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The Importance of the Music Video

Katy Krassner

March 8, 2022

Music videos have never been more important than they are now in the promotion and branding of an artist, but where did it all start? Katy Krassner takes us down memory lane to the moment that Video first killed the radio star in this week’s blog.

Here are some “holidays” that fall on August 1:

  • International Mahjong Day
  • Respect for Parents Day
  • National Girlfriends Day

But for many people who were teens or tweens in the early 80s, August 1 will always be the day MTV launched – and with it, propelling many artists to stardom.

Not-so-humble beginnings

The first video the station ever played was “Video Killed the Radio Star” by the Buggles (directed by Russell Mulcahy), a band who securely reside in the one-hit-wonder drawer. MTV, which stood for Music Television (I know, I know) got its start in a small studio at 515 West 57th Street in New York, and the only market it reached were households in New Jersey.  The VJs, not DJs, followed a Top 40 format in the early days, playing videos and speaking between plays. Also, much like a radio station, MTV would announce some of the videos that would be played within the hour, hooking viewers who would watch until the song they wanted to see came on.   

At the time, cable television was somewhat of a luxury, plus the channel only had about 250 videos to start with, so there wasn’t a lot of variety. In addition, some of those videos were made by bands that weren’t big names yet, but that turned out to be a stroke of good luck for many up and coming acts. For instance, Duran Duran capitalized on this new revolution by making videos for music video channels. How did the band and their label know that it was working for them? They saw huge record sales spikes in markets that carried MTV. So clearly, people were paying attention. In fact, Duran Duran later repaid the kindness MTV showed them by premiering their song/video “Union of the Snake” on MTV and not on radio, being the first band to ever do so. 

Growing pains

MTV was not without its issues though. It took them a very long time to embrace urban music of any kind, including R&B and hip hop, and many videos could never be made today because of how women were portrayed in them. On the plus side, their “Rock the Vote” campaign was very successful in getting young people to register to vote and they highlighted many topical issues in their news specials. 

Video today

MTV today is not the MTV of yore, so why is it still important for a band to invest in a music video in 2022?  There’s one huge reason and several small ones, so let’s start at the top:

YouTube. Those two little words. YouTube is the second biggest search engine next to Google, and still the biggest streaming music service worldwide, so really, why wouldn’t an artist want to put a video on YouTube? However, if you’re going to make a video, don’t phone it in. Not everyone is going to be a Spike Jonze, but there are so many ways to be clever, and so many apps to help you do it. You don’t have to be an award-winning director to make something fun that people will want to spend four minutes with. 

Another good reason to make a video is to connect with your growing audience. While watching a music video, your fans will feel like they’re part of your journey. A video is a vehicle that allows them to get to know your band better. Remember THIS video for the then-little-known band OK GO? They came up with a genius idea and people were there for it, helping them break into the mainstream. 

Another good reason to explore making a video is working with new talent. Maybe a dancer would fit into the story of your video. Maybe you have a director-friend from film school who wants to get a reel together. Maybe you have a cousin who is an animator. Working with any or all of these people will connect you to other audiences who will watch your video, and hopefully, spread the word. 

A video is also content. You can make a teaser trailer for a video. You can cut up a few scenes of your video and post it every few days to get people excited for when you post the entire thing. You can put the “making of’ on Facebook, Twitter, Insta and Tik Tok. Videos are a terrific way to build your communities.

Lastly, it’s sort of ‘en vogue”! A 2021 trend that’s still holding strong is creating videos for new songs, as well as capturing intimate looks behind-the-scenes of the recording process, with insight from the artist themselves. This trend seems to be holding steady as concerts continue to be limited or cancelled due to Covid. 

Closing scenes

If you’re planning to release songs via Play MPE, you may want to get rolling (geddit??) on a cool video to support that amazing new song you’ve recently written, and embed the video in the email sent out to recipients. You never know what will catch the eyes and ears of someone who’s searching for a band to play in a bar for a hot TV show or a prom band for their next Disney+ venture. If anything, it’s most certainly worth a shot (we did it again!)

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