The Next Great Music Video You See Might Be Your Last
The 1990s is often considered the golden age of music video. At the time, the music industry was a bustling, competitive market—and that translated into the music video arena. As MTV started gaining ground, even the more alternative brands had the opportunity to work with big budgets. From an artistic perspective, the rise of the music video industry was pivotal in transforming the industry as a whole, fostering an environment in which directors were granted a level of creative freedom that they had previously never seen. The 1990s were to music videos as the 1960s were to fiction filmmaking: the director became the auteur, and their individual vision a type of cinematic signature. Advertising agencies went to music videos to spot emerging talent and ground-breaking styles.
Take the case of Producer Steve Golin, who founded Propaganda Films and discovered such talents as David Fincher, Spike Jonze, and Michael Bay. Golin would invest in his talents’ visions, first as music video directors, and then would continue to produce their work as they transitioned to feature films and commercials. Discovering countless directors and producing such films as David Fincher’s The Game (1997), Spike Jonze’s Being John Malkovich (1999), and Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), Golin’s production company went on to win more MTV awards and Palme d’Or awards than any other company.
But then it all came crashing down in the 2000s, due in large part to the rise of the internet. The music industry suffered a massive blow from piracy, and the budget cuts affected the music videos directly. Advertisers needed to keep it safe, and as such, re-focused their attention on creating a solid brand image. The director’s vision was relegated to a secondary element. And ultimately, innovation faded.
Up until today, things have more or less continued on that same path—and the music industry is still figuring out how to readapt to the new landscape. That’s not to say there isn’t hope; some of the most watched videos on Youtube are music videos. But the stark division still remains. With Apple sponsoring artists like Jay Z, Justin Bieber, or Rihanna, doling out propitious budgets but little creative freedom, the alternative scene is left more weak than ever, with meager budgets in comparison.
But again, there is still hope. Since millennials typically reject traditional ads, the advertising world is now desperate to find real content to sponsor, and music videos are a great contender for that. The question that remains to be seen, however, is how much creative will these sponsors allow?
Whatever happens today will define the future of the music industry. Will music videos become just another carrier for advertising? Or will a new audience lead the way towards creative independence again, giving music videos the large budgets and attention they deserve?
That’s for you to decide.
Pau Suris is an industry leading innovator and Director (under moniker “pensacola”)—recognized for his expertise in advertising filmmaking geared toward Millenials and Generation Z.
Stay tuned to Milk for more on the state of the music industry.