various Monkees songs. In 1964, The Beatles began filming short promotional films for their songs which were distributed for broadcast on television variety shows in other countries, especially the US as a way to promote their record releases without having to make television appearances. (At the same time, The Byrds began using the same strategy to promote their singles in the United Kingdom, starting with the 1965 single "Set You Free This Time".)
By the time The Beatles stopped touring in late 1966 their promotional films, like their recordings, were becoming increasingly sophisticated. Their films for "Rain" and Paperback Writer" used rhythmic editing, slow motion, and reversed film effects. In 1966 the clip of Bob Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues" filmed by D A Pennebaker shows Dylan standing still, holding up a series of cue cards featuring the song's lyrics in time to the music.
The Kinks made one of the first real "plot" promo clips for a song. For their single "Dead End Street" (1966) a miniature comic movie was made, where members of Kinks acted like undertakers in old London streets. The clip also shows photo stills from Great Depression, uprising dead man and Ray Davies playing an old woman. No lip-sync but clip was edited according to phases of song. The promo clip was banned in BBC because of "poor taste".
Another plot clip was made for The Who's "Happy Jack" in the same year. In the little movie the band is acting like a gang of idiotic thieves robbing an apartment. They can't resist eating a cake and this leads to a cream-pie battle with a cop. There is no lip-sync in this clip either.
Many of these 'song films' were produced by UK artists to be shown on TV when they were not available to appear live. Pink Floyd were also pioneers in producing promotional films, like their Scarecrow. The Beatles' films for "Strawberry Fields Forever" (directed by Peter Goldmann) and "Penny Lane", in 1967 used techniques borrowed from underground and avant garde film, such as reversed film effects, dramatic lighting, unusual camera angles, and color filtering added in post-production. These psychedelic music-themed films attempt to "illustrate" the song in an artful manner.
Procol Harum made two promos for their 1967 hit "A Whiter Shade of Pale". First, the better known shows band members (the line-up which recorded the song) walking in the ruins, then band performing song onstage and documentary footages of Vietnam war. Second, more obscure and psychedelic, shows whole band (the classic Procol Harum line-up) running towards camera, then grotesque close-up of Gary Brooker badly lip-syncing the song and several surrealistic footages of band acting and standing by a church. Other frames show band in London crowded streets, Brooker standing somewhere in Picadilly Circus etc.
The Troggs made a monochrome clip for their 1967/68 hit "Love Is All Around", showing singer Reg Presley`s love affair with a girl in the train where the band is traveling. Clip includes some concert scenes, also several close-ups, a mess silver paper, girl's nude back covered with ornaments, flowers in compartment and other psychedelic elements.
The Doors had a strong interest in film, since both lead singer Jim Morrison and keyboard player Ray Manzarek had studied film at UCLA. The clip for their debut single "Break On Through" is a filmed performance that uses atmospheric lighting, camera work and editing. The 1968 anti-war single "The Unknown Soldier", depicts a mock execution by firing squad with extensive intercutting of archival footage and TV footage of the carnage of the Vietnam War.
The Rolling Stones appeared in promotional clips for songs such as "We Love You" (which made reference to the persecution of Oscar Wilde), "2000 Light Years From Home", "Child of the Moon" and "Jumpin' Jack Flash" and collaborated with Jean-Luc Godard on the film Sympathy for the Devil. The popularity of the 1968 animated film Yellow Submarine prompted The Byrds and The Beach Boys to also make promotional films.
After 1969 the independent music movie clips came out of fashion with psychedelic music and style. In late 60s and early 70s bands preferred performing in TV shows which themselves became visually more attractive. Some of them released straight documentaries like The Beatles "Let It Be" or Rolling Stones "Gimme Shelter".
On the The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour, director Chris Bearde enlisted animator John David Wilson to direct animated segments of current hits of the day reinterpreted by the duo. Songs included Coven's "One Tin Soldier", Three Dog Night's "Black and White" and Melanie's "Brand New Key". Wilson later went on to self-produce many more animated videos for artists such as Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan and Jim Croce.
The promotional clip continued to grow in importance, with television programs such as The Midnight Special and Don Kirshner's Rock Concert mixing concert footage with clips incorporating camera tricks, special effects, and dramatizations of song lyrics. The film of the Woodstock Festival, and the various concert films that were made during the early 1970s, such as Joe Cocker's Mad Dogs and Englishmen and Pink Floyd's Live at Pompeii concert film used rhythmic cross-cutting.
