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 September 2015

POSTMODERN, SIMULACRA Weird Al Yankovich parody v pastiche

[UPDATE FEB 2017 -scroll down for Weird Al discussion] This is a topic I've frequently touched upon, so you should also look at this post on Weezer...
As its such a useful example, I've referenced it in further posts on this topic (and others): use the tag!

The excellent, very readable, history of the music video by Austerlitz discusses this video - it really is worth having a flick through the index ... or just reading the book from scratch! [tag; specific post on the book]

Then there's a Robert Palmer example of intertextuality, a tag applied even more frequently than (queer theorist; gender as performativity) Judith Butler I see...

Is THIS depiction of Elvis (the magnificent Tortelvis!) any less 'real' than the videos/film clips that define him in the popular imagination - an image Elvis and his manager fought to control, but for many people boils down to a fat guy in a comedy white jumpsuit? Is the Weird Al version of 'Wacko Jacko' (below) any less real than the MJ we think we know from media coverage? The creators of the Weezer video did so having been bombarded with signifiers of the decade, such as the sitcom they parodied ... their representation (or simulacrum) is itself now a powerful signifier that will influence many more impressions of 'the 50s'.

If I asked you now to think about 'the 60s', chances are you'd think of hippies, flower power, the Stones ... many of the iconic 60s festivals were actually in the 70s, ditto many of the Stones classics thought of as 60s, while the metropolitan (major city) drug phenomenon took until the 1970s to spread further into towns and cities across Western countries, beyond London, San Fransisco etc. The 60s ended around 1974?! Maybe 1973?!
pastiche is a work of visual art, literature, theatre, or music that imitates the style or character of the work of one or more other artists.[1] Unlike parody, pastiche celebrates, rather than mocks, the work it imitates.[2] [Wiki]

Saturday, 26 September 2015


Accompanying the lyric 'half asleep with a loaded gun' (Silver Snail) - there are few more inventive, inspiring, and downright stunning videos out there than The Pixies' collection, especially their videos since 2013
there is an embedded YouTube playlist of ALL videos covered at the bottom of this post
IN THIS POST: I embed and briefly discuss the music videos of The Pixies, an archetypal Indie or alternative rock band that date back to the late 80s and are still going strong, with a strikingly different set of videos since 2013. Their antagonism towards playing the promotional game, ironically, made them a key influence on a generation of video-makers. They initially refused to produce any videos then produced some challenging videos that consciously broke many of the most basic conventions of the format. No research into the conventions of music video as a format would be complete without some reference to this lot. The cinematography and use of colour (even the brilliant use of the generally cliched slo-mo tool) in their recent videos is simply STUNNING.

The Pixies are a seminal alternative rock (Indie) band who remain a key influence today, both for their music and their highly distinctive music videos. In the UK they're signed to 4AD, part of the Beggars consortium (Indie labels often join forces in co-ops to cut marketing costs and to get better distribution deals, economies of scale etc) - see wiki and this Guardian article on its iconic status. Their music fused Latin influences with rock; a bossa nova, 50s rock sound with a hard edge and dark, literary lyrical themes.

Key to understanding the Pixies is their sense of coming from humble working class backgrounds in Boston; they did not need to see themselves as a glamorous band and this is reflected in their videos. In a word, authenticity is the hallmark of their branding - this is not a band who would indulge in the fakery most bands will accept in order to maximixe their media exposure and record sales. Their everyday clothing, in contrast to the extravagance of bands like KISS and Bon Jovi that dominated much of the 80s, would bring back a vaguely punk aesthetic to the rock world, with the likes of Kurt Cobain reflecting the Pixies' look. They were edgy too - some of their lyrical themes are very dark indeed, though often based in classic literature, and were prepared to play with basic song structure too.


Yes, a shocker in some regards, but an uber risque effort, and commercial suicide in others. Or, simply: inspirational! Why don't you take on such an idea as an extra (not a main) production? There are several mainstream examples of such alternative, additional videos alongside the main production.

Their videos stand almost as anti-videos, an apparent refusal to play the promotional game:
As "Velouria" (their first single from Bossanova) was climbing up the UK Top 40, the band was offered a spot on Top of the Pops. However, a BBC rule stated only singles with videos could be performed on the show. To counter this a cheap video was made, with the band being filmed running down a quarry.[105]In the video, twenty-three seconds of footage (the time needed for the band members to reach the camera) is slowed in order to last for the duration of the song.[106] However, the effort in filming the video was in vain; the Pixies did not play "Velouria" on Top of The Pops while the single was in the charts.[107] [Wiki]

CINEMATIC Depeche Mode French New Wave as an influence, inspiration

A filmic or cinematic approach is one means by which you can make your video stand out from the crowd, and there are plenty of examples of that. Who could possibly forget the following, most unlikely, death metal video which takes its cues from 1910s silent movies?!

