Music video

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Filming a music video

Music videos (also video clips , video clips or clips ) are short films that translate a piece of music into a film. They are mostly commissioned by a record company to promote the sales of this piece, designed and produced by a film production company specializing in music videos, and are intended to be shown on music television or on the Internet. Usually they last as long as the piece and use it as the only sound source. A part of most music videos is the staging of the artist, mostly when the piece is being performed. If there is no singing in the song, the artists still often appear personally. This points to the interest of the commissioning record company in increasing the level of awareness of their artist. In terms of film history, it combines music videos with the tradition of opera, theater and concert films and concert recording. In some cases, music videos are created as total works of art in which the images are a fully-fledged part of the work, similar to the traditional art forms of opera , operetta or musical , in which music and performance belong together equally.


The beginnings of music videos go back to 1890. American theaters were already offering illustrated songs, the so-called sound slides , which were extremely popular. For this purpose, hand-colored pictures were printed on glass plates and projected onto a screen, while singers performed live on stage. Even then, the sound slides were a successful means of the music industry to bring songs to the people.

First half of the 20th century

In 1900 the company Phono-Cinéma-Théâtre experimented with a combination of sound, film and theater at the Paris World Exhibition and presented Cyrano von Bergerac among a large number of films .

In 1906 the chronophone was invented, the first system for image-sound synchronization for films using a roller and later using a plate.

With the invention of the Vitaphone in 1926, it was possible for the first time to record images and sound simultaneously.

As a master of animation and animation, George Pals designed astonishingly modern advertising films for the technology of the time in 1938 in cooperation with “Ambrose & his Orchestra”, which can also be considered an early version of a music video.

In the years 1941 to 1947, numerous so-called soundies were created in the USA , which are now regarded by many as the first actual clips. Soundies are short, music-based films that could be viewed in restaurants and bars with the help of two-tonne machines, so-called panoramas , after inserting money . The musical accompaniment was varied and ranged from Irish folklore to country music and Duke Ellington . The focus of the film sequence was primarily on the performances of the music, later also (amusing) film scenes or sections with patriotic statements. Soundies are therefore to be seen as examples of early narrative clips.

Post-war music films

A similar development took place in France in the late 1950s, when jukebox-like devices were installed in cafes and bars. The so-called Scopitones , as a further development of the earlier Soundies technology, were able to play music and images and enjoyed great popularity. The technology then found widespread use in other countries. a. in Italy under the name Cinebox, and again in the USA as Color-Sonic.

In the 1960s there were more and more pop stars appearing on television. However, the radio was still the predominant medium in most households.

Creation of the "classical" music video

Since there is no clear separation between short, trailer-like advertising videos, recorded live performances and music videos shot explicitly as such, it is difficult to define what the “first” music video was in the classical sense.


The first music films with an artistic height are closely linked with the rise of the experimental music, media and art movements of the 1960s. In 1965, singer Nico made a musical short film in black and white for her single I'm not sayin ' , which shows her singing on the streets of London and on the banks of the Thames. Other candidates are the promo film for I Got You Babe by Sonny & Cher and Subterranean Homesick Blues by Bob Dylan from 1965. The Beatles made short films for their plays in 1966/67, Writer , Rain , Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane , in which the presentation of the musicians on their instruments gave way to theatrical content. Another musical short film that from today's perspective would be considered a music video in the classical sense is Evening of light , again by Nico, which was made together with Iggy Pop and The Stooges in 1969 under the direction of media artist François De Menil .

Advancement as a musical promotion medium

Often the promotional video is Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen from 1975 called "first" music video that produced in 4 hours on 10 November 1975 and 5 more hours was compiled. Characteristic techniques were used, such as the heroization of the musicians, different cutting frequencies for certain sections of the piece as well as fading in and out techniques. A promotional film with which the Kinks introduced their song Dead End Street as early as 1966 has similar characteristics. Here, too, the musicians were not shown operating their instruments, as was customary before, but the content of the text was staged. In the professional world, the music video for Queens million seller Bohemian Rhapsody is considered the first pop video to accompany the success of a single. It is classified as the beginning of the music video era.

