Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The King is Dead ...

The changes in the music video world are driven, largely, by record labels. Labels are consolidating and closing up at an alarming pace. When Tower Records goes under – you know things aren’t going well. But I would say that the softening/collapse/death of retail is still not the main reason for the shifting world of music video.

The changes in music television are, in my opinion, responsible for labels deciding to spend less on music video even faster than MC Hammer cut back on his race-horse purchases once the bubble burst.

But these changes are not new. I wrote about MTV not airing videos way back when and Video Static did it even earlier. I found an intriguing bit on altmusictv about the same issue. The post lists the weekday MTV schedule from February 1998 and compares it to 2007’s reality TV fest:

“Now, I remember back in the late '90s, people were already saying that MTV had lost its way, but in retrospect, it seems almost like bliss.”
Read the full list on altmusictv and realize how much music actually aired then.

Who could resist Ananda? Well, most people. MTV stopped showing videos because you stopped watching them. MTV needed to draw more eyeballs and every game show and sports special MTV ran got much better ratings than the endless wave of videos that MTV normally ran. So they changed what they normally ran. And this happened longer ago than you think, MTV first ran the game show, Remote Control, in 1987.

The people at MTV would have been fools to ignore the data, so music videos got less airtime (while still remaining the "face" of the franchise) and reality TV got more. Even in MTV's earliest stages – where the viewer ship was low, but the channel was at it’s most influential – straight-up, un-cut videos have never drawn lots of viewers. One music video insider is quoted as saying, “video hours are always pathetically rated.” Even with Ananda.

There are plenty of new outlets for music videos, but the raw power of videos came largely from the unified group of eyeballs that saw them. That pool of viewers grows larger, but ever more diluted over the intrawebs and all the other new technology.

I have the sneaking suspicion that, someday music video types will look back on the “glory days” of Cribs and Punk’d with the warm, yet bittersweet joy of a 35 year-old recalling when grunge was cool and they had all their hair.

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Your observations are dead on. I think music videos are still being watched and are a useful marketing tool, but with so many of them being watched on the web, how can a label justify huge budgets. HDV looks just as good as 35mm on the web. About 50% of my work is in music videos and the other mostly in commercials. I'm still surprised how many 100K+ videos are still being made. From a biz side, I think most videos should be in the 30-50K range as much as I hate to admit it. Look at the impact the Death Cab videos had for half that as a typical 150K video. What did they do? 10 videos for 5K each. (ok, less than half) Directors were tripping over themselves to be one of the few.

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