Friday, December 01, 2006


Many of you will wonder, “Why in the hell is this guy writing the same freaking post again?” Well, I wonder that myself sometimes. On the automotive industry blog call “The Truth About Cars” they have written over a hundred posts about the inexorable demise of General Motors, so I am just biting their style.

Over on the ‘ville there is a discussion about a contest to finish a video for The Decemberists. More details on video static, since my Mac-loving makes logging onto any MTV related site painful to impossible. Overall, this is a great marketing concept by Capitol, especially since it has been picked up by The Colbert Report and smacked around on a REAL television network (sorry MTVu).

The prize for the contest from MTV/Viacom? Ironically, a Mac laptop. But that’s it. Oh, and airplay on MTVu. Whoop-de-doo. That’s fun as a lark, but it showcases once again how directing music videos is no longer a career. MVs are now something to be done in one’s spare time – since you will need to keep your regular gig making lattes, driving a UPS truck or working at a sullenly-unkempt indie record store (oops, scratch that last one) to pay the bills.

Making music videos is slipping away from being a profession and moving into becoming a hobby. Videos air on websites and not television networks. Or they do air on TV, but in such obscure spots (MTVu) that they have the same viewer-ship as a website.

Addendum Dec 2: The Decemberists and this contest are not the problem, nor are they even causing the problem. This is a smart idea to promote a pretty cool band, but it does illuminate the creeping amateurism in what was once a professional industry. Back in the day, MTV had a contest called "The Basement Tapes" where baby directors made videos for their local bands and got airplay on MTV. That contest discovered Scott "Parents Just Don't Understand" Kalvert, one of the most influential video directors ever. That was different because it sought out amateur directors to do videos for small, local bands that would get major cable airplay. This contest is being sponsored by a major label band and only gets airplay on MTV's college network (which is viewed exclusively by non-CD buying "downloaders"). To me, that is a major step back.

That leads me too …

The Mine. Raw. A Few Miles North. Propaganda. Geneva Films.

Those are all music video production companies that have gone out of business. Some were significant players. Some probably still owe you money.

The most successful production companies – HSI, @Radical, Black Dog/RSA – keep their doors open by producing commercials. Music videos are only an afterthought. Yes, Paul Hunter is at HSI, but he makes more commercials these days than videos. HSI is not a “music video company” any more than your local McDonalds is an “ice cream parlor” because they have a soft serve machine behind the counter. It ain’t music videos that keeps Stavros in Aston Martins.

Things are changing. Things always change. But the business of music videos – at least the big-budget "Hollywood" end of the pool that I swim in – is “changing” by going away.

That might mean more opportunity for young directors who are hungry enough to enter contests and beg favors to get $5k jobs shot. Let’s just hope your prod co stays in business long enough to pay you.

What are these dark, empty parking lot photos doing here? This is the former executive parking lot for Band Apart. You remember Band Apart – Tarantino, John Woo, Robert Rod …

This used to be the exec producer's parking spot. It is where I park now, when I go to my gym.

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One important thing to keep in mind about this Decemberists video is that it's all an afterthought. The video as originally conceived (by the band) and shot was scrapped for whatever reason.

The "green screen" challenge is a nice way to salvage something from the production and, shit, always good to get mtvU (carried on hundreds of college campuses and online) involved for added visibility. Depending on how cynical you are, the Colbert mention is either a stroke of luck, or a calculated bit of synergy within Viacom.

30f is correct, however, this does show a bit of disrespect towards people who create music videos for a living, not to mention the people who originally filmed the Decemberists footage. The message on some level is, "Anybody can make a video! It's just a fun hobby!" Which, of course, it can be.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to practicing for my local hospital's "remove your own spleen" contest...
Agreed. And furthermore, as cool as the green screen contest is now, I can't see it being something that bands keep on trying. It's mostly cool right now for being a novel idea, and more than anything else, its a publicity grab. Is any fan of the band going to want to watch/buy the winning video a year down the road?
I love it - just keep thinning the herd with these posts, your doing a public service.
Another thing to keep in mind, is that this is not the first MV contest. Look at the 'yeah yeah yeah's' recent video that included fans' homemade video clips, and a pretty girls make graves x youtube contest earlier this summer. The respect for music video directors is definately decreasing.
I was wondering what happen to "band apart," and this is exactly what I suspected or expected....
"Another thing to keep in mind, is that this is not the first MV contest"

True, but even during the release of the Yeah Yeah Yeah's video, I think there was a certain "oh no, not another one of these" attitudes in the air. These videos are fun for hardcore fans who love anything with tha band's name on it, but ultimately, there are only so many of these ideas that people will really watch. At a certain point it stops being fun and different and starts being half-assed and cheap, and the audience can tell the difference.
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