A music video is a short film
, of variable length, that integrates a song
with imagery that is produced for promotional
purposes. Modern music videos are primarily made and used as a marketing
device intended to promote the sale of music recordings
. There are also cases where songs are used in tie-in
marketing campaigns that allow them to become more than just a song. Tie-ins and merchandising can be used for toys or for food or other products.
Although the origins of the music video date back to musical short films
that first appeared in the 1920s, they again came into prominence in the 1980s when the channel MTV
(originally "Music Television") based its format around the medium. Prior to the 1980s, these kinds of videos were described by various terms including "illustrated song
," "filmed insert," "promotional (promo) film," "promotional clip," "promotional video," "song video," "song clip," or "film clip."
Music videos use a wide range of styles and contemporary video-making techniques, including animation
, live action
, and non-narrative approaches such as abstract film
. Some music videos combine different styles with music, such as animation and live-action. Combining these styles and techniques has become more popular due to the variety for the audience. Many music videos interpret images and scenes from the song's lyrics, while others take a more thematic approach. Other music videos may not have any concept, being only a filmed version of the song's live concert performance.
History and development
In 1894, sheet music
publishers Edward B. Marks and Joe Stern hired electrician George Thomas and various artists to promote sales of their song "The Little Lost Child
Using a magic lantern
, Thomas projected a series of still images on a screen simultaneous to live performances. This would become a popular form of entertainment known as the illustrated song
, the first step toward music video.
1926–1959: Talkies, soundies, and shorts
In 1926, with the arrival of "talkies
" many musical short films
were produced. Vitaphone
shorts (produced by Warner Bros.
) featured many bands, vocalists, and dancers. Animation artist Max Fleischer
introduced a series of sing-along short cartoons called ''Screen Songs
'', which invited audiences to sing along to popular songs by "following the bouncing ball," which is similar to a modern karaoke machine. Early 1930s cartoons featured popular musicians performing their hit songs on-camera in live-action segments during the cartoon
s. The early animated films by Walt Disney
, such as the ''Silly Symphonies
'' shorts and especially ''Fantasia
'', which featured several interpretations of classical pieces, were built around music. The Warner Bros.
cartoons, even today billed as ''Looney Tunes
'' and ''Merrie Melodies
'', were initially fashioned around specific songs from upcoming Warner Bros. musical film
s. Live-action musical shorts, featuring such popular artists as Cab Calloway
, were also distributed to theaters.
singer Bessie Smith
appeared in a two-reel short film called ''St. Louis Blues
'' (1929) featuring a dramatized performance of the hit song. Numerous other musicians appeared in short musical subjects during this period.
, produced and released from 1940 to 1947, were musical films that often included short dance sequences, similar to later music videos.
In the mid-1940s, musician Louis Jordan
made short films for his songs, some of which were spliced together into a feature film, ''Lookout Sister''. These films were, according to music historian Donald Clarke
, the "ancestors" of music video.
were another important precursor to music video, and several well-known music videos have imitated the style of classic Hollywood musicals from the 1930s to the 1950s. One of the best-known examples is Madonna's 1985 video for "Material Girl
" (directed by Mary Lambert
) which was closely modelled on Jack Cole
's staging of "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend
" from the film ''Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
''. Several of Michael Jackson
's videos show the unmistakable influence of the dance sequences in classic Hollywood musicals, including the landmark "Thriller
" and the Martin Scorsese
", which was influenced by the stylized dance "fights" in the film version of ''West Side Story
''. According to the Internet Accuracy Project, DJ
/singer J. P. "The Big Bopper
" Richardson was the first to coin the phrase "music video", in 1959.
In his autobiography, Tony Bennett claims to have created "...the first music video" when he was filmed walking along the Serpentine
in Hyde Park, London
in 1956, with the resulting clip being set to his recording of the song "Stranger in Paradise
". The clip was sent to UK and US television stations and aired on shows including Dick Clark
's American Bandstand
The oldest example of a promotional music video with similarities to more abstract, modern videos seems to be the Czechoslovakia
"Dáme si do bytu" ("Let's get to the apartment") created in 1958 and directed by Ladislav Rychman
1960–1973: Promotional clips
In the late 1950s
, a visual jukebox, was invented in France and short films were produced by many French artists, such as Serge Gainsbourg
, Françoise Hardy
, Jacques Dutronc
, and the Belgian Jacques Brel
to accompany their songs. Its use spread to other countries, and similar machines such as the Cinebox in Italy and Color-sonic
in the USA were patented.
In 1961, for the Canada-produced show ''Singalong Jubilee
'', Manny Pittson began pre-recording the music audio, went on-location and taped various visuals with the musicians lip-synching, then edited the audio and video together. Most music numbers were taped in-studio on stage, and the location shoot "videos" were to add variety. Also in 1961, after integrating his son Ricky Nelson's musical performances into the television program ''The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet
'' for several episodes, Ozzie Nelson created a stand-alone video for the song "Travelin' Man," superimposing travelogue footage over a performance.
His intention was to promote Ricky's records; the video aired in April and the song hit #1 a month later.
In 1964, Kenneth Anger
short film, ''Scorpio Rising
'' used popular songs instead of dialogue.
In 1964, The Moody Blues
producer Alex Murray
wanted to promote his version of "Go Now
". The short film clip he produced and directed to promote the single has a striking visual style that predates Queen's
similar "Bohemian Rhapsody
" video by a full decade. It also predates what the Beatles
did with promotional films of their single "Paperback Writer
" and B-Side "Rain
" both released in 1966.
In the same year, the Beatles starred in their first feature film, ''A Hard Day's Night
'', directed by Richard Lester
. Shot in black-and-white
and presented as a mock documentary
, it interspersed comedic and dialogue sequences with musical tones. The musical sequences furnished basic templates on which numerous subsequent music videos were modeled. It was the direct model for the successful US TV series ''The Monkees
'' (1966–1968), which similarly composed of film segments that were created to accompany various Monkees songs.
The Beatles' second feature, ''Help!
