Music videos are so 80s/90s, right? They belong with the era when MTV screened wall-to-wall vids instead of 'reality' TV? Try telling that to the millions who bought Gangnam Style; were they really simply loving the music? 1.6bn (and still climbing) have viewed the video on YT, not to mention the many re-makes (school eg, eg2), viral ads + celeb link-ups (even political protest in Seoul) - and it doesn't matter how legit it is, this nightmare for daydream Beliebers is making a lot of money, even from the parodies + dislikes. All this for a simple dance track that wouldn't have sounded out of place in 1990 ... but had a fun vid. This meme itself was soon displaced by the Harlem Shake. Music vids even cause diseases it seems!
This blog explores every aspect of this most postmodern of media formats, including other print-based promo tools used by the industry, its fast-changing nature, + how fans/audiences create/interact. Posts are primarily written with Media students/educators in mind. Please acknowledge the blog author if using any resources from this blog - Mr Dave Burrowes

Friday, 28 September 2012

YTs most Liked vid: Gangnam Style

You'll likely have heard about this - the music video from South Korea's Psy (Park Jae-sang) of Gangnam Style has become the liked video on YouTube. Here's an interesting take on the crass stereotypes it seems to reinforce - at least as Western audiences are reading the text:

Here's the video itself:

(The article is copied in below - click 'read more'...)

What's so funny about Gangnam Style?

The South Korean pop video taking the internet by storm does little to overturn tired stereotypes of east Asian men
The world is currently in thrall to a fat Korean Psycho who is spouting anti-capitalist messages and blowing things up. Ordinarily America would be up in arms, but its defence forces are too busy learning the horse-dance and chorusing "Heeey sexy lady" to properly react. Shots have been fired, lifeguards have been fired, but Gangnam Style fever continues unabated: the music video has had more than 262m views on YouTube and made history as the most liked video ever.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Piracy: Google caves to pressure?

here's news of Google bowing to pressure from Hollywood and the music industry to effectively hide search results from certain download sites.

Femen: radical feminist protest movement

I raise this as a potentially useful concept to include in your consideration of representation issues. This is a feminist protest group that is using nudity to protest at the sexist, misogynistic patriarchy that they believe dominates global culture.

Its pertinent to analysis of music videos and slasher films as each feature near-nudity or nudity frequently, with artists such as Madonna, Rihanna and Lady Gaga clearly trading on their bodies and sexual appeal ... BUT claiming (as post-feminists would argue) to be strong women in control and expressing themselves, rather than victims of the male gaze. The slasher movie is often criticised for its wide use of female nudity, though these feminist campaigners are partly making the point that women have long been encouraged to feel ashamed of their bodies - can a seemingly sexist genre really be reclaimed as a positive expression of female liberation?!

The starkly contrasting ways in which traditional feminists and post-feminists (who believe that equality of the sexes has been achieved, so its outmoded to perceive women as victims of a male-dominated culture, or patriarchal society) read media texts is certainly something for you to consider when analysing your own work as well as existing media texts.

NB: the web page contains a topless image, so if you do follow the link take care not to do so in a school setting or around younger siblings. I've copied in the full article below so you needn't do so!

In a chaotic and crumbling former public washhouse in a rundown district of northern Paris, Inna Shevchenko was explaining how a large leather punchbag hanging from the rafters might be used by the foot soldiers of a new generation of feminists.
As she prepared to welcome recruits to the Ukrainian-based feminist group Femen's first "international training camp", it was clear that the instruction would not be all ideological. The talk was of "war", "soldiers", "terrorism" and "enemies". Was it not curious, one French journalist asked, that Inna and her warriors had adopted the language of combat, traditionally a male domain, to describe their mission?
Was it not also inconsistent, another asked, that the new feminists were using nakedness to rail against female exploitation? In a week that had seen the banning of photographs of a topless Duchess of Cambridge, it was certainly topical.
"Ah, but we have a different idea; we are talking about peaceful war, peaceful terrorism," Inna said. "We are taking off our clothes so people can see that we have no weapons except our bodies. It's a powerful way to fight in a man's world. We live with men's domination and this is the only way to provoke them, the only way to get attention.
"We don't hide our bodies, we don't hide our faces, we confront our enemies face to face. We look them in the eyes and we have to be well prepared physically for that."
There was, she explained patiently, no contradiction in going topless or naked to protest against what they view as the three main evils of a global "patriarchal society": sexual exploitation, dictatorship and religion. Protesting naked, as Femen's slogans insist, is liberté, a reappropriation of their own bodies as opposed to pornography or snatched photographs which are exploitation.
On a less intellectual level, taking their clothes off ensures a lot of publicity.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Vids from today's lesson

