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

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Mag Ads - Basic Research Tips

This builds on the mag ad post from the top links list, plus the links list (look down the right-hand side), + various posts added since I last updated the mag ad post.
Scroll to end for an example of publisher info on a mag's audience.

1: You must have a clear, specific primary (and differentiated secondary) audience in mind. This should incorporate not just age range/s, but also gender, sexuality and any other relevant demographics/lifestyle factors
2: Research what UK magazines there are. You're looking for any genre-related titles, but also any more general titles that reflect your target audience/s. Consider which would be appropriate for primary and secondary audiences separately.
3: Use publisher sites or magazine sites to find descriptions of their readership; most provide detail on this (age range, social class, gender and lifestyle descriptors) as otherwise advertisers - including YOU!!! - wouldn't have confidence in spending money on placing ads which might not match up to that readership.
4: Try a hands-on browse in a WH Smith or equivalent!
5: Blog on your findings, making it clear which titles you'll target your primary and secondary audiences in and why you feel these are the most appropriate. Such evidence is useful for the Evaluation, but 'audience' is a key part of the R+P marks. If you do a vodcast, you can re-use this in your Evaluation.
Finding publishers' guides is easy!
6: Now research ad conventions. You must look at a reasonable number of egs and sum up what you've seen. Digipak ads ideally, but general album ads are also useful. You should note the growing prominence of tour dates, merchandise links, and social media links on such ads, being specific in your notes on what logos are used, how URLs are presented (do you still see/need the 'www.' in 2014?)
7: Sum up any specific IDEAS you've taken from this research, especially if you've found examples for your artist. You could also usefully list which conventions you aim to reflect.
8. Start blogging on your ideas, including basic dummy/mock-ups of these where possible (ie, adding a block with only 'tour dates' inside, or a box with 'CD track listing', but not actual details at this point), and highlighting images taken as part of this
9. Post drafts. Number these. Its vital you include somewhere clear and specific detail on how you think this will appeal to your particular target audience/s. Audience feedback needs to accompany each draft, with a summary of your response - remember, this is the topic of 1 of the 4 Eval Qs.
10. Links lists and proofreading: add relevant links lists, and simply check that you're happy each post is tidy, clear and multimedia (and that the published dates are appropriate/helpful).

You need the media kit...

Mags need to have a clearly defined audience; advertisers (YOU!) need to know what sort of reader they can reach before spending money.

Take 2 simple examples: Glamour and Now magazines. I googled 'glamour uk magazine publisher' (without the UK, I was taken to the US site) and clicked through on the UK link (see screenshot above).

I clicked through the 'download media kit' - this is what they provide for advertising agencies, breaking down precisely who reads their magazine: see screenshot, left.

Here's a snippet from that 'media kit':

I also did a quick search for Now's publisher, which turned out to be IPC Media. Their website has a dropdown list of all their titles (as most do), which provided an idea to consider Nuts for a small (quarter page) ad targeting a secondary male audience for a girl band.

Here's a snippet of what they tell us:

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Miley Cyrus v Lily Allen: binary opposites?

I'll return to this with more links/points later, but for now consider these two seemingly sharply divergent representations of gender and sexuality (Allen has faced considerable flak too) in these two much-discussed vids (part of a contemporary, 2013 triumverate of controversy with Robin Thicke's Blurred Lines [previously blogged on]):
NB: Cyrus' video for Wrecking Ball contains sexual content, while Allen's Hard Out Here contains strong language (and has been accused of racism)


We could view one as reflective of post-feminist attitudes, the other more traditionally feminist, but its worth noting too such debates take place in many different forms - and with more serious consequences elsewhere. The Femen movement have achieved a high profile in a short space of time, with tactics criticised by others who would label themselves feminists too: appearing topless with slogans scrawled over their bodies. Femen have been active in many countries, but notably Ukraine and Russia - in the latter the travails of Pussy Riot, feminist Russian punks, are well documented in the BBC Storyville film.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Twitter: Adding live feed to your blog

Once you've accessed the code from your own Twitter page its simple...
The process is the same is it is for adding your track as a clickable (for example) DivShare embed: you get the required embed code (in this case from your own Twitter account page), Layout - Add a Gadget - Add HTML/Javascript.
If you need further help with this, use's guide or ... a Mumsnet guide!!!

Monday, 25 November 2013

Interactive videos - Dylan, Queens of Stone Age etc

There are screenshots/links below to several egs of interactive vids: QoTSA, Death Grips, Bob Dylan etc
Writing in The Guardian's Music Blog, Harriet Gibsone reports on a new phenomenon, one which takes the postmodern/web 2.0 notion I often raise, the blurring (at least) of the producer/audience divide, on to a new level:
His video for Subterranean Homesick Blues may have unwittingly pre-empted the lyric video by 50 years, but Bob Dylan's telly-hopping interactive video looks like it could be another first of a kind.
With Like a Rolling Stone as its soundbed, the player allows its audience to flick through a range of fake television channels, each of which features different characters lip-synching the words to the 1965 classic. "I'm using the medium of television to look back right at us," director Vania Heymann told Mashable.
While Dylan's new video feels like an inventive way to breathe new life into an old tune, other artists are using the format to make a quick online buzz: in the past week alone we've seen interactive videos from Queens of the Stone Age, who are at the end of their album campaign, and Bombay Bicycle Club, who happen to be at the very start.
Here's a screenshot from the Dylan site, where I've 'switched channels' to a shopping channel:

