Deadlines/Brief

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, 30 October 2013

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

1st shot: an Ibiza link perhaps?
Fragma -

Dir: unknown, 2001.

Trance.

Lyrics.


SUMMARY
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.

Dance-pop/R&B.


SUMMARY
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.

Eurodance/House.

Lyrics.

SUMMARY
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.



1ST SHOT
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.

Eurodance/R+B.



SUMMARY:
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 (eurokdj.com), 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.


SUMMARY OF KEY FEATURES: 
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)
IN BRIEF:
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

IN BRIEF:
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]

IN BRIEF:
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...


Prankvertising

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.