'' (1965), was a much more lavish affair, filmed in color in London and on international locations. The title track sequence, filmed in black-and-white, is arguably one of the prime archetypes of the modern performance-style music video, employing rhythmic cross-cutting, contrasting long shots and close-ups, and unusual shots and camera angles, such as the shot 50 seconds into the song, in which George Harrison
's left hand and the neck of his guitar are seen in sharp focus in the foreground while the completely out-of-focus figure of John Lennon
sings in the background.
In 1965, the Beatles began making promotional clips (then known as "filmed inserts") for distribution and broadcast in different countries—primarily the USA—so they could promote their record releases without having to make in-person appearances. Their first batch of promo films shot in late 1965 (including their then-current single, "Day Tripper
"/"We Can Work It Out
"), were fairly straightforward mimed-in-studio performance pieces (albeit sometimes in silly sets) and meant to blend in fairly seamlessly with television shows like ''Top of the Pops
'' and ''Hullabaloo
''. By the time the Beatles stopped touring in late 1966, their promotional films, like their recordings, had become highly sophisticated. In May 1966 they filmed two sets of colour promotional clips for their current single "Rain
" all directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg
, who went on to direct ''The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus
'' and the Beatles' final film, ''Let It Be
''. The colour promotional clips for "Strawberry Fields Forever
" and "Penny Lane
", made in early 1967 and directed by Peter Goldman, took the promotional film format to a new level. They used techniques borrowed from underground and avant-garde film, including reversed film and slow motion, dramatic lighting, unusual camera angles, and color filtering added in post-production. At the end of 1967 the group released their third film, the one hour, made-for-television project ''Magical Mystery Tour
''; it was written and directed by the group and first broadcast on the BBC
on Boxing Day
1967. Although poorly received at the time for lacking a narrative structure, it showed the group to be adventurous music filmmakers in their own right.
s were being released in the mid-1960s, at least as early as 1964, with the ''T.A.M.I. Show
The monochrome 1965 clip for Bob Dylan
's "Subterranean Homesick Blues
" filmed by D. A. Pennebaker
was featured in Pennebaker's Dylan film documentary ''Dont Look Back
''. Eschewing any attempt to simulate performance or present a narrative, the clip shows Dylan standing in a city back alley, silently shuffling a series of large cue cards (bearing key words from the song's lyrics). Many "filmed inserts" were produced by UK artists so they could be screened on TV when the bands were not available to appear live. Pink Floyd
were pioneers in producing promotional films for their songs including "San Francisco: Film
", directed by Anthony Stern
", "Arnold Layne
" and "Interstellar Overdrive
", the latter directed by Peter Whitehead
, who also made several pioneering clips for The Rolling Stones
between 1966 and 1968. In the UK The Kinks
made one of the first "plot
" promotional clips for a song. For their single "Dead End Street
" (1966) a miniature comic movie was made. The BBC reportedly refused to air the clip because it was considered to be in "poor taste". The Who
featured in several promotional clips in this period, beginning with their 1965 clip for "I Can't Explain
". Their plot clip for "Happy Jack
" (1966) shows the band acting like a gang of thieves. The promo film to "Call Me Lightning
" (1968) tells a story of how drummer Keith Moon
came to join the group: The other three band members are having tea inside what looks like an abandoned hangar when suddenly a "bleeding box" arrives, out of which jumps a fast-running, time lapse, Moon that the other members subsequently try to get a hold of in a sped-up slapstick chasing sequence to wind him down. In 1966, Nancy Sinatra
filmed a clip for her song "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'
". Roy Orbison
appeared in promotional clips, such as his 1968 hit, "Walk On".
The Rolling Stones appeared in many promotional clips for their songs in the 1960s. In 1966, Peter Whitehead
directed two promo clips for their single "Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing In The Shadow?
In 1967, Whitehead directed a plot clip colour promo clip for the Stones single "We Love You
", which first aired in August 1967. This clip featured sped-up footage of the group recording in the studio, intercut with a mock trial that clearly alludes to the drug prosecutions of Mick Jagger
and Keith Richards
underway at that time. Jagger's girlfriend Marianne Faithfull
appears in the trial scenes and presents the "judge" (Richards) with what may be the infamous fur rug that had featured so prominently in the press reports of the drug bust at Richards' house in early 1967. When it is pulled back, it reveals an apparently naked Jagger with chains around his ankles. The clip concludes with scenes of the Stones in the studio intercut with footage that had previously been used in the "concert version" promo clip for "Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby". The group also filmed a color promo clip for the song "2000 Light Years From Home
" (from their album ''Their Satanic Majesties Request
'') directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg
In 1968, Michael Lindsay-Hogg directed three clips for their single "Jumpin' Jack Flash
" / "Child Of The Moon"—a color clip for "Child Of The Moon" and two different clips for "Jumpin' Jack Flash". In 1968, they collaborated with Jean-Luc Godard
on the film ''Sympathy for the Devil
'', which mixed Godard's politics with documentary footage of the song's evolution during recording sessions.
During late 1972–73 David Bowie
featured in a series of promotional films directed by pop photographer Mick Rock
, who worked extensively with Bowie in this period. Rock directed and edited four clips to promote four consecutive David Bowie singles—"John, I'm Only Dancing
" (May 1972), "The Jean Genie
" (November 1972), the December 1972 US re-release of "Space Oddity
" and the 1973 release of the single "Life on Mars?
" (lifted from Bowie's earlier album ''Hunky Dory
''). The clip for "John, I'm Only Dancing" was made with a budget of just US$
200 and filmed at the afternoon rehearsal for Bowie's Rainbow Theatre
concert on August 19, 1972. It shows Bowie and band mimicking to the record intercut with footage of the Lindsay Kemp
mime troupe, dancing on stage and behind a back-lit screen. The clip was turned down by the BBC, who reportedly found the homosexual overtones of the film distasteful, accordingly ''Top of the Pops'' replaced it with footage of bikers and a dancer. The "Jean Genie" clip, produced for just US$350, was shot in one day and edited in less than two days. It intercuts footage of Bowie and band in concert with contrasting footage of the group in a photographic studio, wearing black stage outfits, and standing against a white background. It also includes location footage with Bowie and Cyrinda Foxe
(a MainMan employee and a friend of David and Angie Bowie
) shot in San Francisco outside the famous Mars Hotel
, with Fox posing provocatively in the street while Bowie lounges against the wall, smoking.