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Football club use Pussycat Dolls linkup for PR

A novel example of the diversification of the music industry, and also a good illustration of how you can continually pick up useful snippets from diverse sources ... in this case the football section of The Guardian!
[article link]

The club is Yeovil Town, who:
are bottom of English football's second tier but will be the first football club to have a girl group and the plan is for the band – to be based on the Pussycat Dolls – to perform at home matches for the rest of the 2013-14 season.
Auditions for females aged 18 and over will be held at Huish Park on 4 December and the successful girls, a lead singer and a group of south west-based dancers, will work with The Famous Company to record a single that will be released on iTunes. The record will raise money for Prostate Cancer UK – the Football League's official charity.
As it happens I've recently blogged several times on the use of social media and viral campaigns - well, here's yet another example where these take centre stage.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Inside: Hollywood blurring audience/producer; are YOU?

'Social film': blurring audience/ad/producer divide
In time, we'll consider various web 2.0 theories that typically argue that the contemporary, highly interactive (as opposed to top-down, one way) web is seeing the traditional dividing line between audience/consumer and producer wither away. Concepts such as UGC (user-generated content) and fan-made videos (a key revenue source for YouTube and record labels, through the advertising attached to these) have become very mainstream. Viral campaigns also present ads as fictional or reality texts (including music videos, not just film/'reality' clips).

The fiasco of Snakes on a Plane showed that democratising and outsourcing creative work to an audience (in that case in an effort to create money-spinning buzz and awareness) can be a disaster, but we will most certainly see more and more of this. I've blogged elsewhere about examples of film production company Working Title's slick marketing campaign for films such as Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, which used online (spy-style) puzzles as part of multimedia campaign spanning supermarkets, posters and other such traditional fare with social media elements.

If you watch the short video below (3mins), ask yourself where the line is drawn here between audience and producer, and film and advertising (the title meshes with Intel's slogan, Intel inside), with the audience given chances to appear in the film and shape the script, whilst the blogs and other online videos and guides that sprang became part of the meta-text (a postmodern theory term).

Then ask yourself what use YOU are making of social media for producing your work. Have YOU used social media for...
  • casting?
  • initial genre/audience research through fan forums?
  • generating pre-release buzz through a company blog/FB/Twitter/Instagram (etc!)?
  • gaining audience feedback through any of the above (and YouTube/Vimeo of course)?
  • used tagging/labels in Blogger/YouTube etc to attract more hits to help with the above?
  • tried YouTube video responses/messages/comments to link to other film/video-makers?
  • designed a viral-style campaign element which helps to involve an audience and increase publicity/awareness?
  • generated and used a QR code as part of this?
  • generally considered options for direct audience involvement in/influence on your production?

This is the film Inside, which is itself a good example of the viral methods used by conglomerates these days to get through to ad-weary and wary consumers (Toshiba and Intel were behind this movie): IMDB, Wiki, links to their FB/website etc are in this article. They coined the term 'social film' for this approach.

DPAK sabotaged covers (Chris Brown, Paris Hilton etc)

Just as you could (and should) think up a simple single-take vid (as seen with Pixies, U2 and many more), you could also produce a 2nd d'pak outer cover, using the sabotage approach taken over covers for Chris Brown, Paris Hilton etc albums. This brief article outlines the history:

Chris Brown's albums sabotaged with protest stickers

Goodwin 6 key aspects of music vids

I'm taking this from (always acknowledge your sources).

Andrew Goodwin writing in ‘Dancing in the Distraction Factory’ (Routledge 1992)
  1. Music videos demonstrate genre characteristics (e.g. stage performance in metal video, dance routine for boy/girl band).
  2. There is a relationship between lyrics and visuals (either illustrative, amplifying, contradicting).
  3. There is a relationship between music and visuals (either illustrative, amplifying, contradicting).
  4. The demands of the record label will include the need for lots of close ups of the artist and the artist may develop motifs which recur across their work (a visual style).
  5. There is frequently reference to notion of looking (screens within screens, telescopes, etc) and particularly voyeuristic treatment of the female body.
  6. There is often intertextual reference (to films, tv programmes, other music videos etc).

Sony CEO: Social Media drives music biz today

Sony's CEO says in an interview for the CBI's magazine that One Direction have shown him that social ('new) media are now more important than the traditional ('old') media. Sony used UGC, such as fan campaigns to get One Direction to play a gig near them ("Bring 1D To Me"), to build up buzz and a following for One Direction before any material was released to radio stations, traditionally the key to breaking any band.
Gatfield says this has completely changed the dynamic of launching an act, enabling music companies to bypass the traditional radio-station gatekeepers.
“Traditionally you’d have to persuade radio to support it and there’d be a long, hard slog while you built up the support and marketed them on the back of airplay,” he says. “This is the other way round: you market them and then airplay is the accelerator.”
He goes so far as to say that Sony wouldn't now consider signing a band that didn't already have social media profiles up and running.

Article Source.

