Music videos thriving online
MuchMusic and MTV may have given up on the music video, making it an endangered species on television, but if Lady Gaga’s new video is an accurate barometer of audience interest, the art form is here to stay, albeit on a new platform.
And the artists who never lost faith in the music video couldn’t be happier.
“Telephone,” featuring Beyonce, hit the Internet with a deafening blast of buzz and surges of traffic last Thursday night and quickly amassed millions of views.
The clearly expensive nine-and-a-half minute video is reminiscent of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” in its epic scale and its slick production values and pops of eye candy have been compared to Quentin Tarantino’s handiwork.
About a week later, the video has now been viewed well over 20 million times at YouTube and the music video website Vevo.
“A lot of people conflate the fact that videos disappeared from television as a fact that the audience didn’t want them – and that’s not the case,” said Rio Caraeff, president of Vevo, which launched in December and is owned by Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group and Abu Dhabi Media Company.
“The broadcasters on television made a decision to move away from videos because they wanted to get people to watch TV for longer periods of time, for their own business model.
“The appetite for the videos didn’t go away, it’s just been channelled to the web where people can watch whatever they want on demand.”
Music videos are actually among the most viewed of all online videos, and according to traffic measurement firm Visible Measures, they’re indisputably No. 1 when you factor in their influence.
The company’s “true reach” stat counts a video’s views on different sites across the web and also accounts for the hits generated by user-created fan videos, whether they be tributes or spoofs, said spokesman Matthew Fiorentino.
When factoring in fan engagement, the most viewed and most influential online video in the history of the Internet is surprising – it’s the music video “Crank That” by Soulja Boy.
The song was a No. 1 hit on Billboard for several weeks in 2007 and inspired a dance craze but a relative few would peg it as the biggest video ever to go online.
“The brilliant thing about the video is there’s a dance in the video and it takes you through how to actually do the dance,” said Fiorentino.
“What we found is videos – and not just for music videos, for ads and other types of content as well – when they directly interact with audiences and put a challenge out there to get them to upload their own content or comment on it, it just keeps the activity going.
“The song is catchy but then there’s also this interactive aspect to it that helps.”
Of the Top 10 most-viewed online videos ever – as compiled by Visible Measures – six are music videos, including Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” at No. 2, Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” at No. 3, Mariah Carey’s “Touch My Body” at No. 6, “Apologize” by Timbaland featuring One Republic at No. 8, and Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” at No. 9.
With the overnight success of “Telephone,” Caraeff expects more big-budget productions and more experimentation with music videos online.
“The video for 25 or 30 years has been really pretty much the same, it hasn’t really evolved,” he said.
“Then it moved on to the Internet and now its ripe for reinvention.”
The potential of making music videos specifically for the Internet might be more “freeing,” said Canadian director Floria Sigismondi, who most recently directed “The Runaways” but was long known for her avant garde videos for the likes of Marilyn Manson, David Bowie and the White Stripes.
“You can change the format and do whatever you want online, you don’t have to deal with the amount of time (you’re given),” she said in a recent interview.
“When I’ve done videos in the past even four-or five-minute long songs I’ve always had to cut.”
The band OK Go has become synonymous with its videos since releasing the low-budget dancing-on-treadmills video for “Here It Goes Again,” which has racked up more than 50 million views and won a Grammy.
The band believes so much in the importance of a music video that it recently split with its label, EMI, after fighting over online access to their latest video. The band wanted it to be posted anywhere and everywhere online but the label restricted it from being embedded into websites and some fans in foreign countries couldn’t see it at all because of licensing restrictions.
Bass player Tim Nordwind said the band has landed with a smaller label and is readying to make another new video, which this time will be available for fans to pass around.
He said he’s excited about the new potential for video-making online, given that old limitations connected to television standards no longer exist.
“Now that MTV has actually come out and literally said, ‘We don’t play music videos anymore’ … people don’t have to make videos to fit into the MTV mould, and that mould was you essentially had to make a commercial with your song in it,” he said.
“Now on the Internet you can make whatever you want and you’re probably going to get at least some people who want to watch it.”
OK Go’s latest video for “This Too Shall Pass” was sponsored by State Farm and Nordwind said he wouldn’t be surprised if other bands accept similar offers to fund video production.
“Telephone” is littered with in-your-face blotches of product placement and Nordwind said he can understand why Lady Gaga would’ve agreed to them.
“I applaud her for making what I think is the video she wanted to make,” he said.
“I imagine even her label maybe doesn’t have all the cash in the world to make a music video like that – and she’s at the top one per cent of artists in the world, she’s still selling records like it was the ’90s more or less – but I imagine when she partners up with different sponsors then she’s able to make the video she wants to make.
“I saw all the product placement and it didn’t necessarily ruin the experience. At the end of the day, I still felt like I was experiencing the story more than I was experiencing the product placement.”
Vevo was thrilled with the response to the premiere of “Telephone,” which set a record for traffic last weekend. The site was recently averaging 30 million video plays a day and picked up an extra nine million streams each day.
The site has been averaging 36 million U.S. visitors and as many as 6.8 million Canadian visitors in each of the last three months.
“We thought it would take a while to build this audience and it’s happening much faster,” said Caraeff.
“The appetite and the audience interest is very much there, I just think that need is not being met anymore on television.”
Music videos thriving online