THE HISTORY OF MUSIC VIDEOS…
Music videos have been around a lot longer than you think. If you were to watch Ken Burns recent Jazz series on HBO for instance you would have seen many filmed performances of the jazz greats doing their thing. These are simply early music videos – though now we view them as wonderful archival moments of great artists that are dead or unable to perform anymore.
By the 1950’s and 1960’s film companies, realising the great potential in rock n’ roll and pop music, started making movies based partly or completely around the popular stars of the day, e.g. Elvis and the Beatles. These films were fairly cheap to make and made shed-loads of money for the studios. If you look at the opening sequence of the Beatles A Hard Days Night you’ll see what is simply a wonderful music video shot in black and white.
In Britain in the 1960’s the BBC (British TV station) would sometimes take artists to the beach or to a roof-top to shoot them performing their latest hit simply to make their weekly show Top Of The Pops more interesting than just having a bunch of bands miming in the studio. By the 70’s artists had started making clips (or ‘Pop Promos’) for individual songs as promotional tools themselves – the best example being the video for Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody which was totally groundbreaking in its day and was instrumental in making the song a massive hit in the UK. By the time Bohemian Rhapsody had been at number one for 9 weeks everyone was cashing in on the fad. (Useful rock video trivia – Bo Rap was directed by Bruce Gower and reputedly cost 4,500 pounds, about $7,000, to make.)
Meanwhile in the States artists were clamouring to appear on a variety of TV shows such as Shindig, Don Kirshner’s Rock Show, Midnight Special and Soul Train which gave them an opportunity to tout their wares. However despite the obvious difference that there were more shows to appear on the bands either appeared and mimed or simply played live – to my knowledge nobody was consciously trying to match imagery with sound.
Up to this point bands had been able to promote their latest release in three basic ways: radio-play, TV appearances and touring. The latter two meant shipping the band around the world and this was becoming extremely costly. With record markets opening up all over the world and simultaneous trans-global releases becoming the norm it was virtually impossible for a band to appear onstage or on TV in the same week in New York, London, Sydney and Hamburg which the simultaneous record releases required so pop promos started filling the gap: it’s cheaper to send a video tape to Australia than five musicians and a road manager. By the late 70’s these pop promos were mostly shot on video tape and consequently came to be called music videos. In Britain, where the pop music charts moved much faster than in the US, videos became an essential promotional tool and every band had to have one so that when MTV started at midnight on August 1st 1981* many more British acts had videos than American ones. Consequently Duran Duran, The Thompson Twins, Culture Club and many other British bands with stacks of videos in the vault, suddenly had huge success in the States and filled the charts while the US acts and labels busily tried to catch up. John Taylor (bassist for Duran Duran), interviewed by VH-1 for a retrospective of 1981, went so far as to observe that the band would watch their success in various markets explode within weeks of MTV opening in that market.
Why did MTV start? The early 80’s were the hay-day of the cable boom, everyone in the US was starting to get a cable box fitted to their TV and there were many new channels appearing and someone saw a way to make cash out of all those music vids. Even better the record labels gave MTV the vids to use for FREE (and still do) so the channel had to pay nothing for its programming – all it needed was three VJ’s, one camera, a small studio and some editing equipment and voila: a TV channel was born. The rest is history.
1895 The first camera /projection systems are invented independently in France (Auguste & Louis Lumiere), Germany (Max & Emile Skaldanowsky) and England (Robert Paul).
1927 The Jazz Singer – first popular motion picture with sound starring Al Jolson
1933 Flying Down to Rio – first Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers flic
1935 Gold Diggers of 1935 – first Busby Berkley picture
1936 1st TV Broadcast in London
1939 Wizard of Oz
1941 Las Vegas Nights – Frank Sinatras First Movie (as singer in Tommy Dorsey Band)
1956 Love Me Tender – 1st Elvis movie
1956 Rock Around The Clock – starring Bill Haley, Platters, Alan Freed
1963 Ready Steady Go – inflential British weekly TV show debuts
1964 Hard Days Night – Beatles 1st movie
1964 Shindig! – US TV show debuts
1964 Top Of The Pops – UK TV Show with performances by all current pop acts makes its debut – Still on the air 40 years later!