Country music also picked up on the trend of promotional film clips to publicize songs. Sam Lovullo, the producer of the television series ''Hee Haw
'', explained his show presented "what were, in reality, the first musical videos,"
[Lovullo, Sam, and Mark Eliot, "Life in the Kornfield: My 25 Years at ''Hee Haw''," Boulevard Books, New York, 1996, p. 34. ]
while JMI Records made the same claim with Don Williams
' 1973 song "The Shelter of Your Eyes
[Millard, Bob, ''Country Music: 70 Years of America's Favorite Music'', HarperCollins, New York, 1993, p. 179. ]
Country music historian Bob Millard wrote that JMI had pioneered the country music video concept by "producing a 3-minute film" to go along with Williams' song.
Lovullo said his videos were conceptualized by having the show's staff go to nearby rural areas and film animals and farmers, before editing the footage to fit the storyline of a particular song. "The video material was a very workable production item for the show," he wrote. "It provided picture stories for songs. However, some of our guests felt the videos took attention away from their live performances, which they hoped would promote record sales. If they had a hit song, they didn't want to play it under comic barnyard footage." The concept's mixed reaction eventually spelled an end to the "video" concept on ''Hee Haw''.
Promotional films of country music songs, however, continued to be produced.
1974–1980: Beginnings of music television
The Australian TV shows ''Countdown
'' and ''Sounds
'', both of which premiered in 1974, were significant in developing and popularizing what would later become the music video genre in Australia and other countries, and in establishing the importance of promotional film clips as a means of promoting both emerging acts and new releases by established acts. In early 1974, former radio DJ Graham Webb
launched a weekly teen-oriented TV music show which screened on Sydney
on Saturday mornings; this was renamed ''Sounds Unlimited'' in 1975 and later shortened simply to ''Sounds''. In need of material for the show, Webb approached Seven newsroom staffer Russell Mulcahy
and asked him to shoot film footage to accompany popular songs for which there were no purpose-made clips (e.g. Harry Nilsson
's "Everybody's Talkin
"). Using this method, Webb and Mulcahy assembled a collection of about 25 clips for the show. The success of his early efforts encouraged Mulcahy to quit his TV job and become a full-time director, and he made clips for several popular Australian acts including Stylus
, Marcia Hines
As it gained popularity, ''Countdown'' talent coordinator Ian "Molly" Meldrum
and producer Michael Shrimpton quickly realized that "film clips" were becoming an important new commodity in music marketing. Despite the show's minuscule budget, ''Countdowns original director Paul Drane
was able to create several memorable music videos especially for the show, including the classic film-clips for the AC/DC hits "It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)
" and "Jailbreak
After relocating to the UK in the mid-1970s, Mulcahy made successful promo films for several noted British pop acts—his early UK credits included XTC
's "Making Plans for Nigel
" (1979) and his landmark video clip for The Buggles
' "Video Killed the Radio Star
" (1979), which became the first music video played on MTV
In 1975, the British rock band Queen
employed Bruce Gowers
to make a promotional video
to show their new single "Bohemian Rhapsody
" on the BBC music series ''Top of the Pops
''. According to rock historian Paul Fowles, the song is "widely credited as the first global hit single for which an accompanying video was central to the marketing strategy".
'' has said of "Bohemian Rhapsody": "Its influence cannot be overstated, practically inventing the music video seven ic
years before MTV went on the air."
''Video Concert Hall
'', created by Jerry Crowe and Charles Henderson
and launched on November 1, 1979, was the first nationwide video music programming on American television, predating MTV by almost two years.
[McCullaugh, Jim. "Atlanta Firm Claims First Ever Nationwide Cable Music Show." Billboard Magazine. March 3, 1980 p. 1, p. 38] [King, Bill, "Atlantans Pioneering Cable Video Music Show," The Atlanta Constitution, June 3, 1980, p. 1-B, p. 10-B] [Werts, Dianne, "Din of Modern Hit Parade Invades Cable Homes," The Dallas Morning News, May 23, 1980, ] [Denisoff, Serge R. Tarnished Gold: The record industry revisited. Oxford, UK: Transaction books, 1986. p. 369]
The USA Cable Network
program ''Night Flight
'' was one of the first American programs to showcase these videos as an art form.
In 1980, the music video to David Bowie
's "Ashes to Ashes
" became the most expensive ever made
, having a production cost of $582,000 (equivalent to $ million in ), the first music video to have a production cost of over $500,000.
[David Buckley (1999). ''Strange Fascination – David Bowie: The Definitive Story'': pp.366–369]
The video was made in solarized
color with stark black-and-white scenes and was filmed in different locations, including a padded room and a rocky shore. The video became one of the most iconic ever made at the time, and its complex nature is seen as significant in the evolution of the music video.
The same year, the New Zealand group Split Enz
had major success with the single "I Got You
" and the album ''True Colours
'', and later that year they produced a complete set of promo clips for each song on the album (directed by their percussionist, Noel Crombie
) and to market these on videocassette. This was followed a year later by the video album, ''The Completion Backward Principle
'' by The Tubes
, directed by the group's keyboard player, Michael Cotten, which included two videos directed by Russell Mulcahy ("Talk to Ya Later" and "Don't Want to Wait Anymore"). Among the first music videos were clips produced by ex-Monkee Michael Nesmith
, who started making short musical films for ''Saturday Night Live
In 1981, he released ''Elephant Parts
'', the first winner of a Grammy
for music video, directed by William Dear. ''Billboard
the independently produced Video Concert Hall
as being the first with nationwide video music programming on American television.
1981–1991: Music videos go mainstream
In 1981, the U.S.
video channel MTV
launched, airing "Video Killed the Radio Star
" by The Buggles
and beginning an era of 24-hour-a-day music on television. With this new outlet for material, the music video would, by the mid-1980s, grow to play a central role in popular music marketing. Many important acts of this period, most notably Adam and the Ants
, Duran Duran
, owed a great deal of their success to the skillful construction and seductive appeal of their videos.