The Swedish pop group ABBA had also started shooting music videos for their singles in 1974 as part of their international breakthrough. They were supposed to promote the band's music especially in countries outside of Europe that were too far away for short promotional tours. In particular, the music video from their hit Mamma Mia helped spark unprecedented enthusiasm for ABBA in Australia and New Zealand in 1975 , which lasted for years and made the group a cult band there.

At the end of the 1970s and until the mid- 1980s , music videos began to flourish. More and more bands and artists brought out music videos parallel to their publications, some with sophisticated concepts. New styles of music such as punk , new wave and electro pop emerged. With the help of the clips, the music producers tried to counteract the stagnating record sales. In 1979 Cher released her single Hell on Wheels - the video for the single was the first modern video in history to be produced in MTV style before MTV even existed.

A milestone here is the video for Thriller by Michael Jackson (1982), which lasted 15 minutes in the original uncut version and used extensive special effects . Also worth mentioning is the very martial-inspired video for The Wild Boys by Duran Duran (1984), for which sensational production costs of over a million US dollars were raised for the time, as well as the one for Take On Me by the Norwegian band a-ha from 1985.

Television formats in the 1980s

The importance of music videos increased sharply in the 1980s due to pure music television channels such as MTV . At the start of the US broadcast of the new station MTV, the title Video Killed the Radio Star of the Trevor Horn project The Buggles was used as the very first music video : A clear programmatic indication from the station that the era of music marketing without video should be buried.

The undisputed stars of this first triumphal march of music television were above all Madonna and Michael Jackson, who, at that time already an international superstar, not only reached the peak of his fame with the video clip for Thriller , but also decisively shaped the young genre of video clips . The music video became a guarantee for a place in the American music charts .

In terms of content, the music video medium reflects the full spectrum of popular culture, from the glorification of consumerism to countercultural currents. Hip-hop culture used music videos as a political mouthpiece and denounced social grievances. For example, the Run-DMC formation was known as the black CNN .

In 1987 MTV Europe went on the air. The first music video that was broadcast on this station was on August 1, 1987, the video for the song Money for Nothing by the British rock group Dire Straits . In the same year the first MTV Video Music Awards , or VMAs for short, took place. A music video has now reached 340 million households.

In Germany, pure music video formats tended to be a niche market until the mid-1980s. Since 1983, the ARD has broadcast weekly Formula One , the first largely video clip-based music program on German television. In 1984 the German-language music television station Musicbox went on air; However, it was almost only accessible via cable and satellite , which at that time meant a comparatively very low degree of distribution. From 1982 to 1988 ZDF broadcast Ronny's Pop Show , which was hosted by a chimpanzee dubbed by Otto Waalkes .

With the merging of Musicbox in Tele 5 in 1988 and the end of Formula One (1990), the presence of video clip formats and channels in Germany fell, even if Tele 5 in particular had a very large proportion of clip shows in the early days Program had and recorded growing market share. The currents in music culture at that time also led to the first major crisis of the video clip. The creative potential of the medium initially seemed exhausted, and the record labels cut their budgets for lavish productions largely down. Video clips made with great effort became rarer. Tele 5, for its part, reacted to these trends by significantly reducing the proportion of video clip broadcasts.

One of the few counterexamples to this development were the video clips in stop-motion technology, staged by Jim Blashfield with great effort and attention to detail, for the Michael Jackson song Leave Me Alone and the single Sowing the Seeds of Love by Tears for Fears .

Symptomatic of this period, however, are rather inexpensive video clip productions, including in frontal perspective ( playback in front of a fixed video camera ) and blue box technology, such as the clip for I've Been Thinking About You by Londonbeat . Also worth mentioning here is George Michael ; Likewise convinced of the crisis of the video clip, he even refused to appear in his video clips himself or to take on a central role, as in Praying for Time (1990) or Too Funky (1992).


