i thought i’d make my first post about something that has come up a lot recently. i’d mentioned it on my previous blog and on my facebook and stuff, and the general consensus seems to be that music videos from smaller bands, on the whole, tend to be bullshit.
this doesn’t really have anything to do with the quality of video (although that itself tends to be questionable nowadays, more on that later), but more the general sentiment the idea of a music video nowadays seems to convey, and how fucking pointless the whole exercise is in general.
there seem to be two main types of music video becoming prevalent nowadays and these will be the ones i focus on:-
1. the indie band video - i saw this brilliantly referred to on a blog somewhere (sorry i can’t remember who) as the “sad bastard in a forest video”. this tends to focus on a bunch of people (the band, usually) standing in a forest with their instruments (the instruments do not require to be played), playing what is usually quite happy, upbeat music, and surprisingly juxtaposing that with the many images of the band looking bored as fuck.
2. the hardcore video - the locales for a hardcore video can be slightly more varied than the indie one. although forests are definitely a popular choice, there can also be abandoned warehouses and building sites and, well, that seems to be about it. the band will always be set up with all their equipment pretending to play, as if there were an eager crowd standing right in front of them (seemingly making their absence even more apparent). more often than not, the band playing (filmed from many different angles) is the crux of the video. it shares a lot of similarities with the indie video, but also expect to see more vests, stretched ears and massive fringes in the hardcore video. also, prepare for vast, vast amounts of misogyny, synchronised dances and what are essentially crabcore moves during breakdowns.
so yeah, those tend to be the categories most bands and videos nowadays tend to fall into. seems harmless enough, if the music calls for a certain type of video then why not do that kind of video?
what i would say to that is that the idea of a music video in the traditional sense nowadays may not be “harmful”, but it is utterly pointless, and in many ways that can be worse. the main problem i have with music videos nowadays is that you can guess exactly what’s going to happen with every single one before you even watch it. you see that a hardcore band has made a music video and you can basically tell it’s going to be exactly like what i described above. the problem with that to me seems to be that the bands themselves don’t even really know what to do with their music video. if that’s the best they can come up with, but they still bother to make it anyway, then it just reeks of false legitimacy.
what i mean by that is that it seems clear they have seen a bunch of other, bigger bands doing music videos and think “if we make a music video, we can be as legitimate as that bigger band!” the problem then becomes oversaturation. if everyone is having that thought and subsequently making a mediocre music video (which is incredibly easy to do nowadays it would seem), then it completely removes the impact of it. i swear at least once every couple of days i get an announcement on my facebook that a band is making a music video or releasing a music video or whatever, and it just doesn’t interest me in the slightest. it just serves to inflate the band’s ego when it comes down to “we made a music video, are we successful yet?” times have changed. the paradigm is different. MTV doesn’t show music videos anymore, because the format in its traditional form has become redundant.
i say times have changed because they really have. like i say, it’s incredibly easy to make a music video nowadays, so everyone seems to be doing it. this has also created a very disposable culture when it comes to all forms of art. the internet gives everyone their 15 minutes of fame, but nothing more than that. there’ll be so much hype for a music video from a band and from their biggest fans, they’ll release it, they’ll get a bunch of likes on the post on facebook, a few people might share it around, but inevitably the buzz will die down, and often sooner than most bands think. this doesn’t stop them spamming you with it day in, day out, but when the buzz dies down and people find the next band with a shiny new music video, they’ll forget about yours in a matter of days (if that). so all you’ve got is a document of you miming to a piece of music you made that you thought would legitimise your music, but that ultimately no one’s watching. that to me seems completely fucking redundant.
so it baffles me when i hear what people spend to get this stuff made. i’ve heard of people spending as much money as it would cost to be able to record for a few days in a good studio on a shitty music video. so it’s pointless and expensive - two of the critical signs that something you’re doing as a band is wrong. that money could go to recording, pressing physical copies, whatever. as a musician, i tend to take the steve albini approach that any money you can save is a good thing, and that if you’re putting in more money than you’re making, then you’re making a mistake. a music video in that sense then seems to me as a gross misstep for any band in this day and age.
what baffles me even more, however, is that on a technical level, most of these videos are just fucking hard to watch. a lot of these bands tend to go to the same people with a shitty camera who think they’re the next scorsese or whatever, and the results are always the same. good filmmaking is incredibly difficult, that’s why it’s considered an artform. however, if the band you’re filming isn’t interesting to watch, then they aren’t interesting to watch. if you as a filmmaker are trying to create some kind of kinesis with a band (tends to be heavier music) by just messing with the focus dial and shaking the camera about, then you’re doing it wrong. it just gives people fucking headaches. it’s not pleasant to look at in the fucking slightest. you tend to get the same kind of thing in indie videos too - that kind of obvious grainy filter put on in imovie or whatever, and the cameraman for some reason just messing with the focus dial, whilst the camera itself is accidentally shaking all over the place. it looks so unprofessional, and when most of the people making these videos claim to be professional, well, something is wrong.
so what makes a good music video? something that isn’t traditional. something that focuses on the music. something that doesn’t cost a fortune to make, but also does more than serve to inflate the bands ego. there are a couple of ways you can do this. you could do what bands like make sparks do and go the “human” route. their videos for apollo, apollo and rewind are some of the best i’ve seen in recent times - their focus on comedy at the expense of the band themselves makes them relatable and human, and it makes the videos genuinely funny. some of the bits in rewind actually had me laughing out loud on my own, which makes the video a success. the production values are high, but they don’t care about providing something which makes them seem totally serious - the music is serious enough. the music does the talking. the visual piece presented with it serves as a nice aside. interestingly, make sparks also did a more serious video quite recently (around the same time as apollo apollo) which wasn’t nearly as effective. i can’t even remember the song, which makes the video a failure in my eyes. on the whole though, those boys know how to do it.
so you could do it that way, or you could just literally make it so that the song is the main point of the video. without trying to plug anything (seems pointless as it is to no one), my band hunt/gather have an album coming out soon. in order to get people excited for it, we thought we’d show a song from it. over the year or so we’ve been a band we’ve filmed a bunch of footage from various shows and recording on a wee handheld camera. we’ve always talked about putting together a wee compilation of footage and stuff, but more for our sake than anyone else’s. our guitarist was just messing about with editing software though and put the song we were going to show people to a quickly edited bunch of footage from live shows. it looks lo-fi and DIY, but the video isn’t the point. youtube links are easy to spread around on facebook, and live footage from gigs shows people that you actually do play shows to people as opposed to just a forest. it also cost us fuck all to do, and for us it’s nice to look at as it’s footage from the entire year we’ve been a band, stuff that we might have forgotten about otherwise. but even then, the main focus of the video is the song. again, the music does the talking (by the way, if you’re interested, you can watch the video here).
or you could just get someone to record a gig you’re playing, get someone to film it as well, and then join the audio and video together. i’m much more likely to watch and listen to a video of a band performing live than watch a video of them miming in a small building or whatever. it gives you an actual idea of what the band sounds like. no egos, no bullshit, just music.
that’s the point of all this, right? the music? i think a lot of people have forgotten about that. they look up to bigger bands who have music videos and think that they have to make one too or they’ll never be as big as that. here’s some news for you - you’re right, you’ll never be as big as that. the paradigm is completely different to what it was even seven years ago. people don’t care about music videos anymore, especially badly made ones. as times change, artists and views have to change with it, otherwise you’re just blowing your money on a temporary ego boost, which is fucking pointless. STOP IT.
so yeah, big post for my first one. feels good man. if you like this kind of thing or you just want to laugh at how stupid my opinions are, follow me. i’m a good leader.