Two key innovations in the development of the modern music video were the development of relatively inexpensive and easy-to-use video
recording and editing equipment, and the development of visual effects created with techniques such as image compositing
. The advent of high-quality color videotape recorders and portable video cameras coincided with the DIY ethos of the new wave
era, enabling much pop acts to produce promotional videos quickly and cheaply, in comparison to the relatively high costs of using film. However, as the genre developed, music video director
s increasingly turned to 35 mm film as the preferred medium, while others mixed film and video.
During the 1980s, music videos had become ''de rigueur'' for most recording artists. The phenomenon was famously parodied by BBC
television comedy program ''Not The Nine O'Clock News
'' who produced a spoof music video "Nice Video, Shame About The Song". (The title was a spoof of a recent pop hit "Nice Legs, Shame About Her Face")
In this period, directors and the acts they worked with began to explore and expand the form and style of the genre, using more sophisticated effects in their videos, mixing film and video, and adding a storyline or plot to the music video. Occasionally videos were made in a ''non-representational'' form, in which the musical artist was not shown. Because music videos are mainly intended to promote the artist, such videos are comparatively rare; three early 1980s examples are Bruce Springsteen
's "Atlantic City
", directed by Arnold Levine, David Mallet
's video for David Bowie
's "Under Pressure
", and Ian Emes
' video for Duran Duran
's "The Chauffeur
". One notable later example of the non-representational style is Bill Konersman's innovative 1987 video for Prince
's "Sign o' the Times
" – influenced by Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues" clip, it featured only the text of the song's lyrics.
In the early 1980s, music videos also began to discover political and social themes. Examples include the music videos for David Bowie's
" and "Let's Dance
" (1983) which both discussed race issues. In a 1983 interview, Bowie spoke about the importance of using music videos in addressing social issues, "Let's try to use the video format as a platform for some kind of social observation, and not just waste it on trotting out and trying to enhance the public image of the singer involved".
In 1983, one of the most successful, influential and iconic music video of all time was released: the nearly 14-minute-long video for Michael Jackson
's song "Thriller
", directed by John Landis
. The video set new standards for production, having cost US $800,000 to film. The video for "Thriller", along with earlier videos by Jackson for his songs "Billie Jean
" and "Beat It
", were instrumental in getting music videos by African-American
artists played on MTV. Prior to Jackson's success, videos by African-American artists were rarely played on MTV: according to MTV, this was because it initially conceived itself as a rock-music-oriented channel, although musician Rick James
was outspoken in his criticism of the cable channel, claiming in 1983 that MTV's refusal to air the music video for his song "Super Freak
" and clips by other African-American performers was "blatant racism". David Bowie had also recently lashed out against MTV during an interview that he did with them prior to the release of "Thriller", stating that he was "floored" by how much MTV neglected black artists, bringing attention to how videos by the "few black artists that one does see" only appeared on MTV between 2:00 AM until 6:00 AM when nobody was watching.
On March 5, 1983, Country Music Television
(CMT), was launched, created and founded by Glenn D. Daniels and uplinked from the Video World Productions facility in Hendersonville, Tennessee
. The MuchMusic
video channel was launched in Canada
in 1984. In 1984, MTV also launched the MTV Video Music Awards
(later to be known as the VMAs), an annual awards event that would come to underscore MTV's importance in the music industry. The inaugural event rewarded the Beatles
and David Bowie
with the Video Vanguard Award
for their work in pioneering the music video.
In 1985, MTV's Viacom launched the channel VH1
(then known as "VH-1: Video Hits One"), featuring softer music, and meant to cater to the slightly older baby-boomer demographic who were out-growing MTV. Internationally, MTV Europe
was launched in 1987, and MTV Asia
in 1991. Another important development in music videos was the launch of ''The Chart Show
'' on the UK's Channel 4
in 1986. This was a program that composed entirely of music videos (the only outlet many videos had on British TV at the time), with no presenters. Instead, the videos were linked by then state of the art computer graphics
. The show moved to ITV
The video for the 1985 Dire Straits
song "Money for Nothing
" made pioneering use of computer animation, and helped make the song an international hit. The song itself was a wry comment on the music-video phenomenon, sung from the point of view of an appliance deliveryman both drawn to and repelled by the outlandish images and personalities that appeared on MTV. In 1986, Peter Gabriel
's song "Sledgehammer
" used special effects and animation techniques developed by British studio Aardman Animations
. The video for "Sledgehammer" would go on to be a phenomenal success and win nine MTV Video Music Awards.
In 1988, the MTV show ''Yo! MTV Raps
'' debuted; the show helped to bring hip hop music
to a mass audience for the first time.
1992–2004: Rise of the directors
In November 1992, MTV
began listing to Chris Cunningham
, Michel Gondry
, Spike Jonze
, Floria Sigismondi
, Stéphane Sednaoui
, Mark Romanek
and Hype Williams
all got their start around this time; all brought a unique vision and style to the videos they directed. Some of these directors, including, Gondry, Jonze, Sigismondi, and F. Gary Gray
, went on to direct feature films. This continued a trend that had begun earlier with directors such as Lasse Hallström
and David Fincher
Two of the videos directed by Romanek in 1995 are notable for being two of the three most expensive music videos of all time
and Janet Jackson
", which allegedly cost $7 million to produce, and Madonna
's "Bedtime Story
", which cost a reported $5 million. From this, "Scream" is the most expensive video to date. In the mid to late 1990s, Walter Stern
" by The Prodigy
, "Bitter Sweet Symphony
" by The Verve
, and "Teardrop
" by Massive Attack
During this period, MTV launched channels around the world to show music videos produced in each local market: MTV Latin America
in 1993, MTV India
in 1996, and MTV Mandarin
in 1997, among others. MTV2
, originally called "M2" and meant to show more alternative and older music videos, debuted in 1996.
In 1999, Mariah Carey
", became one of the most expensive ever made
, costing over $2.5 million.
From 1991 to 2001, ''Billboard'' had its own Music Video Awards.
