Trends

April 11th, 2013

Storytelling Lessons from the History of Music Videos [VIDEO]

When it come to art, Michael Patterson prefers music videos over paintings.

“Music videos are not like a painting. People have an emotional connection to music videos, they feel something,” said the director and animator of a-ha’s classic music video “Take On Me.”

Patterson spoke recently about the Museum of the Moving Image’s latest exhibition, Spectacle: The Music Video, which claims to be the first of its kind to seriously examine music video as an art form. More than 300 videos, artifacts, and installations to show how the music video has evolved and continues to push the boundaries of creativity. The New York exhibit opened last week and continues until June 16.

The most iconic music videos share commonalities that can be applied to best practices of content marketing. The following lessons are paired with music videos from the exhibit.

1. Create a tangible story

The notion of putting song to a moving image has existed since the 1920s, as early as technology allowed it. Adding video to song made the music and the image both feel more tangible and digestible.

A few examples of great storytelling are the first plot-driven video The Kinks’ “Dead End Street” and David Bowie’s videos for Space Oddity, ”John I’m Only Dancing,”"The Jean Genie,” and ”Life on Mars,” which were treated as short films upon his first break into the U.S. And there is the 13 minute epic video “Thriller” by Michael Jackson.

2. Be experimental

Spectacle exhibit curator Jonathan Wells said that there has been so much experimentation with music videos “they’ve started to have their own genres,” including choreography, cinematography, controversy, inspiration, or art and animation.

Constant experimentation was what made some artists get their break, such as Justice’s “D.A.N.C.E.,” Devo’s “Mongoloid,” OK Go’s “Here It Goes Again,” and Stereogram’s “Walkie Talkie Man.”

3. Make a connection

Patterson says what made “Take On Me” so successful was the simple love story and the connection viewers feel between the girl and her animated love interest. Despite the fact they had a wall between them (different dimensions of reality), they still connected.

“Even with the break from reality to fantasy, it’s all about the gaze,” said Patterson. Connect with your audiences, and forget that wall.

4. Allow group participation

In recent years, crowdsourcing has become a popular trend among artists, including The Beastie Boys, Japanese band Sour, and the Johnny Cash Project, just to name a few.

Fan remixing “couldn’t have happened without the Internet” and the ease of video production allowed fans to engage and share their remixes of their favorite music videos, Wells said, adding, “Culture exists to be remixed.”

The wildly popular hit “Single Ladies” from Beyonce was featured in Spectacle due to the many fan remixes and parodies it generated all over the world. Allowing fans to engage in celebration creates a deeper connection and more meaning.

Wells explains that “music videos are exciting” because they allow artists to be experimental and break boundaries. Music videos have evolved — as has how brands communicate with their audiences — by finding new ways to create stories, make a connection, experiment, and allow fans to participate in content creation.

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