Music Marketing

When Your Music Video Undermines Your Music

Night-beds-videoMusic videos are one of the most important marketing tools for musicians today. For some they are also a source of revenue but for emerging artists they're primarily about marketing and fan acquisition. But when a music video conflicts with your music, you may have a problem on your hands.

At their best music videos complement the music and represent your artistic intent without simply illustrating the lyrics. At their worst, music videos can destroy songs that some were already growing to love. Seeking to control the video artist is usually counterproductive but the following examples should make clear why you need to carefully consider your fit with the videomaker and your song's fit with the video concept.

A tweet from Wes Davenport put me on to this topic. He links to an article contrasting a music video vs. a performance video of Miguel's "The Thrill":

"In the official video, Miguel's having a blast, hanging, sticking his tongue out for photos. The scene doesn't look different from any high-end club I've ever been in. In performance though, Miguel does something he can do that regular people can't."

That's a rather mild example of what I'm talking about. A better example is that of Drake's "The Best I Ever Had". Prior to seeing it I found the song to be a mix of confidence and a touch of melancholy that, for me, is one of his best qualities.

The video came close to killing that song for me but, more importantly, a wide number of female fans expressed their dismay at a song they found meaningful that would now always be associated with beautiful, busty women running around like a bunch of Drake's toys. There are likely men who also shared whatever special feeling was killed for those female fans who could previously insert themselves in the narrative. Maybe all was forgiven by hardcore fans but a song that made Drake stand out as a bit unique at the time lost it's special quality with a few moments of ill-chosen footage.

More recently I was introduced to Night Beds' song "Even If We Try" via the music video (screenshot above):

"The video for 'Even If We Try' stars Winston Yellen as a loner at a party that turns pretty awful. He's abused and painted with lipstick, and all the while the beauty of the song plays on. The video was directed by Rick Alverson, who directed another disturbing recent video for Sharon Van Etten's song 'Magic Chords.'"

"Of this Night Beds video Rick Alverson said, 'Given how gentle and beautiful the song is, I wanted to make something adamantly in contrast to that.' That goes hand in hand with Winston Yellen's thoughts on the pairing of uncomfortable imagery and the lulling tune: 'I wanted the video to be dark and devastating, out-of-bounds and animalistic.'"

Just as Drake probably dug his video, Yellen seems to dig his. But after about 15 second of watching a story that reminds me of the easy circulation of abusive images on the web that continue to haunt so many who have been victimized by aholes, I turned it off. Since I was previously unfamiliar with Yellen and Night Beds, even though it sounded like a song I would like, I probably won't listen to the whole thing. To be honest, I almost couldn't find the article cause I'd already forgotten his name.

Perhaps one day a real fan will turn me on to Night Beds but it's ok if that doesn't happen. There's plenty of great music out there and the aesthetic needs that Even If We Try might fill will probably be filled by similar tunes. So few artists are unique enough to be irreplacable that it's easy to move on.

On a related note, I dig the Foo Fighters and might have become a real fan. But those goofy early videos with Dave Grohl and company acting like a doofus so colored my initial experience that I just turned away. Oddly enough he later apparently dissed musicians for trying to be actors. I accepted the claim at face value because it exemplified his doofus brand to me.

I'm sure you have your own experiences of watching music videos that conflict with or undermine your appreciation of a song. Keep that in mind if your gut reaction to a video treatment tells you it's a bad fit.

Note: Normally I would post at least one example but I don't really want to post any of these videos. And I post some pretty wack material from time to time.

Hypebot Senior Contributor Clyde Smith (Twitter/ blogs about music crowdfunding at Crowdfunding For Musicians (@CrowdfundingM). To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.

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  1. Great post, Clyde … I experience a disconnect between the music and imagery in many videos. It’s as if the videomakers are more concerned about seeming hip or edgy etc. than tuning in to the feel of the song they are representing.
    Actually, I was just reading about The Black Keys video, Next Girl, as an example of this. Apparently the record label wanted to put it out, despite the Key’s objections. I’d say that happens a lot.
    It’s true that the wrong visual messages can turn off potential fans, and that’s something artists should bear in mind.

  2. Great article! As a lifetime hiphop fan, i like some of the new music being put out, but as soon as i see the video there is an immediate disconnect with the song. Simply put most rap videos make me feel poor & unworthy.

  3. Great points, Clyde! Glad that tweet got your gears turning.
    Though I respect Night Bugs’ creative vision to juxtapose the soft song with a disturbing video, it turned me off. Even listening to the audio only now, I can only think about that guy getting humiliated and trashed. I’m sure there are fans who dug it, but it ruined it for me.
    Admittedly, some songs can be tough to sync up to a video. In many cases, the same song can mean different things to different people. If an artist picks a radical direction for the video, it’s good to at least be as cognizant of the effect as Night Bugs seems to be.
    No excuse for the Drake rubbish, though. Those bland, stereotypical videos ruin otherwise vibrant music.

  4. When videographer and artist are out of sinc, the music always suffers. When producing our music videos for the HDAudioPlus Demo Gallery we made sure that the video compliments our audio. Otherwise, what’s the point? Here’s one example of what we did with classical:

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