2005–present: Music video downloads and streaming
The website iFilm
, which hosted short videos including music videos, launched in 1997. Napster
, a peer-to-peer file sharing
service which ran between 1999 and 2001, enabled users to share video files, including those for music videos. By the mid-2000s, MTV and many of its sister channels had largely abandoned showing music videos in favor of reality
TV shows, which were more popular with its audiences, and which MTV had itself helped to pioneer with the show ''The Real World
'', which premiered in 1992.
2005 saw the launch of the website YouTube
, which made the viewing of online video much faster and easier; Google Videos
, Yahoo! Video
's video functionality use similar technology. Such websites had a profound effect on the viewing of music videos; some artists began to see success as a result of videos seen mostly or entirely online. The band OK Go
capitalized on the growing trend, having achieved fame through the videos for two of their songs, "A Million Ways
" in 2005 and "Here It Goes Again
" in 2006, both of which first became well-known online (OK Go repeated the trick with another high-concept video in 2010, for their song "This Too Shall Pass
At its launch, Apple
's iTunes Store
provided a section of free music videos in high quality compression to be watched via the iTunes application. More recently the iTunes Store has begun selling music videos for use on Apple's iPod
with video playback capability.
The 2008 video for Weezer
's "Pork and Beans
" also captured this trend, by including at least 20 YouTube celebrities
; the single became the most successful of Weezer's career, in chart performance. In 2007, the RIAA
issued cease-and-desist letters to YouTube users to prevent single users from sharing videos, which are the property of the music labels. After its merger with Google
, YouTube assured the RIAA that they would find a way to pay royalties
through a bulk agreement with the major record labels. This was complicated by the fact that not all labels share the same policy toward music videos: some welcome the development and upload music videos to various online outlets themselves, viewing music videos as free advertising
for their artists, while other labels view music videos not as an advertisement, but as the product itself.
To further signify the change in direction towards Music Video airplay, MTV officially dropped the Music Television tagline on February 8, 2010 from their logo in response to their increased commitment to non-scripted reality programming and other youth-oriented entertainment rising in prominence on their live broadcast.
, a music video service launched by several major music publishers, debuted in December 2009.
The videos on VEVO are syndicated to YouTube, with Google
and VEVO sharing the advertising revenue.
As of 2017, the most-watched English-language video on YouTube was "Shape of You
" by Ed Sheeran
. As of 2018, the most-watched remix video on YouTube was "Te Bote
" by Casper featuring Nio García, Darrell, Nicky Jam
, Bad Bunny
, and Ozuna
Official lo-fi Internet music clips
Following the shift toward internet broadcasting and the rising popularity of user-generated video sites such as YouTube
around 2006, various independent filmmakers
began films recording live sessions to present on the Web. Examples of this new way of creating and presenting a music video include Vincent Moon
's work with The Take-Away Shows; In the Van sessions, a similar platform; and the Dutch VPRO 3VOOR12
, which puts out music videos recorded in elevators and other small, guerrilla filmmaking
type locations in a similar tradition called ''Behind''. All of these swiftly recorded clips are made with minimal budgets and share similar aesthetics with the lo-fi music
movement of the early nineties. Offering freedom from the increasingly burdensome financial requirements of high-production movie-like clips, it began as the only method for little-known indie music
artists to present themselves to a wider audience, but increasingly this approach has been taken up by such major mainstream artists as R.E.M.
and Tom Jones
In the late 2010s, some artists began releasing alternative vertical videos
tailored to mobile devices in addition to music videos; these vertical videos are generally platform-exclusive. These vertical videos are often shown on Snapchat
's "Discover" section or within Spotify
playlists. Early adopters of vertical video releases include the number-one hits "Havana
" by Camila Cabello
and "Girls Like You
" by Maroon 5
featuring Cardi B
" by Billie Eilish
is the most-watched vertical video on YouTube.
A lyric video is one in which the words to the song are the main element of the video. Lyric videos rose to prominence in the 2010s, with it becoming relatively easy for artists to disperse videos through websites such as YouTube
[Strecker, Erin (October 14, 2011)]
Lyric Videos: Is this a trend now? Britney Spears' 'Criminal' joins the YouTube fray
Many do not feature any visual related to the musician in question, but merely a background with the lyrics appearing over it as they are sung in the song.
As such, they are often created with relative ease and often act as a supplemental video to a more traditional music video. Despite its rise to prominence in the 2010s, the idea had been used much earlier. The music video for R.E.M.
's "Fall on Me
" interspersed the song's lyrics with abstract film footage. In 1987, Prince
released a video for his song "Sign o' the Times
". The video featured the song's words pulsing to the music, presented alongside abstract geometric shapes, an effect created by Bill Konersman. The following year, the video for the Talking Heads
single "(Nothing But) Flowers
" composed of the song's lyrics superimposed onto or next to members of the band, was released. In 1990, George Michael
released "Praying for Time" as a lyric video. He had refused to make a traditional music video, so his label released a simple clip that displayed the song's lyrics on a black screen. "Closer
" by The Chainsmokers
, is the most-watched lyric video on YouTube. In 2011, death metal band Krokmitën released the first lyric video for an entire album, "Alpha-Beta". The concept album video featured imagery pulsing to the music and stylized typography created by bandleader Simlev.
As the concept and medium of a music video is a form of artistic expression, artists have been on many occasions censored if their content is deemed offensive. What may be considered offensive will differ in countries due to censorship laws and local customs and ethics. In most cases, the record label will provide and distribute videos edited or provide both censored and uncensored videos for an artist. In some cases, it has been known for music videos to be banned in their entirety as they have been deemed far too offensive to be broadcast.
