The last few years have not been good ones for music-video directors: Budgets and screen sizes have shrunk, and most high-profile gigs seem to be going to already established feature-film directors (even bad ones). And the filmmakers who do get recognized have to deal with some dickard rushing the stage and trying to hog all the glory.
Things have only gotten worse with the advent of “crowdsourced” music videos, in which artists like Shakira, Good Charlotte, the Shins and now Modest Mouse implore fans to help them make their clips. As we’ve noted before, the practice has essentially become just another quick-and-cheap form of street-teaming, and while we can’t fault the labels for keeping costs down, we can fault them for being responsible for a bunch of same-seeming clips that are as boring as watching a titmouse waltz.
To be fair, the labels had good reason to give up on the medium altogether: Not too long ago, the argument against making an expensive, ambitious music video was that the number of outlets that would actually air your clip (most importantly MTV) was diminishing. That rationale made sense; after all, there’s no reason to keep a half-dozen bottle-nosed dolphins on retainer if no one’s even going to get a chance to see them frolic with Axl.
But now that you can download a three-minute clip to your computer, cell phone or iPod, it seems that the music industry has finally gotten what it’s always wanted: A video-delivery method that allows them to bypass MTV and go straight to viewers. You can get people to watch anything nowadays! That “Monkey smells its own butt” clip? It’s been viewed almost 40,000 times! Plus, people can actually buy these things now, whether it’s on the iTunes store or as part of B’Day: The Eighteen-Month Anniversary Triple-Disc Edition. It’s not a lot of money, but still.
Rather than use this opportunity to knock out razzmatazz new clips, though, labels have become reliant on fan-made videos, a once-intriguing concept that became played out within weeks, mostly because fans don’t make good music-video directors. Sure, it’s fun to see your shaky cell-phone clip wind up in a montage of other shaky cell-phone clips, but nowadays we find ourselves pining for the over-the-top music videos of the past. Where are the prolonged dance numbers, the gratuitous explosions, the villainous dwarfs? If it weren’t for rap videos, we’d have nothing to make fun of anymore.
So to the short-form hacks out there who have given up on music videos: All is forgiven. Until we saw what 1,000 Decemberists fans with 1,000 iMovie accounts could do, we didn’t realize just how much we miss your poor exposition and pretentious faux-widescreening. Come back, and rock our world again.