1967 All You Need Is Love – The Beatles appear on ?Our World? which is broadcast to 26 countries simultaneously
1971 Soul Train debuts in USA
1973 Don Kirshners Rock Concert debuts
1973 Midnight Special with Wolfman Jack
1975 Bohemian Rhapsody – highly influential Queen video gets first airing
1975 Tommy – starring Roger Daltrey, Elton John, Tina Turner, Eric Clapton
1981 (August 1st) MTV starts
1985 (January 1st) VH-1 starts
2005 Videos debut on i-Tunes and Cell phones
2005 New Coldplay single comes in at #2 – Ringtone in at #1
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN BAND AND LABEL…
Let’s talk about how a band gets signed and how they conduct their business with a label as they strive to sell themselves and their music around the world. Obviously this is a very generalised view of how things might work out but will help us understand how videos get made.
EARLY DAYS AND THE FIRST ALBUM
1) Five guys get together in your home town and start a band.
2) They play gigs, make some demos and start to collect a following. Either word gets around about how good they are or they send their demos to their favourite labels.
3) Around this time they meet someone who wants to become their manager – he’s from their home town too.
4) One day an A&R person (it stands for Artist & Repertoire but basically means talent scout) sees a gig or hears the demo and wants to sign the band.
5) The band signs a deal which is ‘worth millions.’ In reality it will certainly cost millions but the band will get but a fraction of the money. The dollars will go towards tour costs, wages, recording costs, picture sessions, hotels…and videos.
6) After some months of hard work the album is completed.
7) The Label Boss presides over a Marketing Meeting attended by the A&R guy, a Marketing Person, A Promotions Person (radio & TV play), a Press person and a Video Commisioner. At this meeting they talk about how they will market the band, what are the selling points of the record, pick a single and figure out how to promote it. You’d think the manager and the band would have some involvement in this meeting – but don’t bank on it!
8) The Video commisioner, having taken notes at the Marketing Meeting, sends out the track to a bunch of video directors. She selects a treatment and takes it back to the Label Boss, A&R guy and Marketing Person who discuss its merits and request some changes.
9) Band show up to the video shoot having never read the concept! Video is completed.
10) After three videos of varying success the band sells half a million albums and gigs constantly for a year. The only person in the band making any serious cash is the songwriter – though his royalties probably haven’t arrived yet. The label inform the band they’re in the hole for about two million bucks.
THE SECOND ALBUM
11) While taking a month off the road to write new songs the band break up with their first manager – he’s too small time for them and they sign with some heavyweight guy who’s managed five multi-platinum selling bands.
12) While they record the new album the new manager goes to all the heads of department at the label (especially the Video Comissioner) and explains that things will be different this time around. The band will be consulted about the videos.
13) The A&R guy picks a single in the studio and the Video Commisioner sends out the track to video directors. The band hate all the treatments.
14) After The band complain to their manager they get their way and speak with some of the video directors themselves and new treatments arrive. They pick one they like but it’s going to cost more money than the label wants to spend. The manager goes to the Label Boss and successfully blags more money.
15) The band shoot the video using their favourite treatment. They love the director, they love the video.
16) The video’s a hit.
17) They make two more videos with their director and both are hits.
18) The second album has sold five million albums and the band have been on the road around the world for 18 months. They’re now headlining and starting to get some serious cash from the gig money but are stunned to discover that the cost of marketing their albums, making videos etc. and the huge debt acrued by their first album only means that after 4 years of hard work there’s about $800,000 profit. The manager skims his 20% off the top leaving the five band members with $128,000 each before tax. By the time they’ve paid tax they’ve got enough for a holiday, a new Range Rover and the deposit for a condo in the valley. Meanwhile the guy who writes the band’s songs is a millionaire. (These figures are largely inspired guesswork -if someone out there thinks they know better – please let me know).
19) The band are now crucial to the label’s financial well-being. The label adjust their whole business plan for the year around the arrival of the band’s next album and the manager has renogiated the band’s deal with the label. At this stage the band report directly to the Label Boss and get pretty much whatever they want. The A&R guy has been head-hunted away by another label – just as well because he’d have less control over the band’s career now anyway.
