History of Music Video
The first rumblings of change in the way music was listened too and performed
came in 1900, due to technological advancements by Edison, who created the
gramophone in the USA. This was the key shift between live and audio visual
experiences towards recorded audio on various forms of disk and the eventual
progression into the 21st century music where the content of the song is often an
after thought compared to the construction of the music video.
The existence of music videos span from a long and tedious road, they began
with musical short films which were often produced by the Warner Bros., the first
true musical video series was entitled ‘The Spoony Melodies’ but during this time
the evolution of music videos can be credited to animation, especially to the artist
Max Fischinger who introduced the first instance of audience participation, not
only that, his cartoons featured many famous musicians performing live versions
of there hit songs during segments of the cartoon.
The Warner bros were quick to jump on this idea and soon began to release
there own versions of live action musical shorts.
However it wasn’t till the end of the 1920’s that the true format of music videos
was established. At the fore front of this revolution in music videos was Nick
Graves who appeared in the St Louis blues, which was a two reel short film in
1929. these short films were not only revolutionary in aspects of technological
advancements, they were also revolutionary in aspects of society and culture as
Bessie smith, an African American was a key figure in this video. This was
influential in attempting to change the general American perception of those of a
The 1940’s saw another boom in the music video industry this could be
accredited to both an economic up turn in America after the great depression but,
on the other hand it could be a result of changing society. Primarily the panoram
visual juke box can be said to be the main reason for the development of the
music genre into one which now was increasingly demanding videos for songs.
However before panoram could fully develop the music industry; it was forgotten
during the war years and subsequently after.
A key factor in music video and its growth to prominence today was music film.
One important film for the post war ere was ‘Tony Bennet’s’ musical film for his
recording ‘strangers in paradise’ which was shot in Hyde Park London. This shows
how America was not the only prominent force in the growth of music videos.
This rise in popular music can be said to have followed the popularity of television
which broadcasts images and information on previously widely unseen music
The beginning of a new decade in the 1960’s saw a new era begin to unfold in
music videos. The scopitone was an innovative visual juke box that the French
used frequently until similar machines began to sprout all over the world,
Due to music videos ever increasing domain in the public eye television began to
respond with first ready steady go in 1963 and a year later top of the pops began
on BBC. In this year the fantastical mock-umnetory by the Beatles, entitled a hard
day’s night directed by Richard Leicester became a resounding success and set
higher standards at which subsequent music videos were compared to. It even
influenced American culture as the hit us TV series the Monkees 1966-1968
followed in structure as it had many segments associated to the various songs of
The Beatles were at the fore front of music video dominance over this period of
time as with each music video the ideas and planning became more and more
complex. Cumulating in infamous videos for strawberry fields forever, penny lane
and rain, which even till this day, are seen to be one of the most critically
acclaimed ground braking videos.
All though still often showing live performances of the artists and lacking much
clarity in narrative, Bob Dylan’s subterranean homesick blues gave a new
perspective to the music video industry. This was done by quite simply standing
at the back of a alley and dropping queue cards on which lyrics were placed, this
can be seen as a far cry from the multimillion pounds that are spend effortlessly
in the new music video industry.
The 1970’s followed the growing trend through out the last few decades of
advancements in the music video industry an example of this is in both the better
quality and rising prices of music videos. The early 1970’s saw a standard music
video for David Bowie go from $200 to $350 in mere months showing increasing
importance that was being placed on music videos
Surprisingly, the beginnings of music television can be credited to the almost now
unknown Australian dominance of the market. This unlikely source of this
innovation in music television continued to persevere in the launch of
‘Countdown’, which unlike the British top of the pops had fewer restrictions on its
The growing need for music videos was no more evident then in the late 1970’s
in the United kingdom in which David Bowie ‘madness’, ‘Queen’ and ‘Pink Floyd’
all gained major chart success on the back of highly successful music videos.
In America, the music video craze was also booming video concert hall created by
Jerry Crowe and Charles Henderson was one of the first video music programs on
American television. It was predecessor of MTV by almost three years. Night
flight was one of the first American programs to show these videos in similar
context to which MTV did two months later
The publicity and development in the music video industry which was down to
‘Rocky Horror Picture Show’ and its sequel shock treatment this increased the
visual awareness of the audience members and broke many boundaries and
stereotypes that suggested music videos were only creatable with high financial
On the back of this success the 1981 release of the music video channel MTV in
the US was almost as significant as the first song that was played which was
called ‘Video killed the radio star’ and was a clear sign of what was to come. As it
was evident that the media industry and more so the music side had shifted from
being mainly about sound and voice to being more dependent on visual aspects.
This is epitomized by the song title of the video ‘video killed the radio star’ which
depicts the death of radio and the up rise of music video
There were key developments in the music video industry and the development
of cheaper and easier to use cameras and editing equipment, along with other
developments such as better special effects and means of watching music videos,
in the 80’s. This can be seen to be represented in the more sophisticated music
videos, and occasionally they were made in non representational form in which
the music artist was not shown and narrative played a key role however these
videos were a rarity because the main objective of music videos was to promote
the artist. An example of this is David Bowie and the Queen ‘under pressure’
1983 saw the most successful and significant music video ever made; Michael
Jackson fourteen minute long video for thriller. Costing an unbelievable $500.000
at the time, it became an instant success and has created a new standard for
which modern music videos aspire to.
This was also a break through for many other reasons primarily because Michael
Jackson was an African American and also because it went against the music that
was initially played on MTV.
The older audience members were catered too by MTV as VH1 was released in
1985 it was aimed towards the older audience members as it has softer music.
This was the stepping stone for the expansion of the MTV Empire which lead to
MTV Europe and MTV Asia which both created within 6years of VH1
The UK was also keeping up to date with innovations in the music video industry
and subsequently in 1986 the chart show was launched on channel 4. Also in this
year British studio Aardman Animation and there special effects techniques
allowed Peter Gabriel’s song ‘sledge hammer’ to win 9 MTV video music awards.
Towards the end of 1992 music video directors began getting the credit they
deserved as the artist and song credits were listed when the songs were played.
1995 saw two of the most expensive videos of all time, Madonna’s, ‘bedtime
story’, which cost $5million and Michael & Janet Jackson’s, ‘scream’
The 90’s were another indication of the globalization had and were reaching as
MTV Latin America , MTV India, MTV mandarin and MTV2. this shows the long
way music video television has come from the early days of countdown in
The beginning of the 21st century marked another change in the music video
industry, as the web was now starting to become more prominent in watching
music videos. These illegal downloads were created through music videos being
recorded from live television. This could be one reason why during the mid 2000’s
music television channels was shifting to more reality based shows such as
Laguna beach which followed a group of high school students.
Music videos have now become an ever present member of the online community
as websites such as, YouTube which was founded in 2005, have made it easier to
access music videos. This has lead to over night celebrities such as OK GO, who
have found stardom in their videos for there two songs ‘a million ways’ and ‘here
it goes again’
But due to legal rights there are on going battles between record labels and
websites such as YouTube regarding the legal rights to publicize the music