Sunday, 10 March 2013

Music videos and Producer’s Strategies

Music videos are also made as part of an overall strategy to help promote an image and develop the career of an artist. I have already posted about why music videos exist, why Blink 182's All the Small Things is a good case study and what videos are tied in with films. Now I will move on to producer's strategies.

The major labels can have very different strategies for their artists than the independent labels and then there are those artists that do not have a record label and are forced to self-produce their own music video in order to increase their presence on the internet and perhaps even television.

The major labels often have the strategy that they wish to create a very specific image of their artist in order to maximize their appeal to the target audience. Look at any pop group and their music videos will contain choreographed dancing, the latest fashions (and lots of costume changes) and a whole range of other elements that will make the artist look rich, sexy and successful.

Looking at the early videos of Eminem is interesting. My Name Is was the first major single. It features Dr Dre which helps to establish Eminem as a new and ‘cool’ hip hop artist. It does everything it can to make Eminem into an icon. He dresses up as Bob Hope, Marilyn Manson, and the President and appears in set ups that make him look like a TV star of wholesome shows like The Brady Bunch. It sets him up as a pop icon that will subversively attack all that is ‘good’ and ‘clean cut’ in pop culture.
His next song, Guilty Conscience, and the video for it, made Slim Shady look like the devil compared to Dr Dre’s more even tempered, sensible and wiser gangster rapper. The first music video off his following album, The Real Slim Shady, attacked and parodied a huge range of pop stars. The strategy is clear; make Eminem appeal to pop fans by putting down his competitors and still make him appeal to hip hop fans by his rude, aggressive attitude. His video for Lose Yourself featured clips from his starring role in the film 8 Mile and helped promote his film and the 8 Mile soundtrack.

The Prodigy are an excellent example of a group that have had a much more independent spirit in their music videos and career. They were on independent label XL Recordings for much of their career and recently moved to Cooking Vinyl, another independent label. Their music videos have often been very dark and controversial and they ensured that people would see them by refusing to appear live on Top of the Pops when their singles were in the charts.

A fairly early example of their music videos is Poison which features the group members performing in a small dark room and eventually becoming caked in sloppy dark filth. The music video is cheap and simple but also sells the image of the band as something different, edgy and dirty. Their later video for Firestarter, all filmed in underground tunnels in black and white, was considered too scary for children and some channels would not show it until after the watershed. All their videos paled in comparison to the video for their most controversial song Smack My Bitch Up. This video was banned from television and after huge public demand, MTV agreed to play it only after midnight. It contains drug use, violence and a very explicit sex scene but does not feature the actual group at all. It is a shocking example of an artist seeking publicity by courting controversy and determinedly positioning themselves outside of the mainstream, despite their success.

Some artists will self-produce their own videos with or without the backing of a record label. Forever the Sickest Kids put three months of hard work into a stop motion music video for their song Crossroads. Ed Sheeran gained huge exposure from the simple video filmed for SBTV of his song and performance of You Need Me, I Don’t Need You.  

Perhaps the greatest example of what a home made low budget music video can do for a band is OK Go’s A Million Ways that simply has the band perform a choreographed dance in a back yard. The video went viral, becoming an internet sensation and hurling the band into public recognition and popularity.

All the videos mentioned are below and are good examples of how music videos can be a part of a producer’s overall strategy for an artist.

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