We looked at Megadeth's Peace Sells, with its ultra-fast paced editing style (to the point of looking like flashing lights - we also mentioned there are regulations on this due to issues around epilepsy) and its deconstruction of the classic/cliched vocalist shots, using an ECU of the singer's mouth alone. Also Daft Punk's Da Funk (from the mind of director Spike Jonze) which is an extreme example of the use of diegetic sound - continuously (we also noted the use of narrative enigma initially, not instantly revealing the dog's head).
Iron Maiden's Can I Play With Madness was another example of TV (or computer/phone) screens being used within the narrative/concept footage to present performance footage, rather than crosscutting between the two.
New Order's True Faith also features this, and is a good example of a concept video: there is no direct tie to the lyrics, but there is a coherent narrative nonetheless.
Weezer's Buddy Holly (Spike Jonze's trademark style again) is a great example of a postmodern text, with multiple layers of intertextuality - and a good example of why French postmodern philosopher Jean Pierre Baudrillard argues there is no coherent reality; everything is a signifier of a signifier in an endless trail with no ultimate true or definable reality. We see a 70/80s US sitcom set in the 50s featuring Weezer through the magic of green screen technology! [Wiki on this vid]

New Order - True Faith by hushhush112

Monday, 17 September 2012

Directors Challenge

Chris Cunningham. Michel Gondry. Spike Jonze. Anton Corbijn.
We have these 3 DVDs + work by Corbijn
Just 4 of the many video directors who have developed a distinctive individual style, leading some to label them as auteurs. The latter 3 have all directed successful feature films too - its a common route into the film business (remember that both Warp and WT emerged from music video producers deciding to take it a step on).

[2012 selections: Andy: Gondry; Will: Jonze; Tom: Cunningham]

Before you start to firm up ideas for your own videos, you should spend some time exploring the distinctive media language employed by some of these music video auteurs, and see if you can find some inspiration. One of the most successful IGS Media productions to date was the Joy Division video (here's one of their blogs, JH's) which was strongly influenced by the visual style of Anton Corbijn, a good example of how individual creativity can be bolstered with influences. Postmodern theorists would argue that any original idea is in any case impossible: everything is intertextual, every idea merely a remixing of existing ideas and expressions.

So, your task is to:
Chris Cunningham's style comes across loud + clear
  1. Identify a particular director with a clear visual style that you can research
  2. View a good number of their videos and use screenshots from these plus any additional research to summarise their style
  3. Having blogged on this, prepare a pitch for a class project, where a short section of a whole music video (at least 30 seconds) will be produced ... in the style of that director. You need to identify a track for this and in your pitch make it very clear which aspects of this director's style you propose to use. Remember that a pitch is a competitive process; you need to provide reasons why your classmates would want to work on your idea
  4. Having picked one of these to work on, plan this in detail so that you end with storyboards, a shotlist and full details of which cast member/s are required for each shot. Use the appropriate templates to do this.
  5. With casting and shots arranged, and every aspect of mise-en-scene (including costume, props, locations etc) arranged, shoot your footage.
  6. Using the expertise of whoever's pitch won out, each then individually upload and edit your own version, making notes as you go on how you're reflecting this director's signature style.
  7. You can use this opportunity to have a go with Final Cut Pro X.
  8. Blog on your learning as you go
You can find links lists on some big names in this blog, and could search for posts on each within the blog too - here's just 2 egs on Corbijn: and

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

MVid eg notes template

This is a simple table, you could always design your own. The point is to keep a record of your observations - not on scattered pieces of paper or even blog posts, but in one place where you can begin to see patterns, and can refer back speedily months later when you can't quite remember the name of that track where that useful shot example was...

By the time you're finished the A2 coursework you will have examined dozens of MVids (+ d'paks + ads). Again, create a database/spreadsheet if you prefer, but you will need to be able to reference multiple examples of observable format and genre  conventions, tied into points on audience/s and industry/economics as well. It is unlikely you will remember every detail you've blogged on, or made a written note on.

Maintaining a good, detailed record will not only make R+P posts easier but also the Evaluation and the exam (Media Language in YOUR productions is one of the concepts you may be asked to analyse in Q1b).

Its worth printing off a few copies of this simple doc to keep and add notes to at random times: sat in front of the TV, or even in class when not at a computer. You can blog or type up these notes at your convenience then, but will at least know where to find them.

You will immediately need a good list of specific egs for the vodcast on general codes and conventions of the music video format. This is NOT tied to a specific genre at this stage - and remember that any such list of common conventions almost certainly will contain contradictory points, as some things common to some genres will not be seen in others.