One Direction: Social media made them a global phenomenon, says Sony CEO

One Direction have become a $50m business thanks to their army of fans across the world - and this is just the start, according to Nick Gatfield

One Direction
This article appeared in the December edition of Business Voice, the CBI magazine
'Their live business is through the roof. I haven’t seen anything this big in my entire career on a global level.'
- Nick Gatfield
To understand the transformative effect of social media on how music labels market their acts, look no further than the success of One Direction.
The boy band, who are signed to the Syco label, came third in The X-Factor TV show in 2010. Since then they have won a Brit award recognising their worldwide success and become a $50m business – with Sony Music UK CEO and chairman Nick Gatfield predicting that this will double in 2013.

Nick Gatfield: X-Factor made us complacent >>

“They are a global phenomenon,” he says. “Their live business is through the roof. I haven’t seen anything this big in my entire career on a global level.
"You can get that kind of explosive moment if you galvanise young music fans and find something they want to engage with – it goes worldwide incredibly quickly. That’s the beauty of social media and the internet: we sign locally but we market globally from day one. That’s a fundamental change in our business.”
By acting on pockets of support for the band that emerged online in places from Sweden and Italy to Australia and Canada, the company built support for the band before they’d had any airtime on the radio. This was particularly important in the US – an impossible nut to crack for British pop bands for more than 20 years.
Sony Music’s US division picked up on a campaign called “Bring 1D to me”, originally developed in the UK, which encouraged fans to pitch for the band 
to play in their area. As a result, What Makes You Beautiful, their first single available to buy on iTunes in the US, sold 130,000 copies in a week and entered the top ten without any airplay.
Gatfield says this has completely changed the dynamic of launching an act, enabling music companies to bypass the traditional radio-station gatekeepers.
“Traditionally you’d have to persuade radio to support it and there’d be a long, hard slog while you built up the support and marketed them on the back of airplay,” he says. “This is the other way round: you market them and then airplay is the accelerator.”
He adds that he would be loathe to sign an act that had no social media profile. “All that would say to me was that they hadn’t got sufficient wherewithal or drive.”

DIGIPAK initial research task

You will need to add details of more specifically genre-related examples (for all 3 texts you initially research then summarize the general format conventions THEN the (sub-)genre specific conventions), but this task has worked very well in the past to get a flying start on research into the general conventions of the media format of 'digipaks', one of the two ancillary (ie, supporting) texts you produce as part of an integrated package.
Time is limited on this task, so you need to be swift!

  1. Set up a new Word doc in landscape layout, not the default portrait, along the lines of the example I've embedded below.
  2. Pick one of the commercial examples provided (Spice Girls, Britney, Ignacio, + a dummy from a digipak designer/manufacturer). Comprehensively note the features of this. Once done, share notes among the three so that you've already got 3 examples. If you can add notes on at least two more general examples, that will enable you to summarize the main codes + conventions. You must look at the small details (logos, text incl. copyright blurbs, etc) too..
  3. Now look at the past examples provided + note any good ideas you see.
  4. Now explore the MusiVidz blog for past posts related to digipaks and see what further info you can find, for example on examples of digipak packages.
  5. Reflect your learning so far in a post titled DIGIPAK initial research, starting it with the digipak task as described by the exam board (in bold + diff colour + applying quote tool), with the 3-part basic markscheme [UofT, UofE, EAA] + more detailed assessment criteria below this.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

In the Thicke of it: Robin women of dignity?

More news of Robin Thicke's now notorious (but big-selling) Blurred Lines being banned by over 20 UK universities, it being seen to fall foul of anti-rape/sexual abuse policies.

Thicke has made some wildly divergent statements on the track and accompanying controversy, appearing to welcome and revel in it at times, and declaring himself a proud old-school sexist ... but at other points he's struck a very different note:
Thicke has defended the song, telling one interviewer: "If you listen to the lyrics, it says 'That man is not your maker' – it's actually a feminist movement within itself."
In October, he told Radio 1 the song had been misunderstood. "I don't think people got it out here [in the UK] in those positions of power," he told Newsbeat. "I think the kids get it … I just have to deal with that."
Is Robin Thicke a feminist?!

Perhaps a more interesting question: to what extent should we differentiate between the likes of Wrecking Ball (or Miley Cyrus' on-stage twerking) and Blurred Lines? Is Sinead O'Connor's contention that many young female performers lose authorship of their work, becoming mere puppets for male managers and record executives, a valid one? Is a model sexually posed/objectified in a male artist's video in any regard inferior or superior to a female artist doing likewise in her own video?

DIGIPAK: album covers

Created using random Wikis, Flickrs etc!
There are plenty of past posts on digipaks to look up - and I'm half way through tagging the 500-odd posts on this post to make these easier to find (using the tag cloud or a search; there are also links within the blog's top, vertical links list...)

But here's another nice resource I've come across, from the chief examiner of OCR Media Studies; @ Pete's Media Blog (why not subscribe/follow?!) he blogged on album covers ... A really nice demonstration of how quickly an album cover can be assembled, the example pictured was created using his 5 random steps method...

He also discusses the decline of album sales (as have I several times), and includes this rather useful link: is a site well worth visiting, especially if you're of the generation more used to downloads/streams than physical media (tapes, vinyl, CDs).