The first video to be banned by MTV
's 1982 hit "Body Language
". Due to thinly veiled homoerotic undertones plus much skin and sweat (but apparently not enough clothing, save that worn by the fully clothed members of Queen themselves), it was deemed unsuitable for a television audience at the time. However, the channel did air Olivia Newton-John
's 1981 video for the hit song "Physical
", which lavished camera time on male models working out in string bikinis who spurn her advances, ultimately pairing off to walk to the men's locker rooms holding hands, though the network ended the clip before the overt homosexual "reveal" ending in some airings. The video for "Girls on Film
" by Duran Duran
, which featured topless women mud wrestling and other depictions of sexual fetishes was banned by the BBC
. MTV did air the video, albeit in a heavily edited form.
initially protested an MTV request to edit her "Self Control
" video in 1984, but relented when the network refused to air the William Friedkin
-directed clip, featuring the singer lured through an increasingly debauched, if increasingly stylized, series of nightclubs by a masked man who ultimately takes her to bed. In 1989, Cher
's "If I Could Turn Back Time
" video (where the singer performs the song in an extremely revealing body suit surrounded by a ship full of cheering sailors) was restricted to late-night broadcasts on MTV. The Sex Pistols
' video for "God Save the Queen
" was banned by the BBC
for calling the United Kingdom
regime. Mötley Crüe
's video for "Girls, Girls, Girls
" was banned by MTV for having completely nude women dancing around the members of the band in a strip club
, although they did produce another version that was accepted by MTV.
In 1983, ''Entertainment Tonight
'' ran a segment on censorship and "Rock Video Violence". The episode explored the impact of MTV
rock video violence on the youth of the early 1980s. Excerpts from the music videos of Michael Jackson
, Duran Duran
, Golden Earring
, Billy Idol
, Def Leppard
, Pat Benatar
and The Rolling Stones
were shown. Dr. Thomas Radecki
of the National Coalition on TV Violence was interviewed accusing the fledgling rock video business of excessive violence. ''Night Tracks
producer Tom Lynch weighed in on the effects of the video violence controversy. Recording artists John Cougar Mellencamp
, Gene Simmons
and Paul Stanley
of Kiss, along with directors Dominic Orlando and Julien Temple
, provided a defense of their work. The episode's conclusion was that the controversy will continue to grow. Some artists have used censorship as a publicity tool. In the 1980s, the show ''Top of the Pops'' was censorious in its approach to video content, so some acts made videos that they knew would be censored, using the resulting public controversy to promote their release. Examples of this tactic were Duran Duran
's aforementioned "Girls on Film" and Frankie Goes to Hollywood
with "Relax", directed by Bernard Rose
In 1991, the dance segment of Michael Jackson
's "Black or White
" was edited out because it showed Jackson "inappropriately" touching himself in it. His most controversial video, for "They Don't Care About Us
", was banned from MTV, VH1, and BBC due to the alleged anti-Semitic
messages in the song and the visuals in the background of the "Prison Version" of the video.
is the artist most associated with music video censorship. The controversy surrounding Madonna's marketing of her sexuality began with the video for "Lucky Star
", and amplified over time due to clips such as "Like a Virgin
". Outcry occurred over the subject matter (relating to teenage pregnancy
) discussed in the video for the song "Papa Don't Preach
". "Like a Prayer
" courted heavy criticism due to its religious, sexual, and racially oriented imagery. In 1990, Madonna's music video for the song "Justify My Love
" was banned by MTV due to its depiction of sadomasochism
, and group sex
which generated a media firestorm. In Canada, the debate over the banning of "Justify My Love" by the music video network MuchMusic
led to the launching in 1991 of ''Too Much 4 Much
'', a series of occasional, late-night specials (still being aired in the early 2000s) in which videos officially banned by MuchMusic were broadcast, followed by a panel discussion regarding why they were removed.
In 1992, The Shamen
's video for the song "Ebeneezer Goode
" was banned by the BBC
due to its perceived subliminal endorsement of the recreational drug Ecstasy
. The Prodigy
's 1997 video for "Smack My Bitch Up
" was banned in some countries due to depictions of drug use and nudity. The Prodigy's video for "Firestarter
" was banned by the BBC
due to its references to arson.
In 1993, the Australian rock band INXS
' song "The Gift
" was banned by MTV due to its use of Holocaust and Gulf War footage, among images of famine, pollution, war, and terrorism. As well as this, metal band Tool
's music video for "Prison Sex
" was banned from MTV, as the video and lyrics touch on the sensitive matter of child abuse.
In 2000, the music video for "Rock DJ
" by Robbie Williams
caused controversy due to the graphic nature of the video which features Williams stripping naked then peeling off his skin to reveal bloody flesh, followed by ripping off his muscles and organs until he is nothing but a blood-soaked skeleton. The video was censored in the UK during daytime hours and was broadcast unedited after 10 pm. The video was banned in Dominican Republic
due to allegations of satanism
In 2001, Björk
's video for "Pagan Poetry
" was banned from MTV for depictions of sexual intercourse, fellatio, and body piercings. Her next single, "Cocoon
", was also banned by MTV as it featured a nude Björk (though the nude body was usually a fitted bodysuit rigged with red string).
In 2002, t.A.T.u.
's video for "All the Things She Said
" caused controversy as it featured the young Russian girls, Lena Katina
and Yulia Volkova
, embracing and eventually kissing. British TV presenters Richard and Judy campaigned to have the video banned claiming it pandered to pedophiles with the use of school uniforms and young girls kissing, although the campaign failed. Capitalizing on the controversy, the kiss was choreographed into their live performances. ''Top of the Pops'' aired the girls' performance with the kiss replaced by audience footage. NBC's ''The Tonight Show with Jay Leno'' cut away from the girls' kiss to shots of the band. Throughout their promotional tour, t.A.T.u. protested by appearing in shirts reading "censored".
In 2004, Maroon 5
's video for "This Love
" generated controversy due to intimate scenes between the frontman Adam Levine
and his then-girlfriend. Despite those particular scenes being shot at strategic angles, a censored version was released with a stream of computer-generated
flowers added in to cover up more. The video for "(s)AINT
" by Marilyn Manson
was banned by their label due to its violence and sexual content. The following year, Eminem
's video for "Just Lose It
" caused controversy over its parody of Michael Jackson's 2005 child molestation trial
, plastic surgery
, and hair catching fire during the filming of a Pepsi
commercial. The video was banned from BET
, and Jackson spoke out against the video, calling it "inappropriate and disrespectful to me, my children, my family, and the community at large". In 2004, many family groups and politicians lobbied for the banning of the Eric Prydz
video "Call on Me
" for containing women dancing in a sexually suggestive way; however, the video was not banned.
