Music Videos – Narrative Structure

Narrative Structure:
As music videos are only 3-5 minutes, they do not follow a traditional narrative structure –
they reflect the structure of the accompanying music, relying on rhythm, pace and lyrical
There are two main genres: Narrative and Non-narrative. In music videos the Non-narrative
genre is more common. Douglas Rushkoff states ‘Most rock videos do not aspire to tell
stories with beginnings, middles and ends, but instead impart meaning through visual
collage’ and that ‘No attempt is made to convey a reality. Instead, videos are liberated into a
timeless dreamworld’.
Types of Music Videos
The music industry divides clips into two main types: conceptual (narrative and non-
narrative) and performance.
Narrative music videos: Simple and complex narratives the video into mini-films.
Simple narratives provide a basic situation which lapses into jumbled imagery
between to allow the audience to create their own fantasy. Complex narratives
demonstrate the genre division of their full length counterparts i.e. horror clips, film
noir etc. Complex narrative videos tend to move the song to wards a ballad.
Non-narrative music videos: Dream-like realities are created through images and
music to combine an emotional effect. The constant shift of topics resembles the
structure of dreams. They follow a loose theme rather than story and use images
with powerful mental associations i.e. symbols.
Performance Clips:
Music videos concentrate on actual the stage appearance of the artist. It can look old
fashioned and was particularly popular in the 1960s and 1970s. Modern artist can use the
performance clip as an anti-commercial statement. During these clips the artists look
directly in the camera as a direct appeal to the imagined audience and follows conventions
of stage performances.
Features of Music Videos
Poetic Image- Builds ideas and emotion in the minds of the audience (grabs and holds onto
attention). Leads to video clip makers to search for more bizarre and shocking images.
Symbolic Images- Video clip makers rely on images that are easily understood and highly
symbolic. The audience can’t be allowed to get confused. Examples are: Nazi rallies, scenes
of witchcraft, images of romance, well-known movies or works of art etc.
Music videos can be used by the youth to develop the personalities. It can work as means of
self-expression and help them create a world that is separate from their parents. Whilst the
video is playing they can experience being part of the group or part of a youth tribe. Videos
are a form of communication between the artist and audience and thus makes them feel
knowledgeable and successful
Music videos create a world of extremes:
Natural Landscape images are extreme i.e. hot red deserts, stormy oceans, deep
forest (colour and mood important)
Male Images often represented extreme examples of traditional roles i.e. thugs,
gangsters, musclemen, soldiers etc.
Female Images are often restricted to goddesses, temptresses or whores (some
videos toy with stereotypes)
Androgyny is when a unisex image is promote (common)
Authority Figures such as parents, teachers and police are portrayed as ‘party
poopers’ at best or cruel oppressors at worst
Nostalgia is common with scenes of flashback – referring to the ‘good old days’,
normally of rock and roll in the 1950s.
Hollywood fairytale story lines
Most frequent discourses:
Consumerism – Music videos are seen as a form of advertising with the underlying message
that buying this song will improve the viewers life (Product placement).
Gender - As they are aimed at young people videos explore a wide range of gender
constructions as well as sexual discrimination and exaggerated gender roles.
Sex and Violence – Attention grabbing for videos is to use sex or violence or both, and
because videos are so short they don’t have time to go beyond the shock of a moment of
violence or the thrill of nudity
Most video try to get G or PG censorship rating to ensure commercial play in prime time