[Posts on this here]

We discussed the idea of taking such a direct filmic influence (albeit one that can be applied loosely and still be recognisable/readable) as the French New Wave [tag] and applying to music video, looking at some possible examples, and inspiration seemed to flow...

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Some female fronted acts

A notorious Top of the Pops 'performance' from 1988...

Simply coming from looking at ideas for a female performer, here's a few female acts you could look at. (Wiki on all-female bands amongst many lists you could consider)

Honeyblood (YT channel)

A 2-piece act with some smart videos maximizing the potential of limited locations, for example Bud:

Martha's Harbour, a 1988 hit, remains an iconic example of ethereal pop music, often featured on 'chill out' and 'ambient' soundtracks, with several remixes also floating around.
Fans have filled the void with their own videos - you could create the definitive version, and create a sizeable online following in doing so... The top hits for this still popular track are mostly fan-made stills montage videos

Despite the notorious Top of the Pops appearance, there's no official video for the track; the playlist below features 1 of many fan-made videos, a simple stills montage.

Their Vevo channel has just one video, and this is it...

We'd discussed the Super-16 look; that washed out, colour flare, damaged aesthetic - which has been clumsily overdone in many videos. You can see it here in this Belly video, one of several I've grabbed from a 4AD playlist (a particularly significant, alternative Indie label, part of the Beggars empire - as is Craig McNeill, who we'll hear from shortly at the ASFF...). Fairly conventional performance video overall, including some horsing around footage which gives a sense of privileged access - the specific trick with the drumsticks is rather nice:

Tarnation also use a Super-16 style in their very basic You'll Understand video.

Key technique here is using pans as a tool for dynamic editing, panning left and continuing or reversing the action in the following shot, sometimes using it almost as a wipe effect. The film titles-style playing with shapes is noteworthy. You could argue the flashing light effect is overdone, but it connects to the nightclub element of the lyric. The studio setup is a bit different too, and the shot variety, angles and sheer pace of editing all help to get across how brimming with attitude this band are.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Gaga releases campaigning video

Please note that the video referred to contains scenes intended to disturb and shock.

Gaga has built a fanbase on the back of her publicly supporting many abused outsiders, in this case not the sexual minorities celebrated in Born This Way but female students at US colleges.

The black and white video takes the form of a short film, complete with end titles (and Facebook, Twitter links), tracking the despair and recovery of three victims of abuse, partly reflecting Gaga's own experience aged 19.

I'm not a huge Gaga fan, being old enough to have seen Madonna do much of what her young fans see as novel in Gaga (a great Guardian article this week also looks at  how directly Grace Jones has been ripped off by many major pop stars, not just Gaga), but can't see this as anything but a brave move.
An example of Grace Jones' uncredited 'inspiration'

The track is typically overblown (a matter of taste), and I note the 2k YouTube dislikes alongside the 96k likes at the time of writing; this isn't exactly cosy branding.

Judge for yourself here.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

SOFTWARE Editing with Pinnacle Studio aka Avid

Okay, so if you have the option you'd opt for Final Cut Pro X and editing on a Mac ...

If not, there are many options out there. Pinnacle Studio may not be as highly rated as Final Cut or Premiere, but it is a very powerful package, and in a different league to basic editors such as iMovie.

I've just started with it myself, and find it straightforward to use, but if you're new to video editing, or haven't moved beyond iMovie (or the even more basic Windows Movie Maker), it will take you a while to get used to it.

The best way to do that? Use it. Not to 'practice', but simply to edit video - practice film exercises, or vodcasts to better present your research. You could also spend time with it for non-Media or even non-school work. The more time you spend using it the more familiar it will become (and this will prepare you for other video editors; they may look different but there are common elements across most).

Pinnacle was bought up first by Avid then Corel; it is effectively the offspring of three big name software companies.

Video is best to get you started, but once you start looking for more specific guides and instructions do consider looking for text-based step-by-step guides too, which can be much quicker to use, and without the potentially annoying quirkiness of some of the presenters.

Unlike Final Cut, I can't see any paid-for online courses (indeed, you can gain Apple certificates in Final Cut!) on the likes of for Pinnacle Studio. However, there is a 2013 guide book by Jeff Naylor, listed at £30 on Amazon UK. This offers a series of tutorials as well as a reference guide.
This might be a useful investment

The Art of the Vodcast

I have previously burbled on at some length about vodcasts - here. This post will be less detailed.

In the context of coursework, podcasts which summarise research are great ... as you can re-edit these for your Evaluation, including comparison with what you actually produced/did.