20) The band’s manager goes directly to the band’s favourite video director who comes up with a concept. The Video Commisioner knows nothing about this until a demand arrives from the director’s production company asking for a cheque so shooting can start.
21) On the set of the video the band play lip-service to the Video Commisioner who’s now largely responsible for making sure the band’s limos arrive on time to pick them up in the morning.
22) The next two videos are made in the same way and do well on MTV.
23) The band are now a major touring attraction. All that footage from the road is pulled together by an editor who worked on some of their recent videos to make the ‘On The Road’ video that will remind people what a huge and important act they have become.
24) A final single is released from the album. The guitar player wants to direct it – everyone at the label rolls their eyeballs and insist that the editor who did such a great job on the On The Road video is hired as a co-director. In the Marketing Meeting everyone from the label figures it’s the last video off the album anyway so if it sucks no big deal. By now the lead singer is in the papers every day because he’s hanging out with some hot movie starlet. The guy who writes the songs has houses in New York, LA, that town you all come from and is looking at a time share in Maui. While he’s learning how to fly his Lear Jet the bass player and drummer are buying three bedroom houses in Woodland Hills and starting to feel very upset.
25) The band agree to split all royalties equally and continue (U2) or the songwriter says, “Sod off!” and fires the jealous and miserable band mates (Oasis).
26) Anything could happen now. Perhaps a) The guitar player now thinks he’s a genius and co-directs the next video. It goes way over budget and the video stiffs. Possibly b) the band have learned their lesson and hate videos because they cost so much and let the label back in to do the grunt work. Feasibly c) The band’s next single is from a movie soundtrack and, though they erroneously and reasonably think it’s all about them, it’s all about the movie studio picking shots form the movie and the band are just standing somewhere miming.
Eventually one member of the band will become a bona fide star (e.g. Ozzy, Gwen Stefani, Sting, Fred Durst) while their four school-mates, who’ve been like family and stuck with him through thick and thin, become impoverished has-beens who periodically reform to do re-union shows to make the dollars to pay off those staggering alimony payments to that hot model they met and married somewhere around step 11.
VIDEO PRODUCTION COMPANIES.
Generally speaking most video companies are run by a visionary who wants to make their living turning unknown film students into people with names like David Fincher or Michael Bay. Usually most production companies have both a Video and a Commercial division.
While we’re here to talk about videos it’s useful to note that traditionally commercials have a) bigger budgets and b) the Production company gets a bigger mark-up from commercials – i.e. they getter a bigger share of a larger pie. In case you’re not good at Maths this is good news. The consequence is that videos are a training ground for directors to move up to commercials and then on to features or whatever it is they want to do.
The Video division of a Production Company will probably have three full time staff:
This person runs the department and, when it looks like a job will happen, supervises the drawing up of the first budget or bid. When the budget comes in too high (See Chapter 2 step 14) the E.P. will then start horse trading with the Video Commisioner from the label and they try and reduce the budget. On the day of the shoot the E.P. might also help the Line Producer make some hard decisions about where to spend the money. In planning for the future the E.P. will review new Directors’ reels and decide, with advice from the sales rep, who they should have on their roster.
This person’s job is to hustle all the labels and managers (See Chapter 2) and find out where the new jobs are coming from. The Rep then sends out reels of the company’s directors and lobbies them to be considered for work.
This person is the heart of the department and picks up all the slack, deals with the stroppy directors, makes great coffee and gives good phone call.
Once a job is awarded the following free-lancers get a call:
Usually just called the Producer this person probably works with the Director on a regular basis and turns the Executive Producer’s version of the budget into reality. The Producer has probably already been consulted during the bid. The Producer keeps an eye on every aspect of a job and reports to the Executive Producer if something is going amiss or over budget.
The P.M. is the person who actually gets on the phone and starts hiring crew members – D.P.s, Grips, Gaffers, Catering etc. This person is probably the hardest worked member of the crew.
The PAs do everything else. This is the entry level position of the crew. A good PA becomes a PM and then a Producer and then maybe an Exec Producer. Some PAs want to become directors. Some actually make it.
