Purpose and Conventions of Music Videos

History of Music Videos

The first mainstream music videos came about in the 1960’s with the Beatles being the most notable artists to use music videos. In 1966 the Beatles  recorded a series of promotional films for their singles after giving up touring in 1966. Although “I Am The Walrus” might be the most well known ‘video’ from this time the “Strawberry Fields Forever”  promo film that is most important, featuring reverse, slow motion, fades, camera filters and slow mixes, and a collection of unusual, slightly imposing camera angles. 8 years later music videos were still rare until Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” was the number one in the charts in 1975, the band was on tour so they couldn’t to make it to the recording of Top of the Pops . Instead, they recorded a special video for the occasion, featuring the band performing the song. This started the rise of music videos. MTV started in 1981 and rose rapidly as American artists saw the potential and started producing music videos. Despite the success of Thriller and Bad it took almost a decade and the rise of rap music before another black artist broke through.

Purpose of Music Videos:

Music videos as advertisement

One of the main purposes of music videos is to advertise the artist. Artist’s such as Miley Cyrus will go to any lengths in their music videos to create publicity through their music videos this then works as advertising as people will talk about the music video and there will be more public awareness of the product that the artist is releasing. Music videos also help their artists access more people who prefer visuals over sound and will prefer to watch music videos rather than just listen to the music. Music videos also help an artist further express their creativeness and show the audience what they can do beyond just producing music.

Miley Cyrus-Wrecking Ball

Wrecking Ball by Miley Cyrus is a good example of using music videos as advertising. This music video is very explicit and weird, which will get people talking and therefore advertises the video. This video features Miley Cyrus completely nude on a wrecking ball which is weird, different and fairly abstract. This video was a massive topic in the news and on social media which exposed all kinds of people to Miley Cyrus and may have gained her new fans. This video is also an example of an artist showing their creativeness as this video is very abstract, creative and shows how Miley Cyrus can be creative with her music videos and that she is different compared to everyone else.

Artist Availability

Another reason that music videos are used is due to artist availability. They enable the artist to be seen and shown whenever although they physically cannot be there to perform it live. The use of videos became popular due to “Top of the Pops” as “Bohemian Rhapsody” was number 1 but Queen could not attend due to being on their world tour so they created a music video to accompany their music and to compensate for their inability to attend “Top of the Pops” that night. It means that more people have access to the band without needing to actually go out and see the band for themselves.

The video for Michael Jackson’s Dirty Diana is a good example of a music video that is used to give the feel of a live performance. This is because it is a video of a live performance of Dirty Diana by Michael Jackson which will give the audience of the video a feel of how it is to watch Michael Jackson perform live without actually having to attend a concert. This also give an opportunity for future generations to see a Michael Jackson concert as they will no longer be able to attend a Michael Jackson concert.

Using a live performance as a music video makes it feel more personal and has been used by many artists such as Arctic Monkeys who used a live performance of “I bet you look good on the dancefloor” as a music video.

Extension of Income

Music videos have a large impact on an artist’s income. There are many techniques used in music videos which will extend an artists income such as product placement, links to TV or film, promotion of downloads or online platforms such as YouTube. By creating a music video, it will be give attention to the platforms it is being shown on such as YouTube or music channels such as MTV as well as giving attention to the record label it is under and thus creating more attention to these platforms, making more money for them and in turn making more money for the artist. In some cases different platforms help each other such as YouTube and VEVO who often work together. YouTube have advertisements before videos (which will always benefit the advertiser) and VEVO release music videos with advertisement before them which benefits YouTube, the advertiser, VEVO and the owner of the music video. Many music videos use TV and Film to extend their income such as Whitney Houston’s I Will Always Love You which uses clips from the film “The Bodyguard” as well as Whitney singing, this extends her income as the company that produced ” The Bodyguard would have paid Whitney to put these clips in her video.

Styles, Conventions and Techniques

The types of music videos are dance based, performance based, narrative based, conceptual and animated.

Dance based is simply a video where dancing is the focus whether it is the artist dancing or professional dancers dancing. An example of an artist who makes dance based music videos is Beyonce who often dances in her music videos such as Single Ladies where she dances with professional dancers for the whole video. This technique is fairly simple and effective. Beyonce uses her dancing and her body to entice viewers in to watching her video. Due to the video not being a narrative there is almost no connection to the name of the song apart from the only dancers featuring being ladies.

Performance based music videos always feature the artist performing whether it is in a series of clips or a live performance, they often also feature narratives as well as performance. One example is My Hero by the Foo Fighters which features both narrative and performance. This video frequently cuts from the narrative to the performance clips. The performance element of this video is used to add to the whole experience of the video and make the video feel like a live performance without having to go and see Foo Fighters live. This technique is used a lot and is very effective as it gives fans and experience but is also a good selling technique. This style is very easy to do but is effective.

A narrative based music video follows a story of some kind and is one of the less frequently used music video types. Narrative based music videos will often have abrupt climaxes and not build up to the ending as a film would as they have less time to tell the narrative than a film or TV show. An example of this is “Lost and Not Found by Chase and Status, this narrative is very confusing and doesn’t seem to follow anything specific until the big reveal at end. Narrative can be a very complicated style of music video especially in this music video but if it is made well it can be hugely effective as we can see in the chase and status video.

Conceptual videos are based around a single idea or concept and are often unusual and obscure and sometimes surreal for the audience. This unusual content is an attraction to certain audiences, which draws them in. Concept videos usually are combined with one of the other two styles to make it something different and unusual. An example of this is Californiacation by the Red Hot Chill Peppers this video involves performance as well as the members of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers being part of a video game.


This video and song links to a few genres Acoustic/folk/indie. I would say that the main genre of this song is acoustic. I think that this video has lot of conventions of an acoustic video as they usually have a lot of narrative built in with emotion and this video shows someone’s life and how she has ruined it with drugs. This video has a lot of meanings and it seems real to the audience as it is a real life situation that some people are going through. I think the song writer Ed Sheeran may have some association with this in his life as he sings it as though it means something to him.
The narrative in this video is told in a reverse, the video starts at the end. It is told from another perspective, a person watching the girls life. The video doesn’t specifically suit the timing of the music but it suits the lyrics as it is about a homeless girl who’s life has been ruined by drugs and alcohol. There are multiple shots used but the main shots are close ups and medium shots, at one point there is a time-lapse of the woman sitting in the middle of the street. This like the Chase and Status narrative video is a very complicated narrative and is hard to do but has been done well. The end product is very effective and adds another element to the track.

This video is a narrative but also features performance from Eminem and Rihanna which makes it a performance and narrative video. This video features a narrative that shows domestic violence and a relationship that is falling apart culminating in the house being burnt down. A variety of shots have been used for this video such as close ups, medium shots, wide shots, two shots and a tracking shot. The lighting is very bright when Eminem is rapping as the sun is behind him but the lighting is dark when Rihanna is singing showing a contrast between light and dark. The lighting is always very dim when they are in the house representing that something bad is going to happen or already happening. When ever the couple make up you can see light shining through the window representing hope.