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

Monday, 31 August 2015

AUDIENCE INTERACTION Stepping into the world of Little Monsters

Through recently reviewing the Lady Gaga US and UK websites I went through the process of applying to become a Little Monster, allowed to enter the hallowed cyberhall of intelladytual conversation.

It truly is a slightly weird moment in life to get two emails informing me that, after reflection and consideration, I'm in ... I'm a Little Monster.

I've no intention of being snotty or patronising about those who take this all very ... very seriously indeed. Each to their own, and there is a strong emotional attachment between much of Gaga's fanbase - not just to/with the star, but with each other as well, a sub-culture that deserves study just as Hebdige (a pioneer of the notion of sub-cultures as a concept and subject for study) did with punk. Gaga herself expends considerable effort on interacting with and encouraging her Little Monsters ... though I have a wee doubt as whether it was Gaga herself (Herself? I don't know the LM rules!) who wrote and sent this email ...
Thanks though ... and I'll try to be brave!
Below - screenshots and some analysis of this phenomenon...

STUDENT EXAMPLES Latymer School and IGS playlists

I've picked out some of these in lessons and posts before, but here's a playlist gathering together music video coursework from Latymer School, a London department that routinely gets some of the UK's highest marks for their Media work. As noted on the playlist blurb, and beside a couple of the videos, please note that both cuts of I Kissed a Boy feature swearing, while Stockholm Syndrome features flashing flights. I've viewed all 50+ - if I've missed any further issues, or you just want to highlight any, post a comment.

First the IGS playlist, then Latymer - an interesting contrast. Latymer's London location is in stark contrast to semi-rural Ilkley (albeit, as we see in such work as the Joy Division video, within easy reach of Leeds), and there's quite a gap in resources; Latymer's studio gets heavy usage. Resources mean nothing without committed students though - consider the effort and creativity in some of the studio set-dressing in the Latymer examples, great to see! I think adding some external narrative/concept material into many of the studio-set videos would be advantageous, but you could argue that's quibbling when the studio work is so slickly done, eking out considerable variation from this set-up.

Either way, two sets of varying levels but which both showcase just what amazing work inspired students can create today...

The IGS playlist includes several practice exercises; the Latymer list final cuts only. You can view exercises on the Latymer channel.

WEBSITES Student examples of band websites

Partial screenshot of the 'group1' 2015 Latymer homepage. Its impressive work by any standard, not just from students

In my previous post, looking at a UK Indie band's website, I started by listing the many advantages of working with a local, Indie act. The following examples of student coursework websites, all from students at Latymer School in London, eschewed major acts, and their websites have a real wow factor. You can find links for their blogs (with videos and digipaks too) here, though I've also copied these in below.

They all used Wix to create their websites, and I'll blog on this separately.
NB: my thanks to chief examiner Pete Fraser for suggesting these as good student examples - you can find Pete blogging on media matters here, and updating his Twitter account here!

What makes these student websites good examples? Well...
  • Most important of all, its not immediately obvious that this is student work, and thats the level you should always aim for! If you have me as a teacher you'll find its a point I'll frequently raise!
  • The website ties together the wider package, in a way that a video/digipak/ad campaign doesn't do quite so naturally.
    Official and bonus video on the video page.
  • The shot variety involved is also likely to be greater than through digipak/ad packages, and you can judge for yourself to what extent separate photography has been commissioned rather than simply rely upon (lowered resolution) screenshots from the cinematography.
    Gallery: not reliant on screenshots; extra photography employed
  • The imagery is carefully constructed with mode of address and audience in mind.
  • Likewise the language used - albeit many Indie acts will use 'strong language' as part of their discourse which these students obviously don't.
    From the Roza website's 'Roza' page [about me equivalent] takes a creative approach
  • The use and intregration of social media is simply superb, making full use of the widgets and apps available to Wix website builders to provide hyperlinked icons, invites to join/follow, and live feeds.
    Its not just a case of dropping in hyperlinked icons, look at how deeply the social media are embedded into the fabric of the site, with icons and #hashtags to the fore, and a colour scheme helping denote various social media. You can also see direct links to wider media, such as XFM and NME, reflecting and targeting a primary and wider audience.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

WEBSITE Sly Antics Leeds, UK Indie band

IN THIS POST: Analysis of an obscure UK Indie band's website (for comparison with the major acts The Doors and Lady Gaga already blogged on), discussion of how relevant or not band websites are given the role of social media today, and points on why you might want to go for a local/student band rather than international stars... I also reviewed their debut video, making this more of a look at an all-round promo package. The band have tweeted me since I did this post; you can check out Sly Antics' updated website here!