Common MVid Cs and Cs

Remember, you can design your own - and before printing off you should really change/delete some of the blurb at the top of the sheet (adding your name is also a good idea!).

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Streaming album for publicity: The xx

Attempting to echo the viral style in which they broke through to mainstream success, the xx chose to offer free streaming of their new album to help publicise its release, linking this into a graphic global map that added points of light everytime it was streamed. Fans soon launched a campaign to light the entire globe by getting someone in every country on earth to stream it.

This is a clever response to the challenge of digitisation, though a risky one - before digitisation buying an album was generally a risk, as you wouldn't have heard much of it before purchase. Now, you may be able to stream it, you'll often get snippets of each track on Amazon, or you could illegally download it via BitTorrent or some equivalent as soon as someone rips the CD and uploads the tracks.

What is also interesting here is the implication for the 'release date':
Music downloading and social media have made the pre-release album stream an integral part of the modern music marketing scheme, and Beggars Group hoped the visualization would draw attention to the physical release date.
"It's really hard to focus people on a release date – it's almost like the release date has become something that's become an adjunct to the whole campaign," said Farrell. "Even though for most bands and from the label perspective, it's the most important date because the record's available for sale everywhere."

Here's the full article:

How the xx shared their new album Coexist by releasing it to just one fan

Superfan in London given album to share online before its official release – and snowball effect causes host site to crash
The xx, Shepherd's Bush Empire
The xx: going viral. Photograph: Jim Dyson/Redferns/Getty Images
To recreate the word-of-mouth phenomenon that made them famous, the xx shared their album stream Coexist with a single fan just outside London last week – days before its official US release.
It was a risky marketing move that set out to test whether the band could replicate their initial viral success with a map that tracked shares with a visualization on the Coexist stream's host site.
Twenty-four hours after the stream was shared with a fan on Facebook, the site crashed from the millions of streams, with the average user spending 2.1 hours on the site.
"From a statistical perspective, it's one of the most significant album premieres we've ever done," said Adam Farrell, vice-president of marketing at Beggars Group, which owns the Young Turks label on which the xx's records is released.
Farrell said the xx were instantly able to determine the superfan who would first receive word of the stream due to their frequent postings on xx-related social media.
"The fan was the only one listening to it for an hour or so. It seems like they were hogging it for a bit," Farrell said.
Once the superfan finally released the stream, it spread quickly among the xx's online community, avoiding the eyes of music blogs until the next day, when media outlets finally got hold of it.
"What we saw on the first album was a real word-of-mouth phenomenon we had never seen before," said Farrell.
To promote the xx's second album Coexist, the label had to find a way to inspire the same sort of virality that greeted the band's eponymous debut. Beggars Group then entered talks with tech companies, and Microsoft agreed to create the visualization, which was inspired by Aaron Koblin's visualization of flight patterns in the US.
The stream's visualization prompts a burst of lines as the album is distributed across the globe, cascading from its origin to the opposite ends of oceans, where it then radiates to another point on the map.
Music downloading and social media have made the pre-release album stream an integral part of the modern music marketing scheme, and Beggars Group hoped the visualization would draw attention to the physical release date.
"It's really hard to focus people on a release date – it's almost like the release date has become something that's become an adjunct to the whole campaign," said Farrell. "Even though for most bands and from the label perspective, it's the most important date because the record's available for sale everywhere."
Coexist's release was one of Beggars Group's biggest album premieres. The group – which owns and distributes several other labels – counts Vampire Weekend and Jack White among their clientele.
A day before the album's official US release, the viral move made it to the homepage of Reddit, where fans motivated by the visualization initiated a campaign to get the album spread in each country of the globe.
Despite its success, Farrell doesn't plan on replicating this visualization site for other bands: he says he finds it especially suited to the sensibilities of the xx.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Postmodern intertextuality: Robert Palmer

I've seen this referenced in The Simpsons too, and many other shows/vids too - its sufficiently widely used to be described as a meme (a widely referenced cultural event, text or idea); as Andy used it as an example, here's how the intertextuality works in Bowling For Soup's 1985 video.

Wheatus, Blink 182, Weezer and similar pop-punk or alt-rock bands have all created postmodern videos centred on ironic intertextuality with classic TV shows or stereotypical depictions of a past time period with a modern twist.

Bowling For Soup appear to mock the casual sexism of the original video (from around 0:35 in):

They dress up as the glamourous models, the obvious humour ensuring they can maintain a macho, laddish image despite appearing in drag.

