The Daily Ping

The 1st Ping was published on January 6, 2000.

March 16th, 2005

Are Music Videos Dead?

I remember exactly where I was when MTV launched. I was sitting in the living room of my parents’ house with my sister next to me, and we were both inches from the screen. We watched in awe as the whole thing started – here was a new network that just played music all the time. Pretty remarkable stuff.

But as we all know, MTV barely shows music videos anymore. Neither does VH1, really. VH1 Classic still does… but not as consistently as MTV used to. I remember being impressed that I saw a video for Elvis Costello’s “Radio Radio” on MTV2 / M2 when that was a video channel but, of course, they don’t really show videos that much anymore. It seems that either music videos are irrelevant now, or the artform – such as it is – is dead. Or maybe both.

As I type this, though, I’m watching a really great video for Toad the Wet Sprocket’s “Fly From Heaven,” which is pretty old. But I’m watching it on my computer, and not on television. And I’ve seen a number of great videos. I mean, even “Thriller” was pretty badass for its day. With the evolution of music, I just wonder how relevant music videos are nowadays. When asked about the point of a video he was making, R.E.M.’s Mike Mills said rather bluntly, “To sell more records.” It’s true and it’s always been true, but it’s been nice to see some attempts at art come out through the video.

On the other hand, maybe it’s just not something that’s artful anymore. Almost everything that can be done in a video has been done, to the point where there are pretty standard formulas out there.

Do we need music videos anymore? Are they just a waste of money at this point, or do they still work for promotion?

Posted in Television, Movies, and Music

FROM: Chris [E-Mail]
DATE: Wednesday March 16, 2005 -- 8:30:39 am
I'll leave VH1 classic on in the background sometimes, particularly when they are doing Metal Mania. I haven't made any attempt to find the video for a new song in a long long time. I don't know if they are no longer relevant in general, or just not relevant to us because we are no longer the target audience. MTV is still doing TRL aren't they? Somebody must care about new videos...



FROM: Joseph
DATE: Wednesday March 16, 2005 -- 10:35:12 am
Music videos used to have a lot more going for them. They were like little movies. Now, they seem to be more dance oriented and plotless. The point seems to be to put a shaking booty and jiggling tits in front of the camera, some gaudy displays of ghetto wealth like gold teeth and too much bling, and then the video's done.

Seen one, seen 'em all.

As for country videos, how many images of running horses, rainy days, big hair and ten gallon hats can one stomach over and over?

I suppose the same could have been said back in the day. I can remember my dad getting very impatient about his kids watching video after video of long-haired guys and blaring electric guitars.

Maybe we're just . . . old.



FROM: Ken
DATE: Wednesday March 16, 2005 -- 4:14:41 pm
CMT still plays them from like 11 at night to like 5 in the evening.



FROM: Marcus Mackey
DATE: Wednesday March 16, 2005 -- 7:33:48 pm
I do believe a lot of the artform was lost when it became more about selling the music than about selling people on the artist/music when the artists of the station were largely unknown. I say "The artist" in a sense of what MTV was originally vs. what it became over time. Originally, most of MTV's artists were obscure and largely unheard of (underground/cult), and it was a very artsy station in general.

As Paul mentioned Elvis Costello... I really feel that people like him, Thomas Dolby, Men Without Hats, and countless others were products of the early MTV that would've probably gone unheard of with the masses if not for the station's presence and importance at that time in bringing them to us. Their presence opened up the door for superbands like REM and U2 and perhaps even Duran Duran to be met by the masses as well, IMHO. Those early bands kicked the door open to make these other bands' road to success easier IMHO. I think without MTV, these artists would've never made it as big as they did without that little foot in the door that original new wave bands brought, although I think they certainly would've had their place... I firmly believe MTV opened the eyes of the masses to a unique and different genre than what we were headed for without it.

There might be arguments to the contrary, and I could be short-sighted for thinking this way (and perhaps off on the timings of certain bands in the pecking order), but I can't remotely emphasize the importance of what this station had in terms of an impact in the music genre by making something that was less apparent or unapparent to most, and making it something that was *SMACK* right between the eyes, in your face, being attached to something that, in itself, was largely unheard of prior (music videos).