WHY PICK A SMALL-TIME LOCAL (or even student) ACT?
You might be tempted to produce a promo package for a (currently!) small-time, local act rather than for a major existing/heritage artist. The closest I've seen to this thus far has been a group who entered the recording studio with their own metalcore band, Sunburnt in December, to produce the broadcast-quality audio required. Two of the group were Media students. This meant they had their cast sorted and a keen, engaged cast at that! They had to be ... they set up for performance footage in a snow-covered Yorkshire moors setting in what remains one of my favourite students videos (even if there were opportunities to improve it...). This video also came to mind given the main website image Sly Antics use (they also use it for other social media logos)
NB: the video contains FLASHING LIGHTS and scenes of horror

The advantages of local or student bands are evident:

Saturday, 29 August 2015

WEBSITE Comparing Lady Gaga UK US and LittleMonsters sites

I may have blogged on Gaga once or twice already...
IN THIS POST: Screenshots with links for both Lady Gaga's UK and USA official sites, plus, plus a brief look at some of her social media. What emerges is a radically different approach to UK and US audiences, plus some evidence that the 'official website' is the least regarded strand of her multimedia branding, secondary to the social media output.
The hyperlinked social media logos along the bottom of the UK site's 'shop' page (which appears to actually link back to a US page, albeit prices are in £). I didn't recognise the last on the right, and had to hover it to be reminded of MySpace's logo! If anything denotes a lack of care over the official site, this is a bit of a clincher...
From the US site; the lack of 'shares' compared to Twitter and Facebbok updates is stark, and may explain the lack of care taken with the official websites...

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

WEBSITE Doors bundle t-shirts and vinyl with Light My Fire re-release

IN THIS POST: Discussion of a heritage (60s/70s) band's use of merchandise and social media; analysis of their website including detailed denotation of the features, with screenshots, and a look at their social media integration and audience interaction (or lack of...).
This isn't The Doors' main website (though that is linked, and everything here IS featured and sold through their website too), but an online retailer that sells their merchandise, and markets this (I came across this via a Facebook update of the official Doors page, screenshot below the line). 

This is a further sign or evidence of the re-emergence of vinyl, plus the centrality of merchandise (especially when touring isn't an option) to monetise music.

below - analysis on assessing target audience (core/primary and secondary) + more images + detailed analysis of their website...

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Pop getting dumber claims study

I'm always a little wary of the elitist high/popular culture binary being at play with reports such as this, but its intriguing nonetheless.

The academic study assessed the literacy level required to follow the lyrics of chart music over time, and found that this has declined so far as to be of primary (junior in US parlance) level, and even kindergarten in some cases.

Can language be safely quantified in this way? That's at least debatable.

The website carrying the report is a left-wing alternative news outlet, and they make a specific link to the monopolization of a handful of huge conglomerates and the homogenisation this produces.

They're referring to the USA, but of course their major media conglomerates dominate media production, distribution and exhibition globally, including the music industry - a process Marxist critics term cultural imperialism, but can more blandly be labeled globalisation.

Even if this is true, does it matter? That's a question for you to decide

Digipak resources collected

FINDING DPAK EXAMPLES: I've provided several links below where you can find many. EvieG suggested another means: using unboxing videos (examples are covered in my vodcast, below) to get images of dpaks (through screenshotting)

I've spent a few days now trawling through the 500 posts on here retro-tagging, and doing a bit of tidying up. I'm changing some of the links in the top (horizontal) links list with key posts, including the 'Digipak' link, which will now point here.

The previous link was for this post which compiled a range of relevant posts.

I've provided a detailed vodcast on digipak conventions, and the process of researching these: here.

Further pointers on research: here.

The small print - Sinead O'Connor (very detailed) example: here.