As of 2005, the Egyptian state censorship committee banned at least 20 music videos which featured sexual connotations due to Muslim moral viewpoints. The music video of "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'
" which featured Jessica Simpson
in character as Daisy Duke, was controversial for featuring Simpson in "revealing" outfits and washing the General Lee car
in her bikini. The controversy resulted in the music video being banned in some countries.
In 2008, Justice
's video for their song "Stress" was boycotted by several major music television channels due to allegations of racism and violence; the video depicts several youths committing different crimes throughout the streets of Paris
, with the youths mainly being of North African
While country music has largely avoided controversy surrounding video content, it has never been immune. The music video for the 2003 Rascal Flatts
song "I Melt
" is a case in point, gaining notoriety for clips featuring
guitarist Joe Don Rooney
's bare butt, and model Christina Auria taking a shower nude.
[Rascal Flatts Discuss Their Racy Video](_blank)
The video was the first aired on CMT to show nudity,
and eventually reached #1 on the network's "Top Twenty Countdown
" program. However, GAC
banned the video when the group refused to release an edited version.
In 2010, Thirty Seconds to Mars
' video "Hurricane
" was censored due to its major elements of violence, nudity and sex. The short film was later released with a clean version that can air on television. The explicit version is available on the band's official website with a viewing certificate of 18+.
In 2010, a rumor circulated that Lady Gaga
's video "Telephone
" was banned by MTV, a rumour which reached some press outlets. The rumor claimed that MTV had banned the video because the content could not be shown within their programming. MTV denied the ban and showed the video frequently on European MTV programming. Lady Gaga's previous videos have also attracted criticism for their sexually suggestive content; the video for "LoveGame
" was not played on the Australian music video program ''Video Hits
''; however, other Australian programs aired the video uncensored. The video for "Alejandro
" was criticized by the Catholic League
, for showing the singer dressed in a red latex fetish
version of a nun's habit
, simulating rape, and appearing to swallow a rosary
's video for "Ride
" was banned by BET
, with the network citing that the video was too sexually charged. The video was also subsequently banned by all UK television channels.
In 2011, the video for "S&M
", which features the Barbadian singer Rihanna
whipping a tied-up white man, taking hostages and indulging in a lesbian kiss, was banned in eleven countries and was flagged as inappropriate for viewers that are under 18 on YouTube.
Originally released in 2012 from their album ''Monolith of Inhumanity
'', Extreme metal band Cattle Decapitation
's video "Forced Gender Reassignment" was banned from YouTube
for its extremely graphic depictions of gore, rape, torture, genital mutilation and anti-Christian imagery and dialogue. As of July 2020, it is only available for viewing on the website Bloody Disgusting
with permission from the band.
Music videos have been released commercially on physical formats such as videotape
. Similar to an audio album
, a video album is a long-form release containing multiple music videos on a disc. The market for video albums is considerably smaller than for audio albums and audio singles
. Video albums are eligible for gold certifications
from the Recording Industry Association of America
(RIAA) after record labels shipped 50,000 units to retailers, while both audio albums and singles have to ship 500,000 units to achieve gold.
One of the early video albums was ''Eat to the Beat
'' (1979) by American rock band Blondie
, a videocassette
containing music videos of all tracks from their fourth studio album of the same name. The music videos were taped in New York and New Jersey, with some songs featuring the band playing in a concert fashion, and some others having scenarios based on the songs' lyrics. Another popular video album was ''Olivia Physical
'' (1982) by Olivia Newton-John
, which won the Video of the Year
at the 25th Grammy Awards
. The video collection features music videos of all songs from her ninth studio album, ''Physical
Due to the increase of video albums popularity, ''Billboard
'' magazine introduced the weekly best-selling music video sales ranking in the United States, titled the Top Music Videocassette
chart on March 30, 1985 (now known as Music Video Sales chart). Its first chart-topper was ''Private Dancer
'' (1984), a videocassette by Tina Turner
containing four music videos. The Official Charts Company
began the similar chart in the United Kingdom on January 30, 1994, with Bryan Adams
's ''So Far So Good
'' reaching number one. According to the RIAA, the Eagles
' ''Farewell 1 Tour-Live from Melbourne
'' (2005) is the top-certified longform music video with 30-time platinum (three million units shipped), while the Rolling Stones
' ''Four Flicks
'' (2005) is the top-certified music video boxset
with 19-time platinum (1.9 million units shipped).
A video single contains no more than three music videos in the form of a videotape, LaserDisc or DVD. In 1983, British synthpop
band The Human League
released the first commercial video single titled ''The Human League Video Single
'' on both VHS and Betamax. It was not a huge commercial success due to the high retail price of £10.99, compared to around £1.99 for a 7" vinyl single. The VHS single gained higher levels of mainstream popularity when Madonna
released "Justify My Love
" as a video single in 1990 following the blacklisting of the video by MTV
. "Justify My Love" remains the best-selling video single of all time.
The DVD single was introduced in the late 1990s as a replacement for the videotape single. Although many record companies in the United States refused to issue CD single
s, they readily issued DVD singles, and some popular DVD singles include Kelly Clarkson
's "A Moment Like This
", Jessica Simpson
's "With You
's "Crazy in Love
", Christina Aguilera
", Britney Spears
" and Iron Maiden
's "Satellite 15... The Final Frontier
". According to the RIAA, a music video single is defined as 1-2 songs per video OR under 15 minutes running time. In 2003, the first certified platinum and gold music DVD singles were certified by the RIAA.
Noteworthy early DVD singles in the United States include Sly and Robbie
's "Superthruster" (1999), Björk
's "All Is Full of Love
" (1999), and Madonna
In the United Kingdom where up to 3 physical formats are eligible for the chart
, DVD singles are quite common (with the single available on DVD as well as CD and/or vinyl record
). As with other single formats, DVD singles have a limited production run, often causing them to become collector's items. The DVD single never experienced a high amount of popularity in the United Kingdom because when artists started releasing them in the early 2000s, the CD single had started declining. They were also seen as expensive. Some artists would not release DVD singles and instead put their music videos as enhanced content on a CD single/album.