Sadly though...

Something about the early MTV was lost along the way, and I think it comes down to having the station's original focus (including Andy Warhol's segment on there, perhaps an iconic symbol of what MTV is or would become today) being lost over time. That being to sell people on things that weren't necessarily mainstream, and helping make them aware amongst the mainstream. That instead of regurgitating the mainstream to the mainstream, or selling everyone on something that is a rip-off of something else.

With the death of 120 minutes (itself devolving as very little new ground was breaking)... I think the station's real heritage also went with it. In effect, what MTV was in the early ages of the station, was 120 minutes for an entire day, playing lots of wildly obscure music that wasn't even prevalent on area radio 'til after MTV made it known to the public en masse. Even the inaugural "Video killed the radio star" by The Buggles video fit into that category, although there's obviously better arguments for more iconic artists that came from the progression of MTV's early evolution. I still think that it was odd and quirky artists that helped bring a revolution in music at a time when the death of Disco and the floundering status of pop music was upon us.

Today... MTV is very mass market, and it's devolved further into a further extension of RTV (Reality TV) and the onslaught that phenomena has had. There are other stations like MTV2, MTV Hits, VH1 Classic Rock, VH-1 Country, GAC, Fuse, etc. that still play a large rotation of videos, and yes... even some of them have some creative elements still exploited. Yet typically, as this industry goes, artists that once stood for something, will soon stand for Pepsi or Coke or Fubu or Maybelline reeeeeeal quick. Much of what you see in the original creative videos of a creative artist will give way to a watered down popular take on the original with a mediocre cheesy "cloned" video with cloned content/special effects attached to it to sell cloned singles one after another 'til the artist is cloned to death.

I guess you can say... Warhol's "Fame for 15 minutes" lasted a lot longer in this case, but as a footnote in history, unless something is done... it'll be just that vs. what I think it could've been. The only way to prevent mediocrity is to steer away from it. Sometimes... easier said, than done.



FROM: Marcus Mackey
DATE: Wednesday March 16, 2005 -- 8:07:39 pm
On the other hand, maybe it's just not something that's artful anymore. Almost everything that can be done in a video has been done, to the point where there are pretty standard formulas out there.

While I agree that we're starved for new ideas... I'd argue the truth to the idea that there's nothing left to try. I mean... if that's true, do we need new music anymore because every chord that has been played, has been done prior? Do we need art anymore because every possible hue of color, brush stroke, or realist's interpretation of a still life or landscape has been done? Hardly. Yet... it's how it's interpreted, how you step forward to take it further than the rest.

The problem (or beauty, depending on view) is... there's very few cycles in music where things become so groundbreaking, and after a period... that dissipates when it becomes mainstream. The Glam/New Wave/Punk genre eventually unfolded into the Grunge era that happened under the Alternative umbrella that brought us regurgitated Pop-punk and Ska, and the phenomenon many refer to as Nu-Metal too. Right now it seems that Emo is catching on, but to me it breaks very little new ground but rather relives elements of the older 80's New wave era. Then again, I still would say it's an important step towards creating something different. How these artists and many others take things forward from what they are today, is crucial IMHO towards making another major movement again.

Do we need music videos anymore? Are they just a waste of money at this point, or do they still work for promotion?

In terms of promotion, they're far from dead. Yet that doesn't mean that they will stray from anything other than what they are in the mainstream, which is repetitive. I mean... the onslaught of rap artists driving some expensive customized or uncustomized car, showing their monster *bling*, holding a big wad of greenbacks, all the while having some near-naked women wandering/dancing around nearby... it's not going away anytime soon. It'll promote a 50 Cent or The Game or any other rap artist amongst his fans and help sell more records. That's not lost, although the creativity involved with the video is. You can say the same for the crazy antics/attempts at surprise of a modern day punk video by a Sum41, Good Charlotte, or some other band; or some dark and cryptic video with lots of faces of death style free falling or wild car crashes for a Metal video. Either all of the above will happen... or when all else fails and you're out of ideas, just show them on-stage or in a room playing as if it was a concert. That's a wrap!