The video clip experienced a renaissance at the beginning of the 1990s. In Germany, MTV Europe achieved growing distribution, and from the end of 1993 VIVA went on air as a new German-language video clip channel. This contributed significantly to the development of an extensive national video clip scene in Germany, as the broadcaster specifically supported local artists in addition to international clips in order to profile its competitor MTV.

Grunge , techno and house emerged as new musical genres . In order to counteract the growing distance between stars and fans, MTV developed the MTV Unplugged format , in which the musicians perform in a kind of living room atmosphere in front of a few spectators and only with acoustic instruments.

In contrast to the classic pop aesthetics of the 1980s, the video clip was now perfectly thought out and staged. Productions became more complex again; Sometimes techniques and effects were used that were previously only available in Hollywood films. In particular, the digital revolution in image and video processing from the beginning of the 90s has set lasting accents here. An early sensational example of this time is the clip for Black or White by Michael Jackson (1991), particularly because of the use of morphing sequences. The visual quality of many productions of this time is in no way inferior to commercial Hollywood films.

With the help of professional video mixing software, musicians were increasingly able to create their own videos. An early example is Timber , produced in 1998 by Coldcut & Hexstatic with the help of their software VJamm , whose video was remixed several times and thus entered the Guinness Book of Records as the first music video .

In the 1990s, after the establishment of VIVA and the new local strategy orientation of MTV, an effective marketing procedure was established in Germany, in which the music video played a dominant role in the sale of a single and in the image building and marketing of an artist or act as a whole.

2000s until today

The commercial crisis in the music industry has led to a massive decline in music video budgets in Germany since 2002. Since then, music videos have been produced with significantly less effort. Most of them are now recorded on HD video , which can bring a major cost advantage compared to traditional recording on (mostly 16 mm) film.

During the crisis, sales of singles fell massively and less and less justified the high costs of a music video production compared to the refinancing options. Therefore, the music video budget has dropped significantly. The proportion of music videos on music channels fell continuously. Overall, this interaction gives the impression of a self-reinforcing downward spiral: falling single sales are causing the music video budget to drop, fewer and less attractive videos result in a less attractive program for the music stations, which in turn demotivates the labels to provide free programs for this less attractive environment put. With this downward spiral, the scene of local music video producers has practically disappeared; only a few of the formerly around fifteen independent music video production companies have survived this slump in sales.

Music television has also changed so massively during this time that it can hardly be rightly called music television: the program share of music has continuously decreased, special-interest channels such as VIVA Zwei and VH-1 Germany have been discontinued. MTV has reduced its music video series in almost all national versions to the early hours of the morning; in the British and US original versions even completely deleted. In 2010/11 the addition “Music Television” was removed from the MTV logo worldwide and since 2011 it has disappeared from free-to-air television offerings in Germany.

In the 1990s, the Internet was not yet able to replace television as the new carrier medium for video. The technical requirements on the provider side were lacking - there were still no widespread, video-specific portals - as on the user side: the transmission capacity of the Internet connections of a large number of users did not yet enable convenient and affordable video use. These conditions are changing in parallel with the “de-musicalization” of the music channels. In 2005, YouTube was founded as a user-friendly video platform and a short time later it was bought up and expanded by the financially strong Google group. Since the mid-2000s, the increasing spread of broadband Internet connections and flat rate models have enabled users to use video quickly and cheaply. From the perspective of music video manufacturers, the network has therefore been a real alternative to television since the mid-2000s, because it enables other modes of use that the audience wants. While television in the broadcast model gives the viewer a fixed program schedule, the Internet enables the audience to choose exactly what they want to see, video-on-demand - a usage modality that suits the short nature and usage habits of music in general.

In the 2000s, music broadcasters only played a subordinate role in the classic sense. MTV can only be received as pay TV in Europe, and the media group's free-to-view channels no longer show music clips. Nevertheless, there are now far more pure music video channels than in the past, but they no longer find a broad audience and / or serve specific branches. The popularity of streaming video music video offers available online is an indication of the different ways in which the audience uses music video channels . As a hybrid of a continuous stream of clips and on-demand technology, in which the user can intervene in the playlist, these interactive online music video channels represent a further developed form of music television.

