Lyrics videos used to cluster around a continuum that ran from low budget art projects to fan videos. In recent years, top charting artists have used lyrics videos to produce a high quality stopgap while they're waiting to release more expensive promos. With the current state of digital video equipment and software, it's now possibly for indie artists and diy'ers to create lyrics videos that are low budget yet high quality. These days music videos are crucial to self-promotion online and lyrics videos offer an excellent entry point.
You could say that the film clip for Bob Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues" that opened the documentary "Dont Look Back" was an early lyrics video. It certainly was artsy, off-the-cuff and low budget. It's also quite memorable.
Videos that feature more exact lyrics have appeared over the years since and, with the explosion of YouTube, many have been fan videos. At some point along the way official lyrics videos started to appear. I don't know the history of these but, in a related development, artists such as Cee Lo Green and David Guetta have been turning to lyrics videos to release a quick promo while they prepare more elaborate fare.
Cassettes Won't Listen - Falling Apart
I recently heard from the folks at Radar Music Videos who suggested I take a closer look at two lyrics videos created for Cassettes Won't Listen which led to this post. Radar Music Videos is a commissioning service designed to "connect professional directors to record labels & artists." They're trying to encourage the use of lyrics video as a lower cost entry point to using their service. But I think it's a great idea for emerging artists no matter how they approach it.
The above video for Cassettes Won't Listen's song "Falling Apart" was commissioned through Radar Music Videos and created by the director Mike Amin. Though not a runaway hit, it has gotten a handful of positive press mentions and is an interesting example of the possibilities.
Cassettes Won't Listen also commissioned a video for "Ceilings And Floors" from Rob Marshall.
SHEL - Please Come Home
The above video for SHEL's "Please Come Home" is an example of the homemade genre that benefits from the ever increasing quality of relatively low cost video equipment. It was "Dreamed, directed, edited and filmed by SHEL" and it reminds me of something I might have made back in the day. It was also suggested by Radar even though it wasn't commissioned through them.
One thing I've noticed from commenters is that once you get to a certain level of the game or develop a lot of technical ability, it can be difficult to relax and make casual media. I'm sure a lot of work went into the above videos and I wouldn't show them if I didn't think they were worthwhile but for those obsessed with high budget perfection that probably still isn't enough.
I think it's more important to make media that fits your music and your aesthetic than to be satisfied only with product that could play on MTV if they still did that kind of thing. Even if you can't afford a big budget, lyrics videos can offer a nice way to present your music on YouTube and take charge of your web presence while you're still building.
Hypebot Senior Contributor Clyde Smith (@fluxresearch) blogs about music crowdfunding at Crowdfunding For Musicians (@CrowdfundingM). To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.