A vodcast is a podcast with video. It is likely to include your voice, though you can use titles to the same effect.
A SHORTER GUIDE TO GOOD VODCASTING PRACTICE: brief, pithy, well illustrated, creative, expressive, analysis, terminology, concepts, opinion, titles, chapters, top ten, short clips, fair usage copyright law, mix audio levels, limit face time, branded, ident, channel watermark, target audience, tags, YouTube, links lists...

It will be quite brief. About 2 minutes is good; 5 minutes is starting to push it ... and don't go beyond 10 minutes. If you can't fit all your content into that time limit, think about how to split it up into themed chapters.

Brand your vodcasts, as I do. Once you've created a basic 'opening title' sequence for one, you can copy/paste the sequence into any future vodcast and simply edit the titles. I also recently started adding a watermark, in the style of the company or channel logos you see on TV, asserting my brand but also ensuring my work can't be ripped off!
I've created quite a few vodcasts, and will be adding more - a playlist is embedded below

Sunday, 6 September 2015

FESTIVAL Pixies, Fatboy Slim etc videomakers York November 2015

I've led trips twice to the ASFF, a film festival that screens short films + music videos in unusual venues around York, linked to the magazine Aesthetica (focussed on photography and other media arts), and its been a great experience for students - here's an account by one student.
1 of the 2015 masterclasses

The masterclasses have been superb, and simply ideal - we've heard directly from the likes of Barry Ryan (senior producer at Warp Films), Danny Cohen (cinematographer on several Warp and Working Title movies, including Dead Man's Shoes and Les Miserables if memory serves me right?!), and Craig McNeil and James Harman (respectively, music video producer and director for the world's largest music Indie, Beggars Group and his long-term editor).
2015 masterclass spanning music video, branding, bands, audience and narrative

BELOW: Details, links, prices

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

WEBSITES Using Wix to build your band website

IN THIS POST: Guides and how-to's for using Wix to build your own band website, incorporating multiple top-linked pages and deep social media integration, plus e-commerce for merchandise and music sales (even if not ultimately connected to a card/payment account), search engine hits (SEO) and more specific techniques through YouTube guides. 
To view a range of student websites following the music promo package brief, see this post.
First up, perhaps uniquely, an advert...

You may not have heard of Wix before now (I hadn't until it was recently recommended to me), but it is a high profile, internationally popular website build option (they claim its used in 180 countries), reflected in the range of languages how-to YouTube videos come in. It fares well when compared to rivals. It operates a freemium model - you can access most things for free, but can pay for more options.
Wix manages to make intricate, fully-featured website design easy and intuitive - and there are plentiful online guides...

WordPress is the dominant player in the online website-builder market (DreamWeaver remains the dominant software option), but Wix boasts a vastly superior ease-of-use; there is a much steeper learning curve with WordPress. Other rivals such as Weebly are not only more limited but also charge for options bundled for free with Wix. According to this site, Wix is the third most-used online website builder.

Wix is largely controlled via drag and drop, with the ability to go into menus to edit site layouts - you should find it a highly user-friendly website builder... [You can read more basics at the Wix Wiki]'s 90-second intro to working with Wix

If you do go on to look to monetise any of your work, a former student (Amber) who got a job handling e-commerce operations for a an online retailer on the back of her Media work, not least the blog, tells me they found the e-commerce provision in Wix quite problematic, and had to get onto the helpline frequently. How typical or not that is I have no idea!

Read the guide on the steps involved in researching and planning your website.

When I approach new software or ICT tools, YouTube is generally my first port of call. In time I will seek to create one or more vodcasts myself. You can use Wix's Help function and general online search for alternatives to video; eg this is Wix's step through guide to creating your own landing page (and the Wix site has a search box of course).

WEBSITE The steps involved in producing yours

IN THIS POST: A breakdown of how to research websites, what to look for, and an example of an overall 16-step process, plus a list of some features to consider.

Like every Media production, before you get to the editing stage you have considerable background work to undertake; I'll break this down into pre-production, production and post-production phases. There is considerable scope to delegate primary responsibility within a group for website work.

A faux-personal mode of address; using existing media content to enrich your own site; social media deeply integrated: just 3 ideas you could glean from an analysis of Gaga's UK website
You need to research the conventions of a range of mixed, general (not from the same era or genre) official music act websites, compare and summarise your findings with 1 or 2 others in a vodcast, then research the artist chosen for your video: their official website (if there is one), 2+ comparable (genre/era) acts' websites, 1+ fan site, and produce a fresh vodcast outlining any distinctive conventions for the artist/genre/era.

Initial lists of main and sub- pages, and content you will need (unique images, video etc); website features (e-commerce, social media integration etc); social media sites to set up and maintain; key aspects of style or design across the entire site.
Show your knowledge of changing industry practice by including a merchandise 'shop'; as well as a main top links list on every page, sub-pages will make your site neater. Think of the mobile browser: the less they have to scroll the better.