Music videos crushed by reality TV
Ever tune into MuchMusic and wonder where the videos are?
Like the song said, video killed the radio star. But 25 years after MTV debuted, it looks like reality has killed — or at least rendered into a coma — the video star.
We used to get pimps in a Jay-Z video — now we get Pimp My Ride. And while nobody is ever going to complain about Jessica Simpson NOT singing, it’s not like she’s vanished. In fact, as half of the music station’s Newlyweds couple, she probably gets more airtime than Madonna ever did during her Material Girl heyday.
Talk to industry analysts and they note a swing in viewers’ tastes. Audiences would much rather watch a “behind closed doors-style infotainment” than the latest clip from Britney Spears or Christina Aguilera.
For this, say some, the music channels have no one to blame but themselves.
David Kines, vice-president of MuchMusic, says he’s seen his audience become more informed during his more than 20 years with the company.
“They’re definitely much more media savvy,” Kines explains. “We’ve torn down the fourth wall. It makes them feel like they (the artists) are everyday people.”
Hence such fare as The Osbournes or Newlyweds, which strip away the fairy tale lives of the fabulous and famous. Although he insists MuchMusic is still all about music — Kines points to the proliferation of genre-specific 24/7 music video channels — video flow has decreased to make room for more reality-themed series. Where does this leave a music video industry that’s been seemingly left behind by the “reality” phenomenon?
Jannie McInnes is an executive producer with Revolver Film Company. Their latest music video was Blue Orchid for The White Stripes, directed by Floria Sigismondi.
“In the last two or three years, shows like Pimp My Ride and Newlyweds have taken precedence over regular video flow,” says McInnes. “On the broadcast side, the most conspicuous change is that full-length videos are available for purchase online. This will give record labels an opportunity to profit from downloads of videos.”
She expects online videos to only grow in popularity — possibly at the expense of quality.
“Video budgets have become radically reduced in the last years, making it very challenging,” she says.
Not helping? Formulaic videos. Gone are the days where what you saw on MuchMusic is fodder for banter around the watercooler. For that, McInnes blames the music industry itself. “If a track is formulaic, a by-the-book video will result.”
The advent of technology is another reason why the status quo no longer applies. Video production is now available to do-it-yourselfers who can shoot and edit digitally on their home computers and post the clips on the Internet. A good thing? Maybe. As McInnes says, “It could be perceived to be a con that technology is used to sustain youth and beauty stereotypes.”
Yet she still believes in the power a buzzworthy video can have on a band’s chances at success.
“An artist can use music videos as platform to show how they reject conventions of the market or their music genre by doing something rebellious and exciting. The best videos to me are ones that open new possibilities of how you listen to a song.”
Some of the music videos that managed to make a lasting impression on the industry and pop culture:
Thriller, Michael Jackson, 1983: A pre-scandal Jackson, left, forever changed the music video world with one of the first mini-movie videos.
Take on Me, A-Ha, 1985: At the time, nobody was blending animation and live-action in music videos. This one gave people a glimpse of what the future might hold. Unforgettable from a forgettable band.
Sabotage, Beastie Boys, 1994: Shooting in the form of a ’70s cop show introduction, the Beasties kept us entertained while continuing to re-invent themselves with a touch of rock.
Bohemian Rhapsody, Queen, 1975: As if Wayne’s World didn’t do enough for the song, it was the video that made it come alive, and stay in people’s memory banks for three decades.
Smells Like Teen Spirit (Nirvana), 1992: Grunge kicked into high gear after the release of the trio’s raw video, featuring Kurt Cobain, above, shot in a high school gym.
Everybody Hurts (R.E.M.), 1993: Probably the only video we have ever seen that consistently makes some people cry when they watch it.
Hurt (Johnny Cash), 2003: Cash summed up his life in one dark and resonating video that demanded respect.
Buddy Holly (Weezer), 1994. Anyone who helps the Fonz re-live his glory days while giving back Ron Howard his full head of hair is tops in our books.
Music videos crushed by reality TV