In addition to these providers who specialize in music videos, music videos are now predominantly consumed via social video portals such as YouTube or Dailymotion , the great popularity of which is based to a large extent on the availability of music videos, videos that are posted there by commercial providers but also by private users. even if to a large extent in disregard of copyright - are provided. An example of more unconventional distribution channels is a clip by the band The Decemberists , who released the self-produced music video 16 Military Wives in March 2005 via the file sharing service BitTorrent , which no band had done before. In terms of content, the Internet has also produced some media-specific approaches for new forms of music video. Above all, however, it is increasingly assuming the role that music television previously played: as a largely free playback station for the classic form of music video, the linear, three-and-a-half-minute clip.

Music video as a short film

While most music videos show the artist staging, mostly performing the piece, there are a few who hardly or not at all do so. Rather, a short film is shown with the music, the plot of which actually has nothing to do with the music, but which lasts at least as long as this. Examples are I Wish It Would Rain Down by Phil Collins , Tonight, Tonight by The Smashing Pumpkins, and All I Want Is You by U2 . These videos are nonetheless "official", that is, they were commissioned by the record company to promote the sale of this piece.

Economic conditions

Three economic conditions were necessary for the creation of music videos: the marketing interests of the music industry, a broadcasting environment specially geared towards music videos, and a film industry that discovered and expanded music videos as an interesting field of activity.

Music industry

Everything starts with the marketing interests of the music industry : Music videos are usually neither designed as cinematic art nor as an independent product. They are a marketing tool and primarily serve to promote the sales of the single for which they are produced, and then also to build the image of the artist and to promote the sales of the album on which the piece appears. For these purposes, a label finances the music video production in advance, but afterwards gives the artist a different share of the production costs, depending on the contract, which the artist has to bear from his share of the sales proceeds. This basic constellation can explain why, from a creative perspective, many music videos do not get beyond a role as a marketing vehicle for the advertised musician. On the other hand, due to the lack of in-house competence in the field of "music video production" and the fact that it often only has small budgets to offer, the music industry is dependent on granting the film producers and directors a lot of creative freedom that some music videos already have for real total works of art be let.

Music TV & Internet

This marketing strategy only works if there is a free music video playback station: music videos are not commercials that you pay to run. If a record company had to broadcast its music videos on the terms of commercials, there would be no music videos - the income from the sale of a single would never bring in these costs. The existence of broadcasters like MTV or VIVA is therefore a necessary condition for the creation and prosperity of music videos. These formerly almost pure music video channels function according to a new model in the television business: They get their content free from record companies and finance themselves through the marketing of music videos as an attractive advertising environment in which other product providers or brand owners place commercials. Music videos occupy a unique economic hybrid position on television as well as on the Internet: They are advertising film and content at the same time or: advertising that generates advertising income.

If there is an oversupply of music videos that are offered to broadcasters for playback, this creates additional pressure on music video producers and labels to produce the most attractive product possible - unattractive music videos are not played because they cannot be marketed as an advertising environment. The coupling of the music video to a piece of music is decisive for the criteria for attractiveness. From the point of view of the broadcaster, the music and its interpreter are more important than its cinematic attractiveness, which means that a broadcaster would rather play a cinematically uninteresting music video by a star than a cinematically attractive music video by an unknown artist. Broadcasters rely more on the attractiveness of a music interpreter, which can be measured in the charts, than on the less verifiable category of film quality. The majority of international music videos set a basic standard in terms of cinematic quality, some of which are produced with considerably higher budgets than the products produced for the domestic market.

Since the mid-2000s, the Internet has been in the process of replacing television as the leading medium for music videos. It offers some media-specific advantages: Portals such as YouTube allow a music video manufacturer to upload its content directly without having to offer it to a broadcaster that may not play it or play it too little. The audience can be reached directly via the Internet, and user feedback in the form of user numbers and comments is also directly available. Any niche product, no matter how specific, can find its very special audience via the “ long tail ” of the Internet and is not dependent on being mass-compatible just to be broadcast by a broadcaster. In times of the Internet, a consumer is potentially anyone who has an Internet connection - and no longer just someone who tunes in to a particular television station in a particular cable network at a particular time. This makes global hits possible, such as Psy's “ Gangnam Style ” from 2012, the first music video to exceed one billion views on YouTube.