Every now and then someone will step out... whether it's The White Stripes video done with Legos, or some wildly bizarre Tool/System of a Down video, or something along those lines... or if it'll take some "short or long movie" style emphasis like "The Wall" (Pink Floyd), "Thriller" (Michael Jackson), or "To Kill A Dead Man" (Portishead). There's still tons of avenues to explore, even if the roads that take you to those avenues are hardly new. It's all about what's on the other side, and how far you want to take it beyond what has been done before.

There's still room... it's just a matter of pushing the boundaries further.



FROM: jk
DATE: Wednesday March 16, 2005 -- 11:36:42 pm
Whoa! Marcus! Where have you been!!??

I am glad to have grown up in the 80s when videos were truly great, and I am often glued to VH1 Classic when I visit my parents.

I think music videos are close to death, and what a shame it is to see what MTV has crumbled into. Pimp My Ride is the only show I can bear, and when I think about it, what the heck is it doing on a music channel?

I knew many bands in the 80s who struggled to get their videos onto MTV, and the ones who failed to do so, met early death. Some had consistent play on 120 Minutes (ie. the Ocean Blue) while others prayed to get by through play on college radio.

Back in the Fall of 1985 when I was in a Film class at Penn State, the professor ended a lecture one day by playing the video for "And She Was" by the Talking Heads and making this statement: "The other day I over heard two young kids talking about music, and one of them said, 'Have you seen the new Michael Jackson song?' We have entered a new era."

I miss that era (sans Michael Jackson) and am pleased that I remember that prof's quote since I only got a C in the class. I miss Howard Jones and U2 before the Joshua Tree. I miss Martha and Alan and JJ.



FROM: Joseph
DATE: Friday March 18, 2005 -- 5:20:37 pm
Marcus has raised some excellent points. MTV showed videos of bands that you never got on the radio. MTV was an alternative. I can think of many of those old videos. Note" the following song titles and artists names are from memory, so please forgive inaccuracies. "Kids in America" by Kim Wylde, "I ran" by Flock of Seagulls, "More Than This" by Roxy Music, "Fishheads" by (God, can't believe I don't remember), "Love + One" by Haircut 100, didn't Echo & the Bunnymen have a video? Oingo Boingo was there, too. Of course, REM may owe much of its success to the MTV revolution. No pop radio played REM until at least 1988-9 with "Orange Crush." (Where I lived, anyway). You flipped on MTV to see and hear what you coudn't hear on the radio, unless you were lucky enough to have a college radio station that you could pick up. Even with the back to the eighties shows I still have yet to hear a single Echo & the Bunnymen song. College stations used to play them a lot. They're still one of my all time favorite bands.



FROM: jk
DATE: Friday March 18, 2005 -- 10:56:19 pm
Joseph, did you know that Nick Heyward of Haircut 100 released some fabulous solo albums? CDs? You must attain "From Monday to Sunday." Thank me later.

Tonight I saw a Michael Penn video for a song OTHER than "No Myth." What a brilliant singer/songwriter. Extra points to the first Pinger who can tell me whom he married.



FROM: MollyCule
DATE: Saturday March 19, 2005 -- 7:30:51 am
jk - Aimee Mann, of Til Tuesday and, now, just Aimee Mann.



FROM: Paul
DATE: Saturday March 19, 2005 -- 9:15:28 am
Although jk, I hope you're not belittling "No Myth" - it's a fantastic pop song.



FROM: jk
DATE: Saturday March 19, 2005 -- 9:42:49 am
MollyCule, you are of course correct. What a dream couple they are.

Paul, I am in no way ridiculing No Myth. March is one completely brilliant album, yet the general public only knows that one song. I find it as timeless today as it was 15 years ago and I would LOVE to see him in person.

I also love General Public. I wonder if VH-1 sells copies of Bands Reunited? One episode did make me cry....I think it was the Alarm.



FROM: Paul
DATE: Sunday March 20, 2005 -- 8:49:36 am
Well then jk, I'll be sure to check it out.



