September 25, 2017

The History of Music Videos


The year 1981 gave birth to MTV and launched as a 24/7 music television channel. However, in the beginning MTV had about a hundred promotional clips, as music videos and MTV were forced to go to record labels and ask them to make these videos for free, which they would then go on to screen.

In the 1960’s The Beatles were eager to give their fans a complete audiovisual experience, recording promotional clips that could be shown abroad. They also starred in two full-length films, Help!  and A Hard Day’s Night. Other bands would follow their lead and also make promotional clips in the ’60s and ’70s. David Bowie was also an early-adopter, releasing the video for Space Oddity in 1969.

However, the most significant music video of this era was Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, which debuted in 1975. When Bohemian Rhapsody rocketed to the top of the charts in Britain, the band were on tour and couldn’t perform on the British music show, Top of the Pops, so they recorded this video to play in their absence.

When MTV officially launched on 1 August 1981 with The Buggles’ Video Killed The Radio Star – the advancement of technology led to a cultural shift and visuals in music, which was established by Michael Jackson’s Thriller in 1983.

Peter Gabriel’s 1986 video for Sledgehammer won nine awards at the MTV Music Awards in 1987 — a total that remains, to this date, unsurpassed — and it’s also the most played clip in the history of the channel. The video’s use of Claymation, pixilation and stop motion animation was considered radical at the time.

Film Directors and Music Videos

The mid ’80s-’90s was a boom period for this, with directors like Anton Corbijn (who directed Nirvana’s Heart-Shaped Box, Depeche Mode’s Enjoy The Silence) Spike Jonze (who directed Beastie Boys’ Sabotage, Fatboy Slim’s “Praise You” and Björk’s “It’s Oh So Quiet” amongst others) and David Fincher (who directed Madonna’s Vogue, Jermaine Stewart’s We Don’t Have To Take Our Clothes Off and Aerosmith’s Janie’s Got A Gun). Directors usually took the path of first working in music videos to work their way up to movies.

When MTV moved in to reality TV launching The Real World to insane viewing figures, it saw the decline of music videos.

Revival Of Music Videos

It was the year 2005, when YouTube begun, which was intended to be a way people could share their home videos with each other. In October 2006, YouTube was acquired by Google and in 2009 and the rest is history. From big-budget music videos, no-budget music videos, to user-uploaded content, YouTube has now only revived but revolutionised the way we watch music videos. In 2017, it was revealved that the total number of people who use YouTube is 1,300,000,000, 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute, and almost 5 billion videos are watched on Youtube every single day.

Interactive Music Videos

Between 2010 – 2015, a high number of high-profile music acts made the most of the Internet by making interactive videos.

Virtual-Reality Music Videos

In 2015 The Weeknd, Björk and U2 all gave us music videos that harnessed elements of virtual reality, with Björk holding her video release in an art gallery and handing out headsets to watch the 360-degree YouTube video.

Today technology like the iPhone means that one doesn’t need to have funding and a camera crew to make legitimate videos. This could be why bigger artists are going for more and more out-there ideas when it comes to their videos.

Thanks to YouTube, the power and appeal of music videos are bigger than ever. Long live music videos!