Wednesday, June 06, 2007


When I was younger, I would drive my parent’s car past Taco Bell to get to Del Taco (or even better, the locals only Benny’s Tacos). Why did the probably intoxicated me choose the Del over the Bell? Because their cheap-ass bean and cheese burrito was larger so I got more calories for the same $1.49. Yum. The Benny’s $1.49 burrito even had something meat-like in it. Ultra-Yum!

As a more grown up and less likely to be intoxicated person I pay three times that price for some tiny organic thing that is way less filling. As a bonus, my now “mature” body turns that health food into fat while the younger, bean-and-rat eating 30f had 6% body fat despite his “burrito and Mickey’s wide mouth only” diet. So what does this have to do with - -

Music videos? Well back then my dining goal was big. I wanted more food. I cared only about big. To a certain extent, that was what videos of the day were on about as well.

Grand. Super Star. Epic. Larger than life. Iconic.

At the very beginning, music videos started kind of small but the labels quickly realized that they could make artists look big with the right music videos. By spending a few thousand dollars they could create a band with epic scope – right out of the box. If you had an established star like Michael Jackson or Guns N Roses you could make (for a mere million or two) a video so big, it was visible from space.

For years, “big” was the thing you aimed for with music videos. There were always exceptions like grunge and early hip-hop clips – but bigger was considered better most of the time.

The new, more mature video industry doesn’t really do that kind of big any more. By and large, music videos have shrunk up their scope – not even trying for grand any more.

Obviously a big part of the reason for that is the lower budgets in 2007. That is a huge factor to the shrinking ambition in music videos. You know I go on about this, but there is actually a new reason for smaller, tidier videos …

The market has changed. The smaller and smaller niches that bands fit into mean that a new act is no longer really trying to reach every viewer in the world. No artist is supposed to appeal to everyone so they don’t really try. The goal is a narrow slice of YouToogle (where people are probably already looking for a clip from an artist they like) rather than a broad shotgun blast onto MTV hoping to hit folks who have never heard of you before.

There are some obvious exceptions (Timberlake and urban acts come to mind) but for most artists, the label has a target demo and they try to hit those record buyers, er, downloaders with a video that they will like. Think about bands like Arcade Fire or even an R&B diva like Keyshia Cole – they make a video that stays on message, rather than shoots the moon. More money might make a better video, but no one is even aiming for grand anymore, so why spend the big cash.

Motley Crue did clips like “Girls, Girls, Girls” that simply seemed big. Budgets have clearly cut down on the big-ness, but is anyone even aiming for that kind of huevos grande scope today? Maybe Avenged Sevenfold? (And BTW - compare the opening sounds of those last two links.) Artists probably shouldn’t be attempting to be overly big – trying too hard is a much worse sin that being “small” in 2007. The way to sell a band/artist today is about making thband/artist seem cool - which is as it has always been - but it seems to me that "big" is no longer a major component of cool (with noted exceptions like My Chemical Uniform and their theatrical friends).

Wayne Isham directed that Crue video and tons of other mega-clips that just oozed with “big.” Wayne’s videos are still big, but by and large the pictures got smaller. Seriously, watch his 2007 reel and see how Wayne still does (and most directors used to) swing for the fences.

In the urban world, big still sells so Hype continues to, umm, work. Even with a brand new (at least to him) smaller budget-scape Hype can still do wonders when he cares enough to try - like with Kanye, who definitely looks like a huge star in this clip in the desert.

This "don't aim for the moon" mindset seems like a shift in the marketplace and I’m not sure we are going back. That is not a bad thing at all – just a new-ish direction. Hell, I could be wrong, but I bet you a bean and cheese burrito that small budgets and narrow demographic-izing keeps most future clips laser focused. Vaya con dios, Senor Big.

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I'm a little confused by the thesis here; are you saying big clips aren't happening anymore because of outside factors, or because the labels and production companies aren't interested in making them anymore? Also, are you talking on an indie-level, or in general? I feel like the standard mtv stuff you see, especially in mainstream American rock music, is reaching for 'big' like never before (My Chemical Romance, AFI, Evanescence, etc).
That LOL80's image is absolute genius!
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