Speaking of which, if I can rescue them from a shed in Huddersfield, I'll put up some pics of the vinyl that I picked up back in the day, when gazing lovingly at an album/single cover was a fairly normal thing to do!

Thursday, 7 November 2013

2Pac Loser Radiohead mashup

I'm not going to say anything about this, bar - I defy you not to be gripped by the (essentially) lo-fi FX, framing being the key as much as CGI in this mash-up of Beck and 2Pac...

I came across this via a FB'd link from; the link features further contextual info..

Monday, 4 November 2013

YouTube Music Awards signify YT as industry king?

(or indeed queen!)
Can YouTube create live content that inspires watercooler zeitgeist moments like television? Google’s giving it a shot with the YouTube Music Awards, a celebration of do-it-yourself Internet culture livestreaming on YouTube right now. It’s chaotic, innovative, offensive, silly, and downright weird. But one thing’s for sure. You won’t see this on TV.  (all quotes from TechCrunch live blog)
The fact that I heard about this on Radio 4, highbrow + 'high culture' station, certainly reinforces the impression that this event is seen as highly significant. Their media correspondent (530am bulletin, 4.11.13) was clear that YouTube now leads the music industry, its position as leading source of streamed material just one string to its bow. I've blogged on YouTube and its rise, expanding beyond its original format on the way, many times - click on the tag cloud (bottom right of the blog) to find out more.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

DANCE EG: Fragma - You Are Alive (2001, Ger)

1st shot: an Ibiza link perhaps?
Fragma -

Dir: unknown, 2001.



For me, one of the worst promos I've ever seen, though it is very professionally produced with strong cinematography. There is little going on bar the incessant objectification of the vocalist, who we often see running, Baywatch slo-mo style, or dousing herself on the beach wearing sheer clothing, plus the 'exotic' (depending on the viewer of course) setting - which seems utterly incongruous for the track. Also features an attempt to eroticize fruit! We follow the singer through a village, though this is a world away from The Verve video which tracks the singer walking along; our location here is left polysemic, as if anchorage might detract from its exotic 'otherness'. The track itself features a ridiculously long fade-out: 20 seconds!!!
I make some comparisons below to Bond movies and a Lta Ford video....

The cinematography is sharp; variable focus is used to good effect, a particularly suitable diegetic 'effect' given the musical genre

DANCE EG: Tata Young - I Believe (2004, Thai)

1st shot: walking towards lense, stays in MS. Semi-revealing costume
Tata Young -

Dir: unknown, 2004.


The track is dull and tedious, and it gets the video it deserves! Its all proficiently done - the green-screened CGI is fairly impressive, the dance routines are slickly choreographed, the male performers are suitably tight-lipped and moody, the shirtless male provides eye candy for a female gaze/audience, a wind machine adds that dramatising touch, some aerial shots are set up well.

Nonetheless, it suffers from a lack of shot variety; the studio setup and the cliched basic romance setup both fail to hold the attention. Britney Spears shot to fame by fusing signifiers of innocence and sexuality in a polysemic promo that be read as raunch or innocent; this video appears to be attempting a comparable blend, less successfully blending these binaries - although this Western-centric reading may be misinterpreting Thai cultural signifiers.

It is worth working through all the screenshots for the final shot, which is beautifully lit and very well executed.

For quite some time we crosscut between this shot (graphics colour changes) and that below

DANCE EG: T-Funk feat Katie Underwood - Be Together (2006)

Mise-en-scene is used effectively throughout
T-Funk feat Katie Underwood -

Dir: unknown, 2006.



A basic, single location video lacking SFX, centred on a powerful female protagonist (the singer), tho' framing focussed on dancers' busts seems dubious. Despite the simplicity, the unusually frequent cutting to the beat, effective use of all the possibilities of the single location, and a strong performance from the singer make this a successful production likely to boost the appeal of the track.

Polysemy is initially retained
This is a word I'll use many times in discussing this basically effective vid: simple. A simple example of narrative enigma: we fade up and tilt up to slowly reveal part of a face in CU, with half the frame given over to the mise-en-scene. It takes several shots to fully anchor the club setting, let alone the narrative of a woman setting out to pick a man. The ear-rings, hair styling and heavy make-up are also notable, so too the direct gaze which quickly emerges as a feature of this vid.

DANCE EG: NG3 - The Anthem (2003); post-feminist?

Costume and lack of 'big hair' denote accessible; aud can identify with?
NG3 -

Dir: unknown, 2003.


A simple video with a linear narrative, using movie signifiers (especially titles). Lyrically centred on women
Filmic titles are used
standing up to men and demanding respect, it can be read as hypocritical or assertive depending on whether or not you buy into the post-feminist position. Key to it, either way, is that the performers costume and appearance ensures that young F viewers could identify with the trio.

1ST SHOT (see screenshot above):
Fade up into a simple ML 3-shot, cut to the 1st beat of the track. The location is a 'grand' hall, but the 3 F performers are fairly plain in terms of clothing (leisure/sports wear) and general appearance - hair tied back rather than scaffolded using enough hairspray to euthanize the ozone layer.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

DANCE EG: 2 Brothers on the 4th Floor (1996)

(Click pic to enlarge) These screenshots provide a sense of this act's approach

Dir: Arcade Creative, 1996.
Eurodance/Happy hardcore (Dutch).
Lyrics. Wiki. Videography (, YT Channel.