Of course, you can also now use the tag cloud...

As well as the mag ad and magazine tags there are others to look for: special edition, editionalising, Photoshop, Andy Warhol, layering, editing, merchandise, vinyl, fan-made, prankvertising, SFX, back catalogue, bonus DVD, editionalising, template, ...

There are websites which offer large collections of downloadable sleeves, easy to find...

(I googled 'cd covers'!

There's another post centred on videos on digipaks...


Mag ad resources collected

I've spent a few days now trawling through the 500 posts on here retro-tagging, and doing a bit of tidying up. I'm changing some of the links in the top (horizontal) links list with key posts, including the 'Mag Ad' link, which will now point here.

This post is a simple list of key points, very digestible and maybe your best starting place: here

The previous link was for this post which compiled a range of relevant posts.

I've provided a detailed vodcast on mag ad conventions, and the process of researching these: here.

Further pointers on research: here.

Pointers on looking beyond ads to research the audience for your ads: here.

Of course, you can also now use the tag cloud...
As well as the mag ad and magazine tags there are others to look for: Photoshop, Andy Warhol, layering, editing, Prankvertising,...

Monday, 17 August 2015

VIRAL MARKETING Straight Outta Compton font/logo becomes a meme

The marketing for a film about 80s/90s old school gangsta rappers has been exemplary, creating a much stronger than usual excitement around a biopic.

At the heart of this has been a shareable font/logo that has taken Facebook and other social media by storm, and pushing the film's marketing to audiences it might otherwise have struggled to reach.

So, when considering digipak and magazine ad designs, don't underestimate the power of a downloadable and editable font/logo... and the very real power of audience interaction.

See page for 20 examples, one below.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Baeble Blog: FKA Twigs alt 20 min art video

NB: The video explores sexual themes (especially in the 2nd piece), though without nudity, and does have 1 instance of swearing about 14 mins in.

The Baeble blog is a good place to look for examples of unconventional work for inspiration, ideas or simply to help evidence and justify some of your own whackier ideas as having antecedents in the diverse field if music video.

FKA Twigs has created a long form video to promote an EP, adopting a style that edges more towards art gallery installation than typical small screen fare.
Link below, but note content warning.

Chris Cunningham would be the most obvious influence, though David Lynch equally came to mind for the horror-tinged elements and general oddness. Some more conventional tropes are present and the final piece recalls Janet Jackson, Madonna and that modern-day mini-Madge, Gaga. 

Whilst somewhat challenging, the second piece, wherein Twigs becomes a literal doll, plaything, is an intriguing exploration (perhaps plain denunciation?) of the male gaze and its impact. 

I'd be curious to see how the BBFC might rate that piece alone; nothing explicit but clearly dark (so arguably disturbing) themes and tone, a borderline 12/15? The one swear word later on would not automatically disbar a 12 by the way.

Noting the content warnings, you can read the article here, or view the video below.

Its clearly been a successful campaign:
Heading towards 3m views (screenshot Dec 6th 2015)

Monday, 10 August 2015

WEB 2.0 MARKETING Britney Spears mints new marketing concept

The small scale of this clearly indicates a reliance on media coverage and social media sharing to be an effective campaign, which it seems to have achieved.

Pretty Girls – a new Britney Spears song featuring Iggy Azalea – premiered on Sunday, and who nabbed the world’s first listen? Not radio, not even online, but a handful of Uber cab riders.

A limited number of Britney-branded SUVs decorated in black and yellow bee print drove around Los Angeles at the request of fans, who could book the cars for up to 30 minutes to hear the song.
Britney Spears and Iggy Azalea marked a duet single by premiering the track through branded Uber taxis, requiring a 30 minute booking (30 minutes of Spears singing - I know taxi journeys can be torture but come on!).


Turns out that without a more traditional promo campaign, including TV appearances (there was a music video), it wasn't terribly successful, leading to a bit of a twitter flame war between the two.

Only, no there wasn't, actually, it was the media inventing beef and wanting only to sexualise the pair's relationship, apparently ...