In 1971, avant-garde group The Residents began filming what was supposed to be the first feature length music video "Vileness Fats", however the group abandoned the project in 1976. Instead, in 1976 the group would release a video entitled "The Third Reich N Roll"
Many countries with local pop music industries soon copied the trend towards promo film clips. In Australia promotional films by Australian pop performers were being made on a regular basis by 1966; among the earliest known are clips by Australian groups The Masters Apprentices and The Loved Ones. Surf film makers such as Bruce Brown, George Greenough and Alby Falzon combined images and music. Nicolas Roeg's 1970 cult film Performance contains a sequence in which star of the film Mick Jagger did a rendition of "Memo From Turner" combined with a psychedelic collage.
George Greenough's 1972 film Crystal Voyager included a sequence (filmed by Greenough) that was constructed around the extended Pink Floyd track "Echoes". In the early 1970s, Australian musician and filmmaker Chris Lofven made monochrome promotional films. David Bowie's promotional clip for the song The Jean Genie, which was released as single in 1972 at was directed by photographer Mick Rock. The Swedish music group, ABBA, used promotional films throughout the 1970s to promote themselves.
By the mid-1980s releasing a music video to accompany a new single had become customary, and acts such as The Jacksons sought to gain a commercial edge by creating lavish music videos with million dollar budgets; most notable with the video for "Can You Feel It". Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" also started a new era for creating promotional clips on video tape rather than on film. Among the first music videos were clips produced by ex-Monkee Michael Nesmith who started making short musical films for Saturday Night Live. In 1981, he released Elephant Parts, the first video album and first winner of a Grammy for music video, directed by William Dear. A further experiment on NBC television called Television Parts was not successful, due to network meddling (notably an intrusive laugh track and corny gags).
The early self-produced music videos by Devo, including the pioneering compilation "The Truth About Devolution", directed by Chuck Statler, were also important (if somewhat subversive) developments in the evolution of the genre and these Devo video cassette releases were arguably among the first true long-form video productions. Video Concert Hall, created by Jerry Crowe and Charles Henderson, was the first nationwide video music programming on American television, predating MTV by almost three years. The USA Cable Network program Night Flight was one of the first American programs to showcase these videos as an art form. Premiering in June 1981, Night Flight predated MTV's launch by two months.
Two feature-length films released on the cusp of MTV's first appearance on the dial contributed enormously to the development of the form. The first was 1981's Shock Treatment, a pseudo-sequel/spinoff of The Rocky Horror Picture Show principally written and scored by RHPS creator Richard O'Brien. The film broke stylistic ground by being more focused and less visually ambitious – and thus easier to emulate on a tight budget – than either RHPS or Ken Russel's chaotic 1975 adaptation of The Who's music and storyline from the album Tommy, or even a lower-budget affair like The Ramones' Rock 'n' Roll High School (1979).
Pink Floyd The Wall transformed the group's 1979 concept double-LP of the same title into a confrontational and apocalyptic audio-visual labyrinth of stylized, expressionistic images, sounds, melodies and lyrics. In 1980, New Zealand group Split Enz had major success with the single "I Got You" and the album True Colours, and later that year they joined Blondie in becoming one of the first bands in the world to produce a complete set of promo clips for each song on the album (directed by their percussionist, Noel Crombie) and to market these on video cassette. This was followed a year later by the first American video album, The Completion Backwards Principle, directed by Michael Cotten of The Tubes.
During the 1980s promotional videos became pretty much de rigueur for most recording artists, a rise which was famously parodied by UK BBC television comedy program Not The Nine O'Clock News who produced a spoof music video; "Nice Video, Shame About The Song". Frank Zappa also parodied the excesses of the genre in his satirical song "Be In My Video".
In the early to mid 1980s, artists started to use more sophisticated effects in their videos, and added a storyline or plot to the music video. A non-representational music video is one in which the musical artist is never shown. Because music videos are mainly intended to promote the artist, such videos are rare; two early 1980s examples, however, are Bruce Springsteen's Atlantic City directed by Arnold Levine and David Mallet's video for David Bowie/Queen's Under Pressure.