FROM: Joseph
DATE: Monday March 21, 2005 -- 12:51:53 pm
General Public and English Beat! Yeah! I remember when kids complained that MTV played "weirdo bands." These were the kid who'd rather listen to Journey and Survivor.
Not that I hated Journey or Survivor, but MTV showed us that there was more out there. Now they just want us to buy stuff.

Is it all MTV's fault though? What ever happened to I.R.S. Records and Geffen, which so many of those fun artists were signed to? MTV was cleverly used by such labels. Maybe the raw materials aren't being discovered anymore or it's just being driven further underground. That would be fine, but I just want to know where to find it.
Maybe it all disintegrated when I.R.S. went to Warner and Geffen went to who knows?



FROM: jk
DATE: Monday March 21, 2005 -- 11:07:58 pm
I hated Journey and Survivor.

It's interesting that R.E.M. changed so much when they left IRS; I still stand by my statement elsewhere on the Ping that Lifes Rich Pageant was their last great work.

I wish I had taped more of 120 Minutes, don't you?



FROM: Marcus Mackey
DATE: Monday March 28, 2005 -- 5:26:51 pm
Whoa! Marcus! Where have you been!!??

I'm in/out over here. ;) I get preoccupied with other things from time to time but still find my way back to The Ping sooner or later.

I am glad to have grown up in the 80s when videos were truly great, and I am often glued to VH1 Classic when I visit my parents.

Well not even all of the 80's videos themselves were great. I think it was more the idea that the medium was so new that even some of the repetition noticed was itself forgivable considering the uniqueness of the artists and music of the time. It truly was a unique time with many diverging artists thankfully sourced from the College radio underground and the artsy eclectic people that helped found MTV. I think they targeted the demographic figuring that if anyone truly got what MTV was or would be, it would be them; the College underground music crowd. Much to their surprise... it was far bigger than they originally thought. As with anything... when that became realized, the originality is sunk when $$$$$$$$ appeard like sugarplum's in their heads.

I think music videos are close to death, and what a shame it is to see what MTV has crumbled into.

I don't think the videos are, but I have to say that MTV as a music video station in itself is very remote to what it was conceived. The other stations often still carry at least a good percentage of what MTV was later on, prior to the "showed to death" phenomenon. The fact that ESPN has a show like "Tilt!" is also disturbing, as it has very little to do about sports, and instead follows a happening trend (the Poker phenom) but adds a bit of a Maxim flare with nudity and other suggestive topics strewn into what is effectively a "male" soap opera. ESPN is on that verge of taking the MTV dive from it's original intents into a male-oriented TV channel. Sort of like what was conjured up out of TNN with SpikeTV.

I still admit that I like Fuse quite a bit (formerly Much Music), as well as VH-1 Classic Rock. Then again I listen to a pretty wide array of artists, some treated as a more mainstream feel, and others to be harder core and less palatable to some. I do miss that "underground" flavor a bit in MTV that once was there. Even so... I tend to listen to harder stuff and shows like Uranium and the rebirthed Headbanger's Ball (which I might be in the minority in preferring to the original, then again I can't stand Ricky Rachtman) still fit the bill.

I'd like to see a return of 120 minutes though for sure. What it would play today... is anyone's guess though. As much as I am not enamored by the whole Emo movement, devoting a whole show to it just strikes me as unappealing in the utmost. I'm not sure there's enough new "fresh" content akin to what 120 minutes made prevalent to make it fly, and depending on what the underground is... it could be centered around stuff you have no interest in.

Pimp My Ride is the only show I can bear, and when I think about it, what the heck is it doing on a music channel?

I have to admit that it doesn't belong, but I think MTV transcended music into becoming like "Media Television" moreso. I still am a firm believer that they need to move MTV2, MTV Hits, Fuse, VH-1 Classic Rock, and other stations to regular cable to fill the void. Unless you opt for digital basic at quite a bit more cost than basic itself... requiring a cable box install for every TV you wish to watch it on, you're left with MTV's take on Reality TV with a few slots of videos thrown in. Aggravating to say the least.

