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Music Video & Media Theory

Stephen Hill | Sunday September 20, 2009

Categories: Key Concepts, Music, Music Video, Theory, Misc Theory

Fig 12: The democratisation of creative technology: reinstating key conventions of moving image and sound.

The music video is a classic example of a media industry that flourished on the back of technological advance.

The proliferation of home VCR and satellite technology created a fertile environment in which the new medium flourished, eating up the spare capacity in the schedules. Indeed, when MTV was launched in 1981 it only had access to a couple of hundred videos; by the end of the Eighties the industry was producing many thousands of music videos each year.

From a Barthean perspective the music video is fascinating because it is often considered to be the ultimate post-modern text: at a basic level authenticity is manufactured in the lip-synching by the artist to a pre-recorded track.

The proliferation of cheap digital video editing software and YouTube has seen the audience take ownership of the means of production. Though this has destabilised the relationship between producers and consumers ultimately in it has reinstated some of the key conventions of the genre. For example, OK Go’s self produced treadmill sequence for ‘Here It Goes Again’ (2006) foregrounds stylistic elements that can be traced back to the MGM Musical in its syncopated dance routine.

More so than ever, the sub-cultural codes that denote particular niche markets have become central to the visual style of music videos aimed at defined communities of consumers. Multi-platform branding has seen the emergence of some very specialised markets for music video: Smash Hits TV, Q TV, Kerrang TV etc. Though budgets are more restricted than during the 1990s, music video is often considered an auteur’s medium with well-known directors like Jonas Ackerland graduating to feature film once their name is established.


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