In 1981, the U.S. video channel MTV launched, airing "Video Killed the Radio Star" and beginning an era of 24-hour-a-day music on television. With this new outlet for material, the music video would, by the mid-1980s, grow to play a central role in popular music marketing. Many important acts of this period, most notably Adam & the Ants, Madonna and Mylène Farmer, owed a great deal of their success to the skillful construction and seductive appeal of their videos. Some academics have compared music video to silent film, and it is suggested that stars like Madonna have (often quite deliberately) constructed an image that in many ways echoes the image of the great stars of the silent era such as Greta Garbo. But the music video which would arguably make the biggest impact on the music video industry was the music video for Michael Jackson's song "Thriller. It would become the most influential and successful video ever.
In 1986, Peter Gabriel's song "Sledgehammer" used special effects and animation techniques developed by British studio Aardman Animation. The video for Sledgehammer would go on to be a phenomenal success and win nine MTV Video Music Awards. steff steff steff
Top of the Pops was censorous in its approach to video content, so another method was for an act to produce a promo that would be banned or edited. It would then use the resulting public controversy to promote the release. Early examples of this tactic were Duran Duran's "Girls on Film" and Frankie Goes to Hollywood with "Relax", directed by Bernard Rose.
Countdown, which was based on Top of the Pops, was successful in Australia and other countries quickly followed the format. At its highpoint during most of the 1980s it was to be aired in 22 countries including TV Europe. In 1978 the Dutch TV-broadcasting company Veronica started its own version of Countdown, which during the 1980s featured Adam Curry as its best known presenter. The program gained international significance in the recording industry in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Produced on a shoestring by the government-owned ABC national TV network, its low budget, and Australia's distance proved to be influential factors in the show's early preference for music video. The relative rarity of visits by international artists to Australia and the availability of high-quality, free promotional films meant that Countdown soon came to rely heavily on music videos in order to feature such performers.
The show's talent coordinator, Ian "Molly" Meldrum, and his producers realized that these music videos were becoming an important new commodity in music marketing. For the first time, pre-produced music videos gave TV the opportunity to present pop music in a format that rivaled or even exceeded the impact of radio airplay, and it was soon apparent that Countdown could single-handedly break new pop acts and new songs by established artists — a role that up until then been the exclusive preserve of radio.
Although Countdown continued to rely heavily on studio appearances by local and visiting acts, competing shows like Sounds lacked the resources to present regular studio performances, so they were soon using music videos almost exclusively. As the 1980s progressed, the ability to use music videos to give bands the best possible presentation saw record companies making more, and more lavish, promotional videos.
Realising the potential of music video, Countdown negotiated a controversial deal with local record labels, giving them first refusal and a period of exclusive use for any new video that came into the country, and with its nationwide reach and huge audience, the show was able to use music videos to break a number of important new local and overseas acts, notably ABBA, Queen, Meat Loaf, Blondie, Devo, Cyndi Lauper and Madonna. This early success in Australia in turn enabled these acts to gain airplay and TV exposure and score breakthrough hits in their home countries.
However, those features of the industry that tend to make music video direction a less-than-lucrative profession, have also made the medium an exciting art-form, one defined by the cross-pollination of ideas and approaches from various disciplines. Music video directors, like most filmmakers in general, emerge from disparate backgrounds, and don't share much in the way of common thinking or set-in-stone pedagogy, bringing to the field a diversity of experience.
The first video to be rejected by Music Television was "Girls on Film" by Duran Duran in 1981 because it contained full frontal nudity. It was also rejected by the BBC. In 1989, Cher's "If I Could Turn Back Time" video (where the singer performs the song in an extremely revealing body suit surrounded by a ship full of cheering sailors) was restricted to late-night broadcasts on MTV. Another notable incident was in 1982, when Captain Beefheart's sole music video, "Ice Cream For Crow" was rejected by MTV for being "too weird".
In 1983, Entertainment Tonight ran a segment on censorship and "Rock Video Violence. The episode explored the impact of MTV rock video violence on the youth of the early 1980s. Excerpts from the music videos of Michael Jackson, Duran Duran, Kiss, Kansas, Billy Idol, Def Leppard, Pat Benatar and the Rolling Stones were shown. Dr. Thomas Radecki of the National Coalition on TV Violence was interviewed accusing the fledgling rock video business of excessive violence. Night Tracks producer Tom Lynch weighed in on the effects of the video violence controversy. Recording artists John Cougar Mellencamp, Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley of Kiss, along with directors Dominic Orlando and Julien Temple, provided a defense of their work. The episode's conclusion was that the controversy will continue to grow.