I enjoy Pimp My Ride, although I think that they get too over the top with much of their works (in comparison to Overhaulin' on TLC with Chip Foose... which doesn't have the comical personality of Xzibit as a host, but I think churns out a far superior, less gaudy, ride). Once again though, after Monster Garage and American Choppers, it just spread into the automotive genre so it's not so much "breakthrough" as it is intriguing on who and how they spring the new rides on the people. Entertainment doesn't have to be groundbreaking to be entertaining though, even quality entertainment can be an evolution of a current or past theme.

As dumb as it is... Viva La Bam isn't as obscenely extroverted stupidity as Jackass was. It's still more of an attention grabber type of show though, and without a doubt it is stupidity incarnate. ::laughing:: I still can't believe that anyone could do that to their family, and what really sends it home is how tolerant everyone is of Bam's actions. It makes you realize that this wasn't just something that went on after the Jackass media blitz. Kinda' scary. ::chuckling:: It definitely is more commercialized than Jackass though, as you can sincerely tell that without MTV's money being pumped into it... Bam wouldn't do things to the full 11's (to quote Spinal Tap) of outrageousness he does. It's commercialized stupidity as entertainment but I can find some humor in it, and I think it's more watchable than Jackass (although I even give a head's up to Wildboyz over Jackass). Compared to some overly done played out sitcom... it's a bit more fresh, even if it's still mindless entertainment done for shock value more than creativity in storyline/concept.

If you want to see a segment where creativity is lost... it's popular TV in general. I say "popular TV" in the guise that most things that aren't popular (and yet could be insanely creative), don't stay on, and most things popular today... don't have an inkling of creativity breathed into them and likely are an evolution or rip-off of something else. Many times with a "reality" (or distorted reality as it has become) spin thrown on top.

I knew many bands in the 80s who struggled to get their videos onto MTV, and the ones who failed to do so, met early death. Some had consistent play on 120 Minutes (ie. the Ocean Blue) while others prayed to get by through play on college radio.

I think you still have that, but bands nowadays... much like the Reality TV (RTV) phenomenon, will do *ANYTHING* to get big, whereas most of the bands of that era would do anything they could to promote their own creative artform to get on MTV (a difference). Therefore... if they have to agree to sell their soul to the devil, be converted to Coke from Pepsi (or vice-versa) and appear in ads from 20 different brands to help get there... "Where do I sign dude?" That's the order of the day today for most things I believe.

It's a pity... because you don't have artists making the music they want, but you have artists producing a debut CD with a ton of variable songs (usually to be heralded as their best works, if their demo's aren't heralded as even better)... and when one hits it big, they're "produced" into making more off-chutes of the successful song rather than trying their hands at something new and groundbreaking. It takes the art out of the artist one CD at a time until every song sounds alike. When the genre folds in popularity... the artists are stuck. Their old devoted fans will balk at anything new that deviates from the regurgitated songs of old, and anything new that *might* put them on the map likely won't get played because modern radio won't take anything by ::band name here:: seriously even if it were to be interesting to it's current listeners and genre. In other words... labels are pushing artists into becoming a Catch-22.

Back in the Fall of 1985 when I was in a Film class at Penn State, the professor ended a lecture one day by playing the video for "And She Was" by the Talking Heads and making this statement: "The other day I over heard two young kids talking about music, and one of them said, 'Have you seen the new Michael Jackson song?' We have entered a new era."

Agreed. I think the mainstream artists were hit with MTV as an outsider looking in, and they saw the light quickly. They saw how it was going, so they morphed into the medium themselves with their own work. With MTV realizing how big the non-mainstream artists were getting, I guess the big question is "If we can do this well with Flock of Seagulls and Duran Duran... what could we do with Michael Jackson, Huey Lewis, and others? Something the mainstream knows already?"

I miss that era (sans Michael Jackson) and am pleased that I remember that prof's quote since I only got a C in the class. I miss Howard Jones and U2 before the Joshua Tree. I miss Martha and Alan and JJ.

For the record:

I tend to like much of what U2 has done even after the Joshua Tree. If anything, their latest CD might be more of a disappointment to me by just how very much they're playing off of past successes of past songs. You can hear them blatantly stealing past styles of theirs (a guitar playing style, a riff, etc.) and infusing them in their latest works, which in many cases sound like regurgitations of their past.