NB: Dance music is a genre I have some familiarity with, but lack a broad enough knowledge to be picking up on intertextual links with other dance vids; if you spot any, let me know via a comment below. At the end of this post I've also added a couple of pointers on how to go about blogging on a single track.

1ST SHOT contains many key characteristics of the vid
  • CGI is very evident; very sophisticated at points, fairly simplistic (intentionally low-tech/non-realism?) at others.
  • Playful, surreal and offbeat (visual at times) humour, with characters that could be in a David Lynch movie; there is no coherent narrative (beyond getting off a bus, walking, and re-boarding). Pomo playfulness, aka deconstructionism, is evident, eg revealing the daft fake moustache.
  • Interesting gender countertypes with the male a mostly decorative, passive presence; also notable that overt sexuality (clothing, framing/shot selection, dance moves) largely absent.
  • Cinematography has an Anton Corbijn feel: monochrome with occasionally oblique angles and framing. Panning and tracking are common, but vertical movement is limited, with smooth, steadicam action (and no zooms). Also signifiers of Soviet realism through lighting, framing, angle, subject choice and facial expression?
  • Editing pace isn’t frantic but still zips along, with no take more than a few seconds, and increased pace/cutting to the beat for only short periods in the track. Cross-fades are common.
  • Diegetic intro and outro.
  • Lipsynched MCU 2-shots are dominant, but there is considerable cross-cutting between these and non-lipsynched 2-shots, plus other characters and even CGI creatures and a vortex; successful in shot variety terms despite the simplicity of the setup.

1ST SHOT (see screenshot above):
Diegetic intro: ELS of bus, rapid editing (ellipsis to ensure this isn’t a slow start) + good shot variety; beach setting; narrative enigma: where is this/who’s getting off bus?; surrealism – bus on beach!; monochrome/B+W

Saturday, 19 October 2013

CrowdFunding: Universal muscles in for vinyl reissues

Universal appeal? Ah, never mind
Crowdfunding is generally seen as one of the key means by which digitisation offers a democratisation of media production, enabling producers at any level to appeal directly to fans or investors (the line is often blurred) for funding for new projects, which might be a new game, album, film, app, etc.

I've blogged on this before, with many big-name artists and film-makers turning to this model for funding, generally offering promotional packages rather than financial returns for this funding - signed copies, chance to appear as an extra, extra tracks, deluxe packaging, etc.

So much for levelling the ground for the little guy: news comes of Universal's (rather smart to be fair) wheeze to take any risk out of the recent trend of re-releasing albums on vinyl, reflecting the steep increase* in vinyl sales (and the long tail theory). So, instead of taking a punt on which album to expensively re-press on vinyl, Universal instead put it to fans: if enough of you provide advance funding, we'll do it - advance publicity and sales in one go, and premium pricing to boot. Cynical, but smart.

*Vinyl sales doubled from 2012 to 2013, with David Bowie and Daft Punk releases amongst those seeing sales of the format soar.
Here's Sean Michaels on the story:

Audience Interaction: Nine Inch Nails

NB: the article contains strong language
Compared to the arguably cynical, hackneyed, overhyped apps, dripping with prompts to buy more merchandise, for Lady Gaga and Snoop Lion releases, this example of using websites, dropping USB sticks at gigs and suchlike is innovative and refreshing - and a source of ideas for any forward thinking promotion. Mark Beaumount details his groundbreaking Year Zero project:
He has explored the latest on-stage hardware and in-studio techniques and has been eager to use cyberspace to give his fans an all-encompassing multimedia experience. Its pinnacle was 2007's Year Zero project, an apocalyptic concept album about a futuristic US dystopia run by the military and populated by drug-controlled surveillance slaves. Initially, Year Zero sounded about as sci-fi as an Oyster card. Then fans began finding hidden website URLs imprinted into their promotional T-shirts and USB sticks of coded static left in toilets at NIN gigs. These clues led them to a labyrinth of websites for fictional organisations such as the Bureau of Morality and the First Evangelical Church of Plano, all part of an ultra-elaborate alternate reality game. For two months Year Zero lit up the web, turning from a cloak-and-dagger internet lark into a concerted effort to rally real-life political protest. Complete immersion.

Reznor has a track record for putting out some quite extreme promo clips, but also for looking beyond record labels for new digital forms of (self-)distribution:

Music video plagiarism? Katy Perry allegations

Perry's doing a Roaring trade...
Seeking to justify any music as truly original or groundbreaking quickly becomes problematic when 'influences' are taken into account. Postmodern theory posits that originality is an illusory concept and that remixing existing ideas is all we can aspire to. For the music video, arguably the most magpie-like media format of all, does the common element of intertextuality render arguments about plagiarism moot? Aren't the bulk of videos heavily laden with genre signifiers laid down in previous videos?

What to make then of the very specific claims against Katy Perry, accused of both ripping off a song and a video? There have been many, many court cases over one artist 'stealing' the musical ideas from existing tracks, but I've never heard of a case of video plagiarism before - if you have, let me know!