Film industry

Attractive music videos can only be produced at the conditions stipulated by the music industry (low budgets, massive time pressure) because there is a corresponding interest in participation in the film industry: Music videos are popular playgrounds, especially for young directors and producers, none of them exclusively from Music videos can live. But they offer the opportunity to build a portfolio, practice skills, socialize, establish work routines and build a reputation that can pay off in other industries, particularly advertising. In the boom phase of music videos in Germany until 2002, a separate scene of film production companies had developed that only produced music videos. In the United States and England, some commercial film production companies have their own music video departments. This system does not work in Germany because the budgets for music videos for advertising film production companies do not cover their costs.

Awards and Directors

The Grammy Awards in the categories Best Music Video - Long Form and Best Music Video - Short Form are considered the most important prizes in this field . The VMAs (Video Music Awards) presented by MTV also enjoy international recognition.

Internationally important directors of music videos include Chris Cunningham , Michel Gondry , Mark Romanek , Stéphane Sednaoui and Spike Jonze . For Germany, the Austrian directing duo DoRo ( Rudi Dolezal and Hannes Rossacher ) was also influential in the production area, which was also involved in the founding of the music video television station VIVA . After the DoRo insolvency in Germany in 2002, Katapult Filmproduktion became the European market leader in music video production. The important German directors in this genre include Daniel Lwowski, Joern Heitmann , Hinrich Pflug, Sandra Marschner, Oliver Sommer, Norbert Heitker , Sven Bollinger , Robert Bröllochs and the internationally successful Olaf Heine , Zoran Bihać , Uwe Flade and Philipp Stölzl , Jarek Duda .

The Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe is dedicated to art videos in Germany .