To me U2 was like a modern version of The Beatles, in that they have had the opportunity to push different sounds, different stylings, mold to or push ideas that become trends, and just literally open the barn door and roll out something mind-boggling rather than devolve like so many bands do into playing the same song over and over with different lyrics and accompaniments. What they do after this latest CD, will make me fully understand whether or not they've finally sold out after all of this time, or whether or not they can still push forward with new sounds and new musical drive rather than fall back on their past library like a crutch. How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb truly seems like a lack of originality and a desire to see if the old stylings could produce a few more mega hits. I hate that.

What The Beatles were was quite astounding when you consider that with every new trend, they were either the one bringing it to us, or finding a way to blend their artistry into something else. While some might appreciate their earlier works to their later works... it's safe to argue that they were able to transcend a genre and evolve with it, rather than get stuck playing "Twist and Shout" forever.

That's ultimately what I've liked most about U2. To expect them to continue producing a song like War to me... while I love that song and the CD itself, isn't something I think will give a band legs. U2 has been able to go for as long as they have because they didn't Rattle and Hum everyone to death, nor did they constantly throw War at us. If they came up with a CD influenced by Trent Reznor and the Industrial movement, and then ultimately shapeshift into something completely different... they might not always appeal to the same person with each release, although those that can see the abilities they exert at defying a "genre" and still sounding good might relish every last song they produce, much as I have. You might find one song or album more in favor (much as with The Beatles, I think my dad prefers their early 60's era works)... but you can't deny that they haven't been creative in everything they've done.

In contrast to a band like Metallica... it's different. Their older work bred creativity with each new album/CD. Once they sold out... the lyrical talent involved fell dramatically to the realms of mindless works, the music is less driven, and the band... well... is pretty much dead to those who were there since the beginning.

I tend to agree with your analogy of R.E.M. much better. I think their work slipped into a "Shiny Happy..." mess of sorts (although "Everybody Hurts" was quite good). The B-52's also went from their less mainstream sound into something like "Love Shack" for that same devolving standard, and now might quite honestly be known by most for that song and their collaboration with R.E.M. on "Shiny Happy People" more than any of their truly creative and maybe even bizarre (to some) work. It became more about $ than the art.

MTV is much more about $ than Music Videos. Much more about $ than providing breakthrough content. It's now a brand more than a station with a purpose. MTV can put people whacking each other in the crotch on and the kids will flock to it and stay riveted for hours (i.e. Jackass marathons). That's a sure-fire sign that it's much bigger than the content they provide.



FROM: Marcus Mackey
DATE: Monday March 28, 2005 -- 5:37:16 pm
To expect them to continue producing a song like War to me... while I love that song and the CD itself

I meant to produce songs like those off of War... not a song titled "War". Wanted to clarify that before someone caught it and was puzzled by it.



FROM: Dave Walls [E-Mail]
DATE: Monday March 28, 2005 -- 6:58:47 pm
Because I am always out for bonus points with jk, Michael Penn was married to Aimee Mann in 1997.

:)



FROM: Drew
DATE: Monday April 4, 2005 -- 6:25:01 pm
Yeah poster, i'm in aggrement with you. Too many reality TV shows are popping up on the Music Tv networks. I wish they drop the reality shows and bring the best music of the 70's-the 90's.



FROM: jk
DATE: Monday April 4, 2005 -- 10:04:10 pm
At first I thought he was calling you "poseur."

Phew!



FROM: Paul
DATE: Tuesday April 5, 2005 -- 6:29:43 am
Poster, poseur, either way it's great.



FROM: Ken
DATE: Thursday March 16, 2006 -- 3:26:40 pm
They figured out something else to do! Instead of having black bars in widescreen mode, they put video in the space. It is a pretty great idea, make it possible to watch a video multiple times without getting bored of it.



FROM: jk
DATE: Thursday March 16, 2006 -- 7:32:22 pm
Wow, that was quite a rant that I inspired from our MIA friend Marcus Mackey. I had forgotten about that.

I have XM radio now and enjoy FRED quite a bit. If only it played videos!!



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