So, we’ve established that bands need videos and that videos get made once a director has written a treatment or a concept. But why do you need a concept, how do you write one and what makes a good one?
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
1) IT’S HOW YOU GET A JOB
It’s an essay writing contest, you might be up against 10 other people.
2) IDEAS ARE WHAT SEPARATE YOU FROM THE REST OF THE PACK YOU WILL SPEND 50% OF YOUR YEAR WRITING CONCEPTS
Doing the job, and showing what you’ve got only occurs after you’ve secured the gig.
3) IT’S THE SCRIPT FOR THE DIRECTOR
You might be able to busk it on the day, but in the long run, if it’s not in the script it won’t be in the film. Coming up with ideas on the set will be too late, Yes you may be inspired on the day, but cannot always rely on that.
4) IT’S THE SCRIPT FOR EVERYONE ON SET
The Camera department, the art department and everyone else will refer to your concept, written weeks ago as their blueprint!
5) IT WILL BECOME PART OF THE CONTRACT
HOW DO YOU GET TO WRITE?
1) HUSTLE! Your rep or you hustles: The label / Managers /Artists (See Chapter 2 and 3)
2) RECEIVE CD
3) ASK QUESTIONS: When? Where? How Much? What Do You Want? What Don’t You Want? Speak to the band.
WHICH ACTS SHOULD YOU WRITE FOR?
1) ARTISTS YOU KNOW?
2) ARTISTS YOU?VE NEVER HEARD OF?
3) ARTISTS YOU LIKE?
4) ARTISTS YOU DON?T LIKE?
5) ALL OF THE ABOVE!
…SO NOW YOU’RE GOING TO WRITE A CONCEPT
TYPES OF VIDEO
1) PERFORMANCE VIDEO
E.G. Evenflow (Pearl Jam), Party Hard (Andrew W.K.)
2) TOTAL CONCEPT VIDEO
E.G. Sabotage (Beastie Boys), Tool Videos
3) STORY VIDEO
E.G. Thriller (Michael Jackson),
4) GAG VIDEO
E.G. Sledgehammer (Peter Gabriel), Clint Eastwood (Gorillaz)
5) FILM CLIP VIDEO
E.G. Chad Kroeger (Hero – Spiderman)
6) DANCE VIDEO
E.G. Baby One More Time (Britney Spears) Praise You (Fatboy Slim)
E.G. Seven Nation Army (White Stripes) Performance with Gag
THE PEOPLE TO PLEASE
1) THE ARTIST / BAND
2) THE ARTIST’S MANAGER
3) THE VIDEO PERSON AT THE LABEL
4) THE A&R PERSON AT THE LABEL
5) THE HEAD PERSON AT THE LABEL
6) THE FILM PEOPLE: THE MUSIC SUPERVISOR / THE PRODUCERS & EXEC. PRODUCERS / THE DIRECTOR / THE FILM DISTRIBUTOR & MARKETING (Only applies to Soundtrack video).
1) DO YOU KNOW HOW YOU’RE GOING TO SHOOT IT?
2) IS IT POSSIBLE WITHIN THE BUDGET?
3) IS IT RIGHT FOR THE ARTIST?
4) IS IT RIGHT FOR MTV – IS IT BROADCASTABLE?
5) IS IT RIGHT FOR YOU?
6) IS IT BORING – HAS IT BEEN DONE BEFORE?
7) IS IT YOUR BEST IDEA?
HOW TO COME UP WITH IDEAS
1) LISTEN TO THE LYRICS (Beware ? ideas can be limited -see addendum.)
3) PICK A FAVOURITE IDEA AND MAKE IT WORK (keep a list of ideas)
4) WRITE DOWN ANYTHING – EVEN IF IT’S TO GET THE BAD IDEAS OUT OF YOUR HEAD
5) LOOK AT PICTURES, FILMS, BOOKS
WRITING YOUR CONCEPT
1) PRESENTATION – spelling, grammar!
2) MAKE IT EASY TO UNDERSTAND
3) …BUT BE CONCISE
4) DON’T BE VAGUE – leads to misunderstandings.
5) DON’T BE SYCOPHANTIC – No-one likes a weasel.