See also


  • Michael Altrogge: Sounding Pictures. Interdisciplinary study of music and images in video clips and their meaning for young people. Vol. 1: "The field and the theory" . Vistas, Berlin 2001
  • Michael Altrogge: Sounding Pictures. Interdisciplinary study of music and images in video clips and their meaning for young people. Vol. 2: "The material: The music videos." Vistas, Berlin 2001
  • Michael Altrogge: Sounding Pictures. Interdisciplinary study of music and images in video clips and their meaning for young people. Vol. 3: The reception: structures of perception . Vistas, Berlin 2001
  • Gerhard Bühler: Postmodernism on the screen - on the canvas. Music videos, commercials and David Lynch's WILD AT HEART . 2002
  • Rudolf Frieling, Wulf Herzogenrath (eds.); Sybille Weber (Red.): 40 years of digital heritage, video art in Germany from 1963 to today ; published on the occasion of the exhibition… March 25, 2006 - May 21, 2006 K21 Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf, ZKM Karlsruhe… / Ostfildern: Hatje-Cantz, 2006, ISBN 978-3-7757-1717-5 . 399 p .: Ill .; with DVD-ROM; German edition; Exhibition catalog
  • Cecilia Hausheer, Annette Schönholzer (Ed.): Visual Sound. Music videos between avant-garde and popular culture . Lucerne 1994
  • Dietrich Helms, Thomas Phleps (Ed.): Clipped Differences. Gender representation in music video . Transcript, Bielefeld 2003
  • Michael Huber: video clip. In: Oesterreichisches Musiklexikon . Online edition, Vienna 2002 ff., ISBN 3-7001-3077-5 ; Print edition: Volume 5, Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Vienna 2006, ISBN 3-7001-3067-8 .
  • Véronique Jacquinet; Francois Hubert-Rodier: Clipstory - 30 years of music videos . From the arte series: Video clips - A history of pop culture. 2005
  • Henry Keazor, Thorsten Wübbena: Video Thrills The Radio Star. History, topics, analyzes , 3rd edition, Bielefeld 2011, ISBN 978-3-89942-728-8 .
  • Henry Keazor, Thorsten Wübbena: Rewind, Play, Fast Forward. The Past, Present and Future of the Music Video , Bielefeld 2010, ISBN 978-3-8376-1185-4 .
  • Henry Keazor, Hans Giessen; Thorsten Wübbena: On the aesthetic implementation of music videos in the context of handhelds . ART-Dok, Publication Platform Art History, 2012 ( online ).
  • Arlett Kirsch: Music on TV. An auditory form of representation in an audiovisual medium. Wiku, Berlin 2002
  • Matthias Kurp, Claudia Hauschild, Klemens Wiese: Music television in Germany. Political, sociological and media economic aspects . 2002
  • Martin Lilkendey: 100 Years of Music Video: A Genre Story from Early Cinema to YouTube (Film). transcript Verlag: Bielefeld 2017.
  • Brian Longhurst: Popular music and society . Cambridge 1995
  • MTV 20 years of pop. 50 video clips from 1981 to 2001 presented by Markus Kavka. 2005
  • Klaus Neumann-Braun; Axel Schmidt; Manfred Mai: Pop Visions. Links to the future . 2003
  • Klaus Neumann-Braun (Ed.): Viva MTV! Pop music on TV . 1999, ISBN 3-518-12090-5
  • Klaus Neumann-Braun; Lothar Mikos: video clips and music television. A problem-oriented commentary on the current research literature . Vistas, Berlin 2006
  • Thorsten Quandt: Music videos in the everyday life of young people. Environment analysis and qualitative reception study. German University Press, 1997
  • Günther Rötter: Video clips and visualization of serious music . In: Josef Kloppenburg (Hrsg.): Music multimedial. Film music, video clip, television . Laaber-Verlag, Laaber 2000. pp. 259-294
  • Thomas Schulz: Harder than ever . In: Der Spiegel . No. 29 , 2008, p. 96-99 ( online ).
  • Holger Springsklee: Video Clips - Types and Effects . In: Klaus-Ernst Behne (Hrsg.): Film - music - video or The competition between eyes and ears . Gustav Bosse Verlag, Regensburg 1987, pp. 127–154
  • Philippe Truffaut: Cliposaurus Rex clips from before the music clip . From the arte series: Video clips - A history of pop culture. 2005
  • Graeme Turner: Video Clips and Popular Music . In: Australian Journal of Cultural Studies 1/1, 1983, pp. 107-110
  • Carol Vernallis: Experiencing Music Video. Aesthetics and Cultural Context . Columbia University Press 2004 ISBN 0-231-11798-1
  • Madlen Wuttke, Robert Piehler: Intermediale Korrespondenzen: Image - Music - Lyrics. Chemnitz 2007,

Web links

Wiktionary: Music video  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Jukebox History 1952–1998.
  3. ^ Tim & Joe Rice, Paul Gambaccini: The Guinness Book of Number One Hits . 1982, p. 147
  4. Felix Holtschoppen: Clips: A collage . 2004, p. 34, footnote 54.
  5. How The ABBA Videos Were Made on, accessed September 11, 2019
  6. Billy Ingram: Cher's Lost Recordings (English).
  7. Road to Nowhere . In: Der Spiegel . No. 42 , 2003 ( online ).
  8. In Germany about Deluxe Music with a target group 30+, or Folx TV broadcasting German folk music or RCK.TV for rock music.
  9. German online music channels are , for example , in Europe the Spanish . Another German station , recently unveiled its operation a message .
  10. Wired News: Rockers Flex BitTorrent's Muscle ( Memento of the original from November 9, 2006 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. . @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  11. Axel Schmidt: "Sound and Vision go MTV" in VIVA MTV! - Pop music on television, Frankfurt 1999, p. 116 ff.
  12. Axel Schmidt: "Sound and Vision go MTV" in VIVA MTV! Pop music on television, Frankfurt 1999, p. 93 ff.
  13. Axel Schmidt: "Sound and Vision go MTV" in VIVA MTV! - Pop music on television, Frankfurt 1999, p. 118 ff.