Sean Michaels writes:
Katy Perry has been accused of plagiarising both the melody and the video for her new single, Roar. Pop fans have drawn similarities between Perry's recent releases and works by Sara Bareilles and Dillon Francis.
... as the Daily Swarm observed, moombahton DJ Dillon Francis has begun clamouring about the resemblance between Roar's lyric video and his own clip for the track Messages. Released through Diplo's Mad Decent label, Messages has a video built out of text bubbles, emoji and other trappings of modern instant messaging. The brand new video for Roar uses the same technique.

Hysterical teen girl fans meme: Beatlemania to Beliebers + 1D

Lynskey considers psychological studies + historical comparisons
A brief one, but a post worth reading through as you seek to carefully consider the nature of audience, and the interaction between representations encoded by video producers and a fanbase.

Here's a sample from a lengthy article examining the history of the meme of hysterical - typically female - pop fans, with Beatlemania and today's Beliebers obvious examples (media coverage of the threats issued to any 1D 'haters' via social media also reflects this - scroll to bottom for examples):
Teenage girl fans are still patronised by the press today. As Grant says, "Teenage girls are perceived as a mindless horde: one huge, undifferentiated emerging hormone." In an influential 1992 essay, Fandom as Pathology, US academic Joli Jensen observed: "Fandom is seen as a psychological symptom of a presumed social dysfunction… Once fans are characterised as a deviant, they can be treated as disreputable, even dangerous 'others'."
"Lots of different fans are seen as strange," says Dr Ruth Deller, principal lecturer in media and communications at Sheffield Hallam University, who writes extensively about fan behaviour. "Some of that has to do with class: different pursuits are seen as more culturally valuable than others. Some of it has to do with gender. There's a whole range of cultural prejudices. One thing our society seems to value is moderation. Fandom represents excess and is therefore seen as negative."
Dorian Lynskey's article goes on to flag up that such behaviour - and the negative coverage of this - goes back much further than the Beatles in the 1960s:

Viral vids Audience remakes: White Stripes

I'll offer this as a simple example of a vid that's tailor-made (I've no idea if this was the intention; their vids do tend to feature kaleidoscope or psychedelic repeating patterns) to encourage or facilitate fan-made vids. A video that could be used to invite fans to submit their own version, for publishing via a band's site/YT channel/Instagram site etc:

Easy to replicate via cropped layering, and open to creative interpretation (other items/places/people appearing, not necessarily linked to the music or performance).
Remember, U2 released three videos for One; even the world's biggest bands have used secondary vids to maximize the promotional impact of vid releases and to suggest that they've not lost sight of their humbler roots.

For other examples/inspiration, take a look at this previous post.

I'd really welcome any suggestions of other examples you come across.

iPad apps replacing albums? Snoop, Bjork, Gaga...

Rather different from the usual album review! (on Biophilia)
With major artists Bjork, Jay-Z, Lady Gaga and Snoop Lion amongst those releasing iPad apps, does this mark the end of the album - or, at the time of writing at least, are these apps simply another promo tool seeking to flog merchandise ($100 pseudo spliff anyone? comparable to freemium games?) as well as tracks?

Ideas of this nature are far from new - I remember picking up several CD-Rom albums ('multimedia-a 2007 article posed the question: '“Interactive” Album Art: The CD-ROMs Of The Digital-Music Age?'
enhanced') back in the 90s ... and pretty much never bothering with the added content. Indeed,
WMG tried adding interactive booklets to about 75 albums sold on iTunes this spring, providing extra photos, lyrics and links to multimedia content much like extras on a DVD. But the booklets require Flash technology, which Apple later disabled in Quicktime because of a security flaw for which it has yet to release a patch.
So, are we moving beyond the concept of a traditional album, with its dozen or so tracks sequenced and packaged with cover art? Actually, hasn't that already become passe with most iTunes (etc) users picking up specific tracks not albums, and Spotify users creating track-based not album-based playlists?

How YouTube fan vids make artists money: Harlem Shake eg

The stats in this article seemed modest by March

The bottom line? The dominant narrative around digitisation and the music industry is of piracy and the disruption to the traditional record industry model centred on purchases of physical media. How fair the payment splits are can be debated, but music video's viral potential does offer a chance to make money - even if its fans (re)making their own versions of an original video. Their work can deliver significant cash to the artists behind the original.
Its a simple but fundamental point if you want to understand how the music business works today: while debates may rage around streaming services such as Spotify and just how much/little remuneration they provide to artists, there is serious money to be made from distribution through YouTube - and that includes fan-made vids/UGC (user-generated content). The lexicon of YT would label many of these 'responses'.

Scroll to the bottom for info on the new YouTube-based record label, All Def Music, a collaboration between Russell Simmons, Universal Music Group and others. 

This blog's description makes reference to the ongoing status of music video, and particularly to the scope of viral hits to raise serious revenues. Here's a little detail on how a much-mimicked video, in a very postmodern fashion (one that would gain a knowing smile from Andy Warhol, whose 'Factory' churned out 'his' work actually produced by others!), makes money directly from the multiple 'tributes', 'responses', remakes, term them what you will:
Those who enroll in the content ID service give YouTube a reference file of their content. They then choose between getting videos that are found to use that content blocked from the site, or taking a slice of the advertising revenue those rip-off videos generate and tracking the original's success.

Will Internet kill creativity?

