Who remember MTV’s TRL? Who remembers racing home from school to catch their favorite TV channel play the hottest music videos for hours on repeat? Or how about the greatness of Eminem’s “My Name Is” music video when Slim Shady was in his prime? Or Britney Spears’ schoolgirl outfit in “Baby One More Time?” Before we take a trip down memory lane, let’s not forget what MTV even stands for: music television.
Back in the day, music videos were the prime source for new music. Essentially, they were free promo for the artist to showcase what they have to offer. While the visuals served as pure entertainment, the underlying goal was for the consumer to like the music enough to go out and purchase the CD or cassette tape or vinyl. In return, the masterminds of the video got paid, and the artist’s record sales go up.
It’s a win-win.
But also back in those days, record sales meant the consumer physically had to go to the store and purchase a hardcopy of the CD. Nowadays, the surge of music streaming platforms have completely taken over. There’s no longer a need for CDs, and consequently, no longer a need for music videos.
Let me explain. In this day in age, technology, social media, and all things digital seem to be growing at an exponential rate. Just look at how Myspace came and went (we’ll never forget the greatness and joy in choosing your top 8). While the majority of the 2000’s era was saying goodbye to CDs, this era, it’s R.I.P. to music videos. Artists are spending their own money to create these visuals, only for the viewers to hop on Spotify or Apple Music to stream the song for free. This leaves a domino effect where record label personnel focuses their efforts elsewhere.
So, who’s to blame? Look no further than the internet. Just look at what happened when MTV decided to relaunch their TRL series. Not only was the content extremely underwhelming, it was bashed and ridiculed by fans and music industry execs alike. With this generation’s ADD combined with the 0.1 second response time from Google, there’s no need for a Carson Daly curating the latest visuals from popular artists. Let’s be real… would you rather watch an underwhelming performance of Playboi Carti performing “Magnolia” or Joe Budden and DJ Akademiks go at it on Everyday Struggle?
I personally choose the latter.
Ask yourself this, could you really dedicate an hour of your time sitting on your couch, watching music videos play one after another? The answer is probably not. Thanks to the internet, users are heading straight to the source (YouTube) to get their fix. And if they love it enough, they might share the (on average) 4-minute clip with their friends or colleagues.
I’ll never forget the day my friend asked me to hop on a call to see if I had any advice on digital marketing strategies to help “break the internet” with a single music video. He was brought on for the rollout of an A-lister’s music video (whom shall remain unnamed) and given the task to hit four million views in just one day. I was speechless. After realizing I couldn’t help his case, I said, “Good luck” and hung up the phone.
But that also goes to show that the music video isn’t dead. This artist clearly wanted to gain a little more than a pretty check from Youtube. He wanted to make history. He wanted to make a lasting memory on all of our lives. But are we open to it?
Just recently, Vevo announced the top 10 music videos of the year, both globally and within the United States, which lead to some really interesting finds. On a global scale, Latin music proved to dominate, claiming seven of the top spots. This includes “Despacito” and hits from Ricky Martin, J Balvin, and Shakira.
Meanwhile, Post Malone’s “Congratulations” featuring Quavo dominates the #1 spot in the United States, clocking in at 309,357,452 views and counting. To put things in perspective, Britney Spears’ “Baby One More Time” video currently sits at 306,286,709 views, after being released back in 2009. That’s an 8-year span.
While Post outshines Britney by three million views in just a one-year span, ask yourself this, “Do the visuals for “Congratulations” do for you what Britney did for me back in the TRL days? Will it be a timeless memory that we will always remember or think of when we think of our childhood and how we discovered new music?” Probably not. In fact, how many of us have actually seen the “Congratulations” music video from start to finish?
How many of us are going to dress up as Post Malone or Quavo for Halloween? Well, a number probably will. But still. Britney became every teenage girl’s idol at one point or another. Let’s end with this open-ended question, “Are music videos dead?”
I spoke with a number of artists and music industry execs to hear their thoughts.
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