A music video (also video clip, promo) is a short film meant to present a visual representation of a popular music song. The TV station MTV ("Music Television" launched in 1981), originated the format of end-to-end music video programming without any conventional programs.
History of music videos
Sergei Eisenstein's 1938 film Alexander Nevsky, which features extended scenes of battles choreographed to a score by Sergei Prokofiev, set new standards for the use of music in film and has been described by some as the first music video.
However, the roots of the music video can be found even earlier. In 1911 Alexander Scriabin wrote his symphony Prometheus -- Poem of Fire for orchestra and "light organ". And as far back as the 1920s, the animated films of Oskar Fischinger (aptly labeled "visual music") were supplied with orchestral scores. The early animated efforts of Walt Disney, his Silly Symphonies, were built around music, as were the Warner Brothers cartoons, even today billed as Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies.
Another early form of music video were one-song films called Soundies made in the 1940s for the Panoram visual jukebox. These were short films of musical selections, usually just a band on a movie-set bandstand, made for playing. Thousands of Soundies were made, mostly of jazz musicians, but also torch singers, comedians, and dancers.
Before the Soundie, even dramatic movies typically had a musical interval, but the Soundie made the music the star and virtually all the name jazz performers appeared in Soundie shorts, many still available on compilation video tapes or DVDs.
The Panoram jukebox with eight three-minute Soundies were popular in taverns and night spots, but the fad faded during World War II.
The very first short musical films made specifically for television, however, were the Snader Telescriptions, more than 1000 short musical presentations filmed for use a television filler between 1950 and 1954. The Snader Telescriptions covered the entire musical landscape. Although most of them were of conventional pop performers, there were many rhythm and blues, jazz, and country music performers. Over the years, the Telescriptions have been re-released many times as compilations, such as Showtime at the Apollo.
In the 1960s, French technology developed for the aerial photography during the war was adapted to create the Scopitone, a modern visual jukebox. The Scopitone was a hit in France with fairly primitive scenes of bands playing, but when it was introduced into the US, the videos took on a vivid quality, with crooners wandering through crowds of girls in bikinis or "jungle" furs. The Scopitone also was a hit, but involvement of organized crime led to its demise, just as rock and roll was being revitalized, too late for Scopitone.
Also in the 60s, the light show became popular for live performances, combining music with abstract visuals, harkening back to Scriabin's efforts.
The history of the modern music video has its roots in the early 1960s with The Beatles first major motion picture, A Hard Day's Night in 1964, which included musical segments that resemble today's music videos. That same year, the band began filming short promotional films for their songs which were then aired on television variety shows. By the time the band stopped touring in 1966, they used the promotional films to tour for them. Soon it was common place for artists to do this, and bands like The Byrds and The Beach Boys were also filming promotional films.
The first music videos of the modern era were produced by ex-Monkee Michael Nesmith who started making short musical films for Saturday Night Live in 1979. In 1981, he released Elephant Parts, the first video album and first winner of a Grammy for music video. A further experiment on NBC television called Television Parts was not successful, due to network meddling (notably an intrusive laugh track and corny gags).
During the 1980s promotional videos became pretty much de rigueur for most recording artists, a rise which was famously parodied by UK BBC television comedy program Not The Nine O'Clock News who produced a spoof music video; "Nice Video, Shame About The Song".
In the information technology era, they are now just as popular as songs themselves, being sold in collections on video tape and DVD. Enthusiasts of music videos sometimes watch them muted purely for their aesthetic value.
With the advent of easy distribution over the internet, a number of fan-created videos began appearing in the late 1990s and continuing into the next century. These are typically made by synchronizing existing footage from other sources with the song, often from television series or movies. Most commonly the source material is drawn from animated cartoons, especially anime (see anime music video) but also including American animation series. Since neither the music nor the film footage is typically licensed, distributing these videos is usually copyright infringement on both counts. However, it is typically the owners of film footage who file lawsuits, particularly large American corporations who fear dilution of their characters (such as Charlie Brown) by such unlicensed videos.
Music video timeline
- 1941: A new invention hits clubs and bars in the USA: The Panoram Soundie is a jukebox that plays short videoclips along with the music.
- 1956: Hollywood discovers the genre of music-centered films. A wave of rock'n'roll films begins (Rock Around the Clock, Don't Knock the Rock, Shake, Rattle and Rock, Rock Pretty Baby, The Girl Can't Help It), and the famous Elvis Presley movies. Some of these films integrated musical performances into a story, others were simply revues.
- 1960: In France a re-invention of the Soundie, the Scopitone gains limited success.
- 1962: British Television invents a new form of music television. Shows like Top Of The Pops, Ready! Steady! Go! and Oh, Boy started as band vehicles and became huge hits.
- 1964: The US-Television market adapts the format. Hullabaloo is one of the first US shows of this kind, followed by Shindig! (NBC) and American Bandstand.
- 1970: The record industry discovers these TV-Shows as a great opportunity to promote their artists. They focus on producing short "Promos", early music videos which started to replace the live performance of the artist on the TV-stage.
- 1975: Bruce Gowers directs the music video "Bohemian Rhapsody" for Queen. Today considered as a landmark in music video as it featured the complete visual grammar of today's music promos.
- 1981: A spin-off company of the American Express Group starts MTV, an experimental satellite channel broadcasting 24 hours of music videos. The first video played was The Buggles "Video Killed the Radio Star". Today the start of MTV is commonly seen as the beginning of the "golden era" of music videos and an unparalleled success story of a new artform in popular culture, although many people see it as the death of the true artist, because now in order to be popular you must be physically appealing.
- 1996: Pop-up Video is first aired on VH1.
Music video stations
- MTV, MTV (USA)
- VH-1, VH-1 (USA)
- MuchMusic, MuchMusic (Canada)
- VIVA, VIVA (Germany)
- TMF, TMF (Netherland)
- Clipland A music video database covering nearly every promo made to date
- mvdbase similar service offering quite up to date material lately
- Launch Formerly independent but now Yahoo's outlet for streaming music videos