In a rather more ambiguous (or polysemic) style, the distributors of WT hit rom-com, Richard Curtis' Love Actually, created a chart hit with Bill Nighy in his fictional role singing Christmas is All Around. Is it simply sexist, or is is ironic and mocking sexism?

The reading of the original, from 1985 as the Bowling For Soup song title suggests, isn't necessarily that straightforward either. If it was intended simply to identify Robert Palmer with glamour and sex appeal, then it appears utterly preposterous to the contemporary viewer - but that doesn't necessarily reflect typical audience (especially youth) reaction when it was originally released. There are lots of shots of Palmer smiling (or smirking? again, its polysemic) - is he meant to be in on the joke ... is his original video actually sending up/pastiching the ever-increasing use of attractive models we saw with mid-80s pop videos? Or is it simply a crudely sexist video bluntly objectifying women, with its shots, for example, of legs in isolation?
Your take on this may well be dictated by your age!

Bands like BFSoup and Weezer didn't invent such explicit interextuality - the music video has always borrowed liberally from other media and from earlier music videos. Weird Al Yankovic has made a successful career out of lampooning hit songs, such as 1988's Michael Jackson spoof, Fat:

Remember, we saw similar traits from films too last year, eg: Psycho's Sam Loomis referenced through Halloween's Dr Loomis and then both through Scream's Billy Loomis.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Lego vid: Joy Division

This would be no easy path or shortcut to a music vid of your own, but may be of interest - and in any case, is another example of how UGC (user-generated content, or fan-made videos) acts as viral marketing for archive material; the fact that this isn't an official vid actually makes it more legitimate to mahy, as its not directly tied into record company profit-making. Many people will watch it and be introduced to Joy Division for the first time - part of your secondary audience for a vid made for a back catalogue track will likewise be new fans.

This next example is something of a curiosity: a 5-year old death metal vocalist, as publicised by Terrorizer magazine:

Sunday, 2 September 2012

How bands make money today

Rolling Stone magazine has a good 9-part list with examples: - the example below is on perfume!
I've blogged plentiful examples about this topic, which is important to grasp as a part of audience, institution and digitisation.

Justin Bieber/Girlfriend
James Devaney/WireImage; Courtesy of Elizabeth Arden
Everyone wants to smell like the Biebs – which is why Justin Bieber's women's fragrance, Someday, netted $3 million in its first three weeks this summer. According to Jo Piazza's book Celebrity Inc., A-listers can haul in between $3 million and $5 million up front, plus five to 10 percent of sales, by licensing their name to a fragrance. Beyonce, Britney Spears and Jennifer Lopez are among the other stars whose scents have raked in tens of millions in recent years.
Potential payday: $5 million or more for a hot star like Bieber
Downsides: Loss of cred. Before launching his 222 fragrance in May, Maroon 5's Adam Levine hemmed and hawed to People: "I know there's a stigma attached to it, a stigma that I fully understand because I, too, hate the idea of a celebrity fragrance, absolutely, 100 per cent. [But] I kind of thought to myself, 'Well, I'm interested in fashion and there's a lot of things about it that could be really cool if done properly.'"


Sigur Ros short film vids

Sigur Ros set up a competition, and gave some filmmakers 'modest' budgets to make short films using a track from their latest album, one of many examples of the forms of short film and music video colliding. You can read more, and view one of these (including Shia LeBoeuf) at, though please note that the video contains frontal nudity.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Trent Reznor on digitisation's impact

[17.9.12: added further quotes from David Byrne (Talking Heads) article at the bottom, which raise the pyschological impact of music consumption and fandom]
This is a lengthy excerpt from a 2012 interview - NB: including some crude language - but one that's well worth perservering with. You should be able to find some great quotes that will help you to discuss the impact and effects of digitisation, and how the music biz has been transformed, with the album-centred financial model replaced by a mix of online (from Spotify, YouTube etc micropayments to pay-what-you-want offers to the increasingly central role of concert tickets and merchandise) and concert/merchandise revenue.
Full interview at

JP: And I’m wondering, what drove that decision? I certainly have my own opinions, but I’m no artist, you are. You make culture, and the rest of us are the ones that are lucky enough to hear it and make it mean something to us, so: Why did you choose to leave the infrastructure and the machine that allowed you to get to the point that you’re at where you could do the things that you’re doing?
TR: Well [pauses], that time would’ve been about two thousand…eight-ish, somewhere in that neighborhood, and, the true reality of that situation was: the record deal that we had signed years and years before had escalating advances based on the current state of the industry when that was negotiated. Meanwhile, the industry has collapsed,