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Rammstein: Sonne (industrial metal eg)

ACT: Rammstein
TRACK: Sonne
YEAR: 2001
DIRECTOR: Jörn Heitmann
MAIN AUDIENCE: Male, 15-24/34

Rob posted on this in August and I thought I'd add a few comments; interesting choice! I know the track well but had never seen the video.
Here's the vid first of all:

A few initial points:
  • perf. through lip-synching, but without a translation its hard to say whether its narr or concept!
  • fairly fast-paced editing, with some long takes though
  • colour and lighting a key consideration
  • vid can only be understand if we grasp both the precise genre and target audience
  • skilful cross-cutting is key to the preferred reading
GENRE/AUDIENCE: Loosely, its heavy metal, but more specifically its 'industrial' (or industrial metal) - other comparable bands would include Rage Against the Machine and Nine Inch Nails. The typical audience for this would be male youth: 15-24, but comfortably extending to 15-34 (25-34 = 'mature youth'). Industrial metal goes beyond the traditional guitar/bass/drum/vocal line-up to incorporate recorded, synth-processed sound, and is also seen as 'dark' - a world away from the 'hair metal' of Bon Jovi, Motley Crue and other giants of mainstream metal.
The crashing sledgehammers, and the sparks that fly up, are a neat signifier of the genre within the video.

GENDER: The youth male audience ensures that the Snow White depicted is heavily sexualised to fit the male gaze: the tight top, thick, bright red lipstick and the long take which lingers on her suspenders. They've taken an archetypal signifier or icon of (Disney) innocence and purity and flipped it to fit with their darker vision.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

REPRESENTATION Hetero-normativity, straight-washing: Sam Smith etc

Take 2, take 1 having been wiped by the Android app crashing...
Great article, written from a queer (American) perspective, challenging the cosy consensus that we've moved on from homophobia being culturally acceptable. The writer uses a term new to me (a neologism!), straight-washing (x-washing is an established concept though, green-washing, falsely adopting an environment-friendly image, being an example I'm more familiar with).

The Sam Smith example made me think back to the depths of BI time (Before Internet!), growing up in the 80s/90s. The first lesbian kiss in UK drama (the primetime soap Brookside) was a huge news story (Eastenders finally managed this in 2013), while Queer as Folk was shock and awe television - both, not coincidentally, Channel 4 shows. Boy George became a camp national treasure ... but only after declaring he'd rather have a cup of tea than coitus [link is to a page from Simon Napier-Bell's pop history bio] (my first ever Big Bang Theory intertextual reference there...).
You can see a Queer as Folk trailer here; NB: the series was rated 18, and the trailer features sexual references.You can find lots of analysis of the Brookside and other same-sex 'controversies' here (I was trying to find some contemporary newspaper coverage).
The Brookside kiss was headline news

Bronski Beat and the Communards had huge hits fuelled by Jimmy Somerville's extraordinary vocals, but did so with the bands' sexuality set aside in the glossy videos. 
This playlist starts with The Communards' Don't Leave Me This Way, and continues with Bronski Beat's Smalltown Boy...

Annie Lennox caused much red ink to be spilt in the British tabloids by refusing to (applying Judith Butler's concept*) perform her gender like a good little girl, her shaven head, boxing gloves, trouser suits and all appalling the moral guardians in the press. [* gender as performativity; something that doesn't exist in nature but we learn to perform]
Sweet Dreams was one of many huge hits, but vocalist Lennox's counter-hegemonic behaviour, her utter refusal to play the expected (of female artists - and has this changed 30 years later?) glamour game, led to some intense tabloid flak (yes, Chomsky alert!).

Despite Madonna's Justify My Love coming along just a few years later and seemingly breaking every sexual taboo going, the bottom line is that it, like the original video for Frankie Goes to Hollywood's Relax (set in a gay club), was (and remains) banned.
The acceptable face of Frankie's Relax on ToTP:
Is the Hayley Kiyoko video Joseph Firago discusses in his article evidence of advancement? As Firago argues: yes and no - see his analysis on this.

From the colour tone to the specific intro/outro shots of the female protagonist on her bike, I can't help but perceive a curious intertextual relationship with the video for the Pixies' comeback single, BagBoy, which I've blogged on in depth...

If nothing else, though, this article manages to make the otherwise ultra-bland Sam Smith somewhat interesting!