6) DON’T SECOND GUESS THE ARTIST / CLIENT – Go with what you believe.
7) MEAN EVERY WORD YOU SAY – You would do anything to shoot this idea.
8) INCLUDE PICTURE REFERENCES WHERE POSSIBLE
2) REWRITE (They like your reel but what they really wanted was?)
4) REWRITE AGAIN (Budget’s too high)
Want to read some concepts? HIT CONCEPTUAL ICON ON THE LEFT And find concepts for:
Guns ‘N Roses
N’Sync & Gloria Estefan
HIT DICK-FUQ ICON
And find more questions answered about concepts especially
A2, A3, A4, A5, A6, A9, A19,
THE SHOOT – DEPARTMENTAL BREAKDOWNS
DIRECTORS AND A.D.s
POST PRODUCTION SUPERVISOR
SOUND ENHANCEMENT / MIXING
I’m often aksed why videos seem to be about the same things over and over again. Girls, boys, cars, money, raves, gigs etc. Well of course the easy answer is that most videos are aimed at a teen audience and teens don’t want to know about poverty in the world today or environmental mechanics. Teens want fun, sex, music, laughs, thrills and more sex.
For us video directors writing a concept is often about turning the words of the song into potential images. At the simplest level you could argue that most people in bands are guys and most guys are fixated on the same things – women, how to get them into bed and then what happens afterwards. Ergo most songs are about women or love and therefore most videos are about the same thing. Of course this is a gross simplification – some bands have never ever recorded a love song and some bands are all female. However I have directed over 260 videos and one day I noticed the same titles kept appearing over and over again in various forms.
So for your enjoyment below is a list of some of the similar song titles I have DIRECTED over the years – please note this is not a list of the other 700+ titles I WROTE on. (You can probably think of other songs with similar titles too). Do you see any themes developing here?
Fire, Houses and Love…
Playing With Fire, House Of Fire, House Of Love, House Of Broken Love, Spy In The House Of Love, Highway Of Love, Love Around The World, Love will Lead You Back, Love Kills, Love Don?t Give No Reason, Bring Me Your Love, Long Way To Love, Waiting For your Love, Sunshine Of Your Love, Save Your Love, Give Love A Chance, To Be Able To Love, Out Of Love, Outta Love, In It For Love, Don?t Say You Love Me, As Long As You Love Me,
Loving and stopping loving…
I Can?t Get Next To You, I Can?t Stop Loving You, Can?t Stop Loving You, Can?t Stop Falling Into Love, Falling Into Love, I Think I?m In Love With You, I Wanna Make Love To You, I Want To Spend My Lifetime Loving You, I Wanna Be With You, I Want You, Here For You,
Love & Money…
Love And Money, For The Love Of Money,
The Real Me, Real To Me, Everything To Me, Me Myself And I (Jive Jones), Me Myself And I (Vitamin C)
For You, Here For You, With You, Just Like You,
You Got It, You Got What It Takes.
One Night, Still Of The Night, Give Me Tonight, Make It Last All Night, All Night Long, Another Night
Time, Time Won?t Let Me, It?s Been A Long Time, Only Time Will Tell,
Don?t Chain My Heart, Faces Of The Heart, Secrets Of The Heart, This Lonely Heart, Lonely Beat Of My Heart, Deep Inside My Heart, Only My Heart Talking, Searching For My Heart, Straight For The Heart, Shooting From My Heart, Music Of My Heart, Two Hearts, Heart Of Every Girl
Tell Me (Nick Kamen), Tell Me (Go West), Tell Me (Mel C)
(All different songs by the way).
Once Bitten Twice Shy (Vesta Williams), Once Bitten Twice Shy (Great White).
(Completely different songs).
Angel (Angela Winbush), Angel (The Corrs), The Angel Song, When The Angels Sing, Angel Mine
Heaven, Heaven In A Back Seat, Show Me Heaven,
Pamela, Diane, Adrienne, Jimmy, Dave,
Poison, Shot Of Poison,
Far Away, So Far Away, Gone Away, Don’t Go Away, Run Away, Walk Away
Believe, I Believe
Thanks for reading…Good luck. ©. Nigel Dick 2004