Straight Up Now Tell Me

Friday, March 20, 2015 | 1 Comment(s)

With the fear of sounding too Seinfeld-esc, "What's the dealllllll with music videos these days?"

I mean, I have real questions.  Do music videos exist solely on Youtube now, or are there music video television stations still?  Usually when I start a piece with a question like this, I already know the answer.  But in this case, I sincerely don't know the place of the music video in 2015.  I do know that they no longer exist on MTV, ironic considering the stations name, Music Television Network, implies it should still house these rare creatures.

If music videos are only on YouTube, which is where I find them, where is the revenue stream? These videos often cost large chunks of change to produce.  Is that cost completely offset by advertising on the site? If so, damn.  The world truly is a new frontier.  If the costs aren't covered by ads, is the expense written off as advertising for the CD/mp3 release? Are mp3's still a thing?  Do they sell downloads of the videos? So many questions. I just don't know.

It's unlike me to have fallen so far off the pace of a cultural phenomenon, and the result leaves me feeling ill at ease.

We all know that TV killed the radio star, and that the Walkman inputed the finishing move. Cassette tapes were finally toppled by the compact disc, though I'd still argue that tapes are the superior technology.  Case and point, I've kept a bunch of my old mix tapes to this day, but only three mix CD's. The only way you can find a VCR now is if it's built into your TV or entertainment system; DVD's and Blu-ray having slain that chunky movie delivery system.  Hell, streaming video is on the precipice of causing a massive extinction in playback devices altogether.

But what exactly killed the music video; A medium so powerful it created televisions stations just to cash in on the cultural cool that bled from these mini movies put to music?

My best guess is Reality TV murdered the the music video.  As the Real World and other well meaning groundbreaking documentary-style TV shows morphed into the product placement, plastic-bodied, cess-pools of human conflict and misery that it is Reality TV today, television producers saw a gold mine at their finger tips and the dollar signs where their pupils once were.  No formal script meant no script writers. Calling it "reality" meant no actors to pay.  No site scouting, no location fee.  All profit.

MTV, the M now standing for ca$h Money, started divesting from music videos at an incredible rate, even going so far as to produce a semi-scripted reality series, Laguna Beach, just to increase the popularity and reception of this burgeoning television "style." It was no surprise when the Laguna Beach cash cow was milked into countless other similarly vacuous spin-offs with vague geographic titles like, "The Hills" and "The City." As all youth culture repulses the generation it follows, I was utterky nauseated by these shows, so I knew they'd be a huge hit. And slowly but surely, TRL was the only show left on MTV that played music videos, up until Carson Daly died.

Once Upon a Billy Idol
Just kidding. Carson didn't die, he's just working at the Today Show now. Sorry to worry you. But regardless, the videos altogether stopped playing.

It's a shame too, because music videos have the ability to be transformative, imaginative, and ground breaking.  In the way that Twitter has made users more succinct (or horrible abbreviators), music videos challenge artists and directors to get across a clear powerful message in 3-5 minutes.  No easy task.  These videos drove fashion (MC Hammer pants), graphic arts/technology (Take on Me video from a-ha), and most importantly, what was and was not cool.  Gin and Juice tastes like shit, but music videos made it totally cool.  Mascara on permed dudes is an extremely tough look to pull off, but The New Kids On the Block make it oh-oh-oh-oh-oh, oh-oh oh-oh so cool.  Where oh where have my music vids gone, oh where oh where can they be???  

I need answers folks. Educate me in the comments.

1 comment:

  1. I'd argue that this is the best possible age--so far--for the music video. There's no MTV--or handful of alternatives, like VH1 or MuchMusic--curating pop and alternative music and culture for you. Instead, you have limitless access to a substantially wider variety of music and music videos.*

    YouTube's top 100 videos ever includes:
    * A now-world famous Korean pop star, singing in Korean (,
    * a hit driven by tween and pre-tween viewership instead of the 18-24 year-old demographic (,
    * mainstream-expanding choreography (, and
    * as for music videos pushing the boundaries of style, this artist has had a few ideas and a few hits even without television:

    That's all as strong or stronger of diversity than we saw in the 80s and 90s (before MTV went "KFC"). The rest of the iceberg of smaller, local acts with the ability to record and distribute their creativity on their own. And if you're just in it for that one En Vogue to keep rolling around, then keep looping it. Or get a playlist made for you of only artists that you're into or could get into. Social media on demand IS total request live.

    As far as music on television--Palladia's pretty dope.

    Now: onto corn nuts. Are they corn, or are they a nut?


    * Revenue still mostly seems to be ad revenue: Overall, it looks like plenty of revenue for superstars, and small returns but maybe helpful exposure for groups not hitting hundreds of thousands of views.