By Georgina


16 Oct 2013

Music videos are a conventional tool for marketing and promotion used amongst artists all over the globe. The first ever music ‘video’ (then known as ‘illustrated song’) was made in 1894 for Marks & Stern’s The Little Lost Child, and following the successful promotion of the song, the idea behind the music video was invented.

By the mid-1980s, music videos went mainstream with the launch of MTV and today, a music video almost always accompanies a single release. Artists, especially lesser known or unsigned ones, also use music videos to promote free material – namely downloadable mixtapes and EPs – in order to create hype, and to build their fanbase. They can also be used to promote products (Eminem’s Berzerk advertises Dre Beats throughout), tours, food, religion, political movements – and just about anything else you can think of.

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In recent years we’ve seen the viral video method used to advertise certain products and services, and artists have also latched onto this idea to promote their music. Psy’s infamous (and terrible) Gangnam Style has reached, to date, over 1.77 billion views thanks to its humorous, bizarre and plain weird content. Contending with Psy for ‘worst song and music video of all time’ is Rebecca Black with auto-tuned-to-death Friday, which had a similar reaction.

This week, a new music video for an equally awful song has gone the viral route. Alison Gold’s Chinese Food, uploaded onto YouTube just a day ago, has already gained tens of millions of views – and has also been named as one of the most offensive videos of all time, owing to its outward mocking of Chinese people and culture.

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Having seen the Chinese Food video, I’ve come to the conclusion that the ‘creators’ behind it probably took around 3-4 seconds to think up the ‘idea’. Using offensive imagery (Patrice Wilson squinting his eyes and rapping in a supposed Chinese accent) and pseudo-paedophilic-bestiality-type scenes (a giant panda frolicking with a young teenager on grass) is blatantly going to get views, and everyone knows the phrase ‘there’s no such thing as bad publicity’.

Of course, artists have always tried to be original – and sometimes shocking – in their music videos in order to create hype and publicity. Madonna’s Like a Virgin caused public outrage and controversy in the 80s – but it has gone down in history as one of the most influential music videos of all time. Michael Jackson’s Thriller is one of the lengthiest videos ever, but it is still being watched everyday on YouTube thanks to its pioneering, authentic creativity (and sheer brilliantness). Posing a stark contrast, in recent weeks we have been exposed to ex-Disney princess Miley Cyrus writhing naked on a wrecking ball in her track of the same name – and that alone has made newspaper articles worldwide, thus exposing her to more publicity and, ultimately, more record sales for a below-average, pretty dull song.

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Is the music industry really this shallow these days? Running a business clearly relies on publicity and making money, but it seems that some artists will stop at nothing to have people view, share, ‘like’ and comment on their video so they become more and more famous, and get those record sales (and the TV/magazine/film deals). It’s easy to create a music video filled with shocking and/or offensive imagery – all you need to do is put on a nun’s outfit, jack off a horse and rap in an ‘ethnic’ accent…or something along those lines. But is this really ‘different’ anymore? Shock tactics were used decades ago.

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Artists are supposed to be exactly that – artists. So why are we now being subjected to such shallowness when it comes to publicity? Of course the music industry is about making money, but it’s also supposed to be about art, which is meant to be thoughtful. I have absolutely nothing against artists performing a simple music video, e.g. singing the song on stage to