Beginning in the early 2000s, artists in Japan may release singles in the CD+DVD format. Japanese singer Ayumi Hamasaki
has been credited as the "creator of the CD+DVD format"; one of the examples is her 2005 single "Fairyland
". The CD+DVD format is more expensive and usually contains one or more music videos, and sometimes a "making of" section or other bonus material is included.
The Japanese music conglomerate Hello! Project
released corresponding DVD singles for almost all of its CD single releases. The company calls them Single Vs. A Single V usually contains a music video for the title song plus several more of its versions and a making-of
. Sometimes, an will be released at Hello! Project fan club
events that will offer alternate shots of a promotional video, or bonus footage, like backstage footage or footage from a photoshoot not released anywhere else. As of 2017, Single Vs are no longer released, instead Hello! Project acts now put the music videos on DVDs included in a CD single's limited edition. The DVD singles are popular and chart in the generic Oricon
DVD sales chart, due to the non-existence of a separate DVD single ranking in Japan.
Unofficial music videos
Unofficial, fan-made music videos ("bootleg" tapes) are typically made by synchronizing existing footage from other sources, such as television series or films, with the song. The first known fan video, or songvid
, was created by Kandy Fong in 1975 using still images from ''Star Trek'' loaded into a slide carousel and played in conjunction with a song. Fan videos made using videocassette recorder
s soon followed. With the advent of easy distribution over the internet and cheap video-editing software, fan-created videos began to gain wider notice in the late 1990s. For some reasons, Videos are known as OPV, Original Promotional Videos (or Other People's Videos for some reasons). A well-known example of an unofficial video is one made for Danger Mouse
's illegal mashup
from his ''The Grey Album
'', of the Jay-Z
" with music sampled from the Beatles
' ''White Album
'', in which concert footage of the Beatles is remixed with footage of Jay-Z and hip-hop dancers.
In 2016, a Flash
animation for song "Come Together
" by the Beatles has been included on The Beatles Blu-ray
In 2004, a Placebo
fan from South Africa made a claymation
video for the band's song "English Summer Rain
" and sent it to the band. They liked the result so much that it was included on their greatest hits DVD.
[''Once More with Feeling'' DVD audio commentary, Virgin, 2004]
Music video stations
Music video shows
*''24 Hours of Love
*''3ABN Today Music'' 3ABN Praise Him Music Network
*''America's Top 10
*''Back to Nature'' (3ABN
), 3ABN International, 3ABN Praise Him Music Network
*''106 & Park
*''Top of the Pops
*''The Click List: Top 10 Videos
*''Friday Night Videos
*''Goodnight LA'' (KABC
*''Good Rockin' Tonite
*''Jack's Big Music Show
*''Kids Praise Too!'' (3ABN
), 3ABN International, 3ABN Kids Network
*''Los 10+ Pedidos
'' (MTV Latin America
*''Magnify Him'' 3ABN Dare to Dream Network, 3ABN Praise Him Music Network
*''Melodías del Corazón'' (3ABN Latino
*''Melody From My Heart'' (3ABN
), 3ABN International, 3ABN Praise Him Music Network
*''The Metric Marvels
*''Piano Praise'' (3ABN
), 3ABN Praise Him Music Network
), 3ABN International, 3ABN Praise Him Music Network
*''The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour
; first broadcast in 1968)
*''Sidewalks: Video Nite
*''Video Hits Australia
'' (Network Ten
*''Video Hits Canada
*''Video Jukebox (TV series)
'' (TV Asahi
*''New York Hot Tracks
*''U Choose 40
'' (C4, New Zealand
*''VH1 Top 20 Video Countdown
*''Volvamos a la Naturaleza'' (3ABN Latino
*''Your Favorites by Request'' (3ABN
), 3ABN International, 3ABN Praise Him Music Network
*Anime music video
*Concert video design
*First 24-hour music video
*List of music video directors
*One shot (music video)
*Semiotics of music videos
* Country music
* Banks, Jack (1996) ''Monopoly Television: Mtv's Quest to Control the Music'' Westview Press
* Burns, Lori A. and Stan Hawkins, eds. (2019) ''The Bloomsbury Handbook of Popular Music Video Analysis''. Bloomsbury Publishing USA.
* Clarke, Donald
(1995) ''The Rise and Fall of Popular Music'' St. Martin's Pressy
* Denisoff, R. Serge (1991) ''Inside MTV'' New Brunswick: Transaction publishers,
* Durant, Alan (1984). Cited in Middleton, Richard (1990/2002). ''Studying Popular Music''. Philadelphia: Open University Press. .
* Frith, Simon
, Andrew Goodwin & Lawrence Grossberg
(1993) ''Sound & Vision. The music video reader'' London: Routledge
* Goodwin, Andrew (1992) ''Dancing in the Distraction Factory : Music Television and Popular Culture'' University of Minnesota Press
* Illescas, Jon E. (2015) ''La Dictadura del Videoclip. Industria musical y sueños prefabricados'' El Viejo Topo
* Johnson, Henry & Oli Wilson (2016“Music video and online social media: A case study of the discourse around Japanese imagery in the New Zealand indie scene.”
Sites: A Journal of Social Anthropology & Cultural Studies 13 (2): 163–186.
* Kaplan, E. Ann (1987) ''Rocking Around the Clock. Music Television, Postmodernism, and Consumer Culture'' London & New York: Routledge
* Keazor, Henry
; Wübbena, Thorsten (2010). ''Rewind, Play, Fast Forward: The Past, Present and Future of the Music Video.'' transcript Verlag.
* Kleiler, David (1997) ''You Stand There: Making Music Video'' Three Rivers Press
* Middleton, Richard
(1990/2002). ''Studying Popular Music''. Philadelphia: Open University Press. .
* Shore, Michael (1984) ''The Rolling Stone book of rock video'' New York: Quill
* Turner, G. ''Video Clips and Popular Music'', in Australian Journal of Cultural Studies 1/1,1983, 107–110
* Vernallis, Carol (2004) ''Experiencing Music Video: Aesthetics and Cultural Context'' Columbia University Press
Thomas Dreher: History of Computer Art
Chap. IV.18.104.22.168: Music Videos.
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