[NB: this post contains strong language quoted from a Thom Yorke interview]

A series of high profile artists have expressed strong views on the business model of streaming sites such as Spotify: some (Thom Yorke, David Byrne) argue its grossly unfair to artists, who receive very, very little even for huge international hits; others (Dave Stewart, Dave Allen) argue they offer promotion and that we should accept this is what the market and today's consumers, who prefer 'renting' to purchasing, want, and that the music business as it currently is is no more 'worthy' than others like the travel industry which have been 'disrupted' and transformed by new media.
There have been a spate of major names in the music biz recently speaking out about what they perceive as the inequities of the record industry, specifically the new streaming services (particularly Spotify), arguing that their revenue isn't reaching artists. Here's an excerpt from a lengthy diatribe/considered attack (which do you think?) from Talking Heads' David Byrne, an artist well known for experimenting with digital technologies:
Many article comments disagreed with Byrne
The amounts these services pay per stream is miniscule – their idea being that if enough people use the service those tiny grains of sand will pile up. Domination and ubiquity are therefore to be encouraged. We should readjust our values because in the web-based world we are told that monopoly is good for us. The major record labels usually siphon off most of this income, and then they dribble about 15-20% of what's left down to their artists. Indie labels are often a lot fairer – sometimes sharing the income 50/50. Damon Krukowski (Galaxie 500, Damon & Naomi) has published abysmal data on payouts from Pandora and Spotify for his song "Tugboat" and Lowery even wrote a piece entitled "My Song Got Played on Pandora 1 Million Times and All I Got Was $16.89, Less Than What I Make from a Single T-shirt Sale!" For a band of four people that makes a 15% royalty from Spotify streams, it would take 236,549,020 streams for each person to earn a minimum wage of $15,080 (£9,435) a year. For perspective, Daft Punk's song of the summer, "Get Lucky", reached 104,760,000 Spotify streams by the end of August: the two Daft Punk guys stand to make somewhere around $13,000 each. Not bad, but remember this is just one song from a lengthy recording that took a lot of time and money to develop. That won't pay their bills if it's their principal source of income. And what happens to the bands who don't have massive international summer hits?

Using INSTAGRAM to promote promos! (Britney, Rhianna etc)

Blogging, FB and Twitter are social/new media frequently mentioned here as tools used by artists/labels to boost acts'/videos profile and distribution.
Another useful site, heavily used by many artists, from the smallest Indie acts to global names, is Instagram...
On August 9, 2012, English musician Ellie Goulding came out with a new music video for her song "Anything Could Happen". The video only contained fan submitted Instagram photographs that used various Instagram filters to represent words or lyrics from the song[63] and over 1200 different photographs were submitted. [Wiki]

Its a Britney World: The Britney Meme

I put this collection together some time ago, as part of the preparation for Music Video Day, when we remade an inconic video in just one day. Its a good example of a meme - but also of the difficulty of pinning down a singular text in our postmodern hypertextual age.
This track has become a cultural meme...
I've gathered some examples of the many treatments of this track below. Yours will shortly become the latest addition to this postmodern phenomenon!

If you come across any others please pass on details (with a link) as a comment!

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Eric Fellner pre-WT: sleazy pop vids?

Co-founder Sarah Radclyffe left WT in 1992 when they effectively became a Polygram subsidiary (albeit with operational independence), and Eric Fellner stepped in to join the other co-founder Tim Bevan, an immensely successful partnership that continues to tower over British cinema 2 decades on.
Here's the incomparable Indie auteur Alex Cox* on Fellner, who he crossed paths with around the time (1985) Bevans and WT were releasing My Beautiful Laundrette, the company's 1st feature. Cox was in pre-production for Love Kills, later renamed Sid and Nancy, a typically warped, slightly surreal biopic of Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen ...

CREATIVITY: Alex Cox on Groupwork dynamics

The following is extracted from the brilliant Indie auteur Alex Cox's X Films: True Confessions of a Radical Filmmaker (Soft Skull Press: Brooklyn, 2008). Writing about production of his debut feature, Repo Man (an archetypal cult movie - not to be confused with the Jude Law vehicle Repo Men), he recalls being challenged over portraying a key female character as a serial adultress. He thought his script was spot on, but then again ...
...I am a white male leftist, already guiltyu of the sins of sexism, racism, and generally wishy-washy-ism. As the days went by, I reflected regretfully on the adolescent sexism of my script. ... I [removed a] sex scene. Still I felt guilty: Debbie was still a poor excuse for a character ... I rewrote the liquor-store scene [giving her a heroic send-off].
This was a good idea. ... By alerting the director, the TV coordinator and casting director improved the picture. Could a film made by a group - where all take the role of a director, say - reach a decision like this? Presumably it could. Who knows? Maybe this interaction points to a more collaborative system, in which a group might make decisions more quickly.
(emphasis added; p. 59)
Have you reflected on the role collaboration played in your creativity? Remember, seeking out (at minimum) audience feedback implies that the audience/producer divide is questionable too! (cf. Gillmor's "the former audience" concept (2004))

If you're willing to try out something a little different, you might just enjoy Repo Man...


