A2 G324: Advanced Portfolio in Media

Why Does a Music Video Exist?
In almost every case, a video is a marketing tool, to advertise and sell a single. (That’s why they’re often called ‘promos’ or ‘promotional videos’.) A music video will help define the image of an artist, and contribute to their ‘star power’ or brand. (Two hugely famous examples of artists whose images were defined by videos are Madonna and Michael Jackson.) Videos are low-cost content for TV music channels (are they effectively adverts for an artist?). TV music channels don’t cost much to run – that’s why there are so many. Record companies also want you to buy videos. This may be via download, on DVD collections, or as part of promotional packages promoting an album (where inclusion of a video is usually used to ‘add value’ especially in ‘deluxe’ packages. The budget for a video determines how lavish a production is. Artists like Madonna have spent millions on videos, and hired top directors, but a lot of music videos are made on a relatively low budget. The first single from an album will often have more money spent on it than the subsequent singles.

from the video for Calvin Harris – I’m Not Alone (2009)

Consuming Videos
Think about where, when and how you watch videos. In 2009, videos are watched on TV, PC’s, and mobile phones. What brands were involved? Eg: TV Channels (Eg: Scuzz), websites (Eg: Youtube), technology (Eg: iPod) Are you (‘the audience’) actively engaged in watching videos, or are they a background activity? If you hear a song on the radio or on your iPod / stereo, how often do you associate the image presented in the video with the music? Also, think about if seeing a video has made you go and buy the single or album being promoted (or perhaps made you want to see an artist live).

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A2 G324: Advanced Portfolio in Media
Do What Do We See On Screen?
Meanings are created in music videos, as in films, by the people, objects and settings that are recorded by the camera. The French semiologist Roland Barthes used the terms denotation and connotation to analyse images and these can be applied to music videos as well as other audio-visual texts. When the elements in the mise-enscène are filmed an act of denotation takes place. This means that a number of elements are assembled, recorded and can be explored by the audience visually. The act of denotation is, however, accompanied inevitably by an act of connotation. This is because all images and constituents of images carry associations which ‘impregnate the whole of the image’, Barthes also referred to the way in which denotations draw on myths, which are sets of ideas and images current in a society, that seem to be unquestionable and natural. (Bell, Joyce and Rivers, 1999) from the video for Akon – Beautiful (2009) For each genre of music, there are certain things that we usually expect to see. (And if an artist doesn’t follow the conventions for their genre, it can either be odd or surprising!) For example, think about what you would expect to see in a video for: A: a heavy metal band / B: an American hip-hop star / C: a British female pop star All the following aspects of a video production are very genre driven, and depend hugely on the image the artist wants to project to the world: Lighting / sets / location / costumes / colour schemes / pace of editing / camera shots used / special effects / sexuality* *A video that heavily features ‘sexual behaviour’ or in which the costumes are highly suggestive can often be controversial, and even get banned. Controversy can also apply to violence and criminal activity in videos (think about how US hip-hop and R&B are perceived to combine sex, crime, and violence). A ‘banned’ video can be far more useful in terms of publicity than one shown normally. A star’s image and their core audience is key here (especially the age of the audience). Often controversy is generated when a pop artist moves from a safe family friendly image to one that is highly sexualised. A ‘ban’ or ‘controversy’ can create huge media coverage – but may also backfire. In a world ordered by sexual imbalance, pleasure in looking has been split between active/male and passive/female. The determining male gaze projects its phantasy on to the female form which is styled accordingly. In their traditional exhibitionist role women are simultaneously looked at and displayed, with their appearance coded for strong visual and erotic impact so that they can be said to connote to-be-looked-at-ness. Woman displayed as sexual object is the leit-motif of erotic spectacle: from pin-ups to striptease, from Ziegfeld to Busby Berkeley, she holds the look, plays to and signifies male desire. (Mulvey, 1975)

from the video for Shakira - She Wolf (2009)

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A2 G324: Advanced Portfolio in Media
Performance and Narrative?
Think about the balance between narrative and performance in a video. Some videos feature the artist performing (usually miming to a studio recording), some feature a short story set to music. Think about the purpose of the video - is it there to tell a story, or to show the artist performing the song? Andrew Goodwin, [writing in 1992], identifies a number of key features which distinguish the music video as a form: from the video for AC/DC - Rock’n’Roll Train (2008) • • • • There is a relationship between the lyrics and the visuals (with visuals either illustrating, amplifying or contradicting the lyrics). There is a relationship between the music and the visuals (again with visuals either illustrating, amplifying or contradicting the music). Particular music genres may have their own music video style and iconography (such as live stage performance in heavy rock). There is a demand on the part of the record company for lots of close-ups of the main artist/vocalist. The artist may develop their own star iconography, in and out of their videos, which over time, becomes part of their star image. There is likely to be reference to voyeurism, particularly in the treatment of women, but also in terms of systems of looking (screens within screens, binoculars, cameras, etc. from the video for Britney Spears – Womanizer (2008)

(Goodwin, 1992)

Most videos combine elements of the two extremes, and mix some sort of story or plot in with performance footage. The table below suggests some questions to ask when you think about the balance of performance and narrative in a video. Performance The artist is appearing in some way to perform their song. They might be in a live setting showing the musician(s) on stage, usually miming. Or is the performance more abstract – with the artist miming, dancing, but not pretending to be ‘authentic’. Are there dancers? What are the costumes like? Is there an ‘audience’ watching the performer? What’s the story? Narrative

Does the story relate to the lyrics directly?

Is it serious, humorous, pretentious? Is sex involved? Romance? Is the artist in the video ‘aware’ of their song? How do they interact with the song? Do other people in the video interact with the song, or follow their own narrative path?

Is the artist portrayed differently when ‘performing’ to ‘off stage’ or narrative scenes?

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A2 G324: Advanced Portfolio in Media
You Things To Think About If You Are Producing A Music Video for Coursework:
If you produce a music video for your coursework, you will get high marks if you can demonstrate through your video, and through your planning, that you have a theoretical and practical understanding of the codes and conventions of the genre. You will need to draw on the theory as explained above, and create a video that replicates the key elements of the form. You can be creative and confident in what you do – but don’t try anything too ambitious! While thinking about your choices, consider these guidelines: The Music: What musical style or genre would you choose? YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO USE COPYRIGHTED, COMMERCIAL MUSIC [If you have a friend in a band, or write your own music, you can use that. There are also several sources of music with a ‘creative commons’ licence which you can use free of charge, and free of copyright.] Locations: Where would you film the video? Using a number of locations might give you the chance to show off your skills, and combine narrative and performance. (But don’t get too ambitious Props, Costumes, Lighting: These must fit the conventions of the genre, but also be realistic with what you want to achieve. Special Effects: You can use some while you are editing to enhance the video. Health and Safety: YOU MUST NEVER DO ANYTHING that would put you or anyone else in danger or an illegal situation while you are filming. Budget: You don’t really have one, so everything needs to be free or ultra-cheap!

References
Bell, Joyce and Rivers, (1999). Tools of Analysis, Advanced Level Media (p.57) Mulvey, (1975). Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema Originally Published - Screen 16.3 Autumn 1975 pp. 6-18 Goodwin, (1992). Dancing in the Distraction Factory And see the blog for further reading…

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