In 1991 the dance segment of Michael Jackson's "Black or White" was cut because it showed Michael Jackson "inappropriately" touching himself in it. Michael Jackson's most controversial video, "They Don't Care About Us" was banned from MTV, VH1, and BBC because of the alleged anti-Semitic message in the song and the visuals in the background of the "Prison Version" of the video.
Madonna is the artist most associated with music video censorship. The controversy surrounding her marketing of sexuality began with the video for "Lucky Star", and amplified over time due to clips such as "Like a Virgin". Outcry occurred over the subject matter discussed in "Papa Don't Preach", although the video is tastefully done. "Like a Prayer" courted heavy criticism due to its religious, sexual, and racially-oriented imagery.
In 1990, Madonna's music video for the song "Justify My Love" was banned by MTV due to its depiction of sadomasochism, homosexuality, cross-dressing, and group sex which generated a media firestorm. The debate over the banning of "Justify My Love" by the Canadian music video network MuchMusic led to the launching in 1991 of Too Much 4 Much, a series of occasional, late-night specials (still being aired in the early 2000s) in which videos officially banned by MuchMusic were broadcast, followed by panel discussion regarding why they were removed.
Madonna's video for "Erotica" was aired only three times (each time after midnight) due to its sexual depictions of sadomasochism. More recently, Madonna's "What It Feels Like for a Girl" was banned in 2001 due to its graphic depiction of violence. She also pulled her "American Life" video because of its controversial military imagery that seemed inappropriate once the War in Iraq began; subsequently, a new video was made for the song.
Prodigy's video for "Smack My Bitch Up" was banned in some countries due to depictions of drug use and nudity. The Prodigy's video for "Firestarter" was banned by the BBC because of its references to arson. Thursday's video for "War All the Time" was banned by MTV because of its supposedly controversial nature.
As of 2005, the Egyptian state censorship committee has banned at least 20 music videos which featured sexual connotations due to Muslim moral viewpoints. The Sex Pistols' video for "God Save the Queen" was banned by the BBC for calling the United Kingdom a fascist regime. In 2004, many family groups and politicians lobbied for the banning of the Eric Prydz video "Call on Me" for containing women dancing in an sexually suggestive way, however, the video was not banned. At some point in the past, the video for "(s)AINT" by Marilyn Manson was banned by that artist's label due to its violence and sexual content. In 2008, Justice's video for their song Stress was boycotted by several major music television channels due to allegations of racism and violence; the video depicts several youths committing various crimes throughout the streets of Paris, with the youths mainly being of North African and Algerian descent.
Another new phenomenon, deriving from the popularity of blogging, is the use of so-called music video "codes", lines of HTML code including links to music videos that the individual can simply copy and paste into their blog in order to feature a given video streaming on it. YouTube, Google Video, IFilm and MySpace have become primary venues for viewing videos.
In 2007 the RIAA issued cease-and-desist letters to YouTube users to prevent single users from sharing videos, which are the property of the music labels. After its merger with Google, YouTube assured the RIAA that they would find a way to pay royalties through a bulk agreement with the major record labels. This was complicated by the fact that not all labels share the same policy toward music videos. Some welcome the development and upload music videos to various online outlets themselves, viewing the music videos as free advertising for their catalog artists. Other labels view music videos not as an advertisement, but as the product itself.
Such videos are sometimes known as OPV, Original Promotional Videos (or sometimes Other People's Videos). In the case of anime music videos, the source material is drawn from Japanese anime or from American animation series. Since neither the music nor the film footage is typically licensed, distributing these videos is usually copyright infringement on both counts. Singular examples of unofficial videos include one made for Danger Mouse's illegal mash-up of the Jay-Z track "Encore" with music sampled from The Beatles' White Album, in which concert footage of The Beatles is remixed with footage of Jay-Z and rap dancers, as well as a recent politically charged video by Franklin Lopez of subMedia, cut from television footage of the Katrina aftermath, set to an unofficial remix of Kanye West's "Gold Digger", inspired by the rap-artist's comment "George Bush doesn't care about black people." Fans gave P!nk an unofficial music video for the song "Dear Mr. President" (in which she criticizes George W. Bush's administration), since she stated that will not be released as an official single from her I'm Not Dead album.
In 2007 a new form of lip sync-based music video called lip dub became popular in which a group of people are filmed lip singing in a seemingly random spot then dubbing over it in post editing with the original audio of the song. These videos have the feeling of being spontaneous and authentic and are spread virally through mass participatory video sites like YouTube.