A neologism for you all: PRANKVERTISING:
With brands finding it increasingly difficult to advertise effectively via traditional channels, publicity-whoring techniques such as prankvertising are gaining traction. Earlier this year, Thinkmodo, the ad agency behind the 'sNice stunt, promoted the crime thriller Dead Man Down by staging a (fake) murder in an elevator and filming people's reactions as the doors opened.
[, Prankvertising – a marketing heart-attacktic too far?, Guardian, 9.10.13, accessed online 15.10.13]
This group used a viral approach - see bot. left
Why blog on this under the guise of music video? Because advertising agencies, and music acts, were trailblazers in the use of viral-style videos, a trend now so mainstream that the X Factor ad break has been the source of one of the more successful virals, the rural rap selling dairy products.
Prankvertising - which raises serious ethical (and legal/health and safety) issues you'd need to address if considering this specific form - is just one form this has taken.
The main point for you here is that a spin-off, complementary or secondary, video project would be of benefit. Can you come up with an idea which fans could replicate and submit their own versions of, for use in a follow-up vid, a remake, a website-only version etc? Gillmor (2004), one of many influential web 2.0 theorists, has announced the "end of audience", denoting the smashing of the former divide between audience and producer.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Politics in Music Video

A simple post, for now at least: a few examples of music videos which have incorporated strong, explicit political themes (depending on how you read a video, any video can be seen as having implied political themes, and certainly ideological messages), following on from a student pitch centred on Muse's Assassin, a politically-charged track.
War is overdue
The time has come for you
To shoot your leaders down
Join forces underground

[sample lyric from Muse's Assassin]
First up, a band with a long history of tracks and videos taking up explicit, and generally controversial, counter-hegemonic, themes and positions: Megadeth. They were one of the very, very few bands to venture to my home town back in Northern Ireland in the midst of 'The Troubles' (an absurdly reductive label if ever there was one. Frontman Dave Mustaine naively took the advice of a friendly face just before going onstage, and, in a fairly Loyalist (pro-UK) town, pronounced his support for Irish Republicanism ... causing a fierce riot.
NB: The video below contains hyper-fast editing, coming close to a flashing light effect. (View in higher quality 720p here)

There are many metal bands that incorporate rebellious, counter-hegemonic messages, with the popular campaign to get Rage Against the Machine's totemic Killing in the Name Of [a performance video only; includes strong language] an example of how audiences' response to, or uses of, such material doesn't necessarily reflect the full political message as intended.

Next, a Brazilian thrash band well known for their explicitly political lyrics, Sepultura; songs such as Polozia are straightforward in their condemnation of excessive state force. They've used news footage of riots and civil uprisings in their videos (including, from memory, either Inner Self or Beneath the Remains), such as here, with Refuse/Resist - not just employing a political theme but actually a call to arms and action:

There are many more examples out there; punk lyrics were often highly political and so to many of the proto-videos produced around that time - Green Day's American Idiot is a good contemporary example of this.

Maggie Thatcher inspired many (mostly) hostile tracks over the years, continuing when she died in 2013 and any attempted debate over the rights/wrongs of her receiving a state funeral was swiftly shot down by most of the mainstream media. The Huffington Post also did an interesting post on this.

Any more suggestions? Add below as a comment, and I'll add to the post.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Vinyl sales record goes to...

Perfect illustration of how the 'new media' age is not simply a narrative about digitised media formats: news that Daft Punk have become the biggest seller of vinyl in Amazon's history (they launched in 1995). It's become increasingly common for bands (especially rock/Indie, but also pop) to issue limited editions of vinyl alongside CD and download, something that anyone considering a promo package should consider...
Daft Punk, fresh from breaking all sorts of records with their Get Lucky single, seem to be almost single-handedly reviving the vinyl music industry. Amazon has announced that the French duo's album Random Access Memories has become their best-selling vinyl LP of all time.
In fact, the DJs' latest LP isn't just the best-selling vinyl record of summer 2013: nobody has sold more vinyl copies since Amazon launched in 1995. Daft Punk top's all-time vinyl bestseller list, followed by Adele, for 21, Amy Winehouse, for Back to Black, and David Bowie, who has two records in the all-time top 10. 

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Lists of Best/Worst Videos Ever Made

Lady Gaga features in both worst + best lists...
If seeking inspiration, why not learn from the best, or apply the lessons from the worst?
Here's a few lists, mainly subjective of course, and reflecting the audience of the site/publication, which may help you identify some useful vids to investigate further - or simply to browse and to come up with a list of what features make for a truly popular/great/awful music video.
If you look closely, you'll find certain directors appear repeatedly: Spike Jonze, Anton Corbijn, Chris Cunningham and Michel Gondry prominent amongst these.
If you've any lists you can recommend (or have made your own), add a link as a comment.

Some Useful Sites

RadarMusic: acts/labels actively seek out video-makers
There are many links lists on this blog, so rather than add to these, here's a few useful sites I've noticed recently:
For UK chart archives, The Official Charts Company offers a dropdown list by year, which then displays weekly clickable charts;
Although its for the US Billboard and only the year's top 20, this site is superb, with videos and iTunes links for each beside each single.
Odd URL (, but you get a random vid loaded up if you click on the homepage (likewise the homepage for!). If you refresh the page a fresh random selection is made.

Top 40 vids right here;

The MTV Videos page is ... awful!