The Future of Music Videos

As some of you may know I’m a total music fanatic. I’ve always felt my love of music in it’s own round-about way started my career in the online space. Maybe this is why I have never wavered from my fascination of watching the music world collide with the cultural and technological revolution that is the Internet.

I don’t think that many people would argue with me that this generations MTV is YouTube and it’s lesser cousins. The highest viewed videos on YouTube represent a large number of musical artists. Social networks like MySpace, Facebook, and to a lesser extent are connecting artists with their fans in more rich way then any fans in history.

How big is this aspect of an artist’s success online? Britney Spears is hiring a full time social media expert and she started by posting on Harvard job boards. My point is that the music industry has changed, the way fans are interacting has changed, but the way we consume music videos hasn’t for the most part.

Music videos are still, even on YouTube, just broadcast video. They might drive people back to a website or a myspace page, but for the most part lack any form of interactivity. Why aren’t people pushing the envelope?

For starters the budgets in the music business are impossibly small for online marketing, they’re shrinking, and I feel that a huge portion of the big labels are in state of atrophy as they continue to panic at how their industry is changing. There’s an opportunity to do something wonderful and really cut through the clutter, but someone is going to to have take a risk. Dear music industry, here’s a suggestion: Use your music video production budget to produce an interactive music video that in it’s primary formed would be viewed on a website. It would extend the artform of music video production, leverage your video production budget to aid marketing, and interact with fans in a way that is obviously successful in all other aspects of your online interactions with them.

Luckily some people have taken some interesting experimental attempts at this. The indie band Arcade Fire released two of the singles off their last album in this form last year. They created quite a bit of buzz considering the fairly low profile of the band (in comparison to some mega-artists). MGMT also released an interactive video using Quicktime.  I guess no one had heard of Flash at their managmenet group. Aside from that minor jab, they deserve respect for making the effort. Check them out below and you’ll get an idea of what I’m talking about.

I think they’re all interesting and add a new dimension to the music. What excites me is that I know there is so much more potential there in terms of breaking new creative ground.

Arcade Fire – Black Mirror
Arcade Fire – Neon Bible
MGMT – Electric Feel (Interactive with Quicktime)

One of the things I learned recently is that the music companies are getting paid royalties now for the number of views on their music videos by video sharing sites. If it’s actually a revenue stream for them – doesn’t it make sense that they’d want to create more versions of their videos personalized by the fans and up online?

There is no doubt in my mind that this is the natural evolution for music videos. The sad part is that someone like Madonna will probably be the first big artist to come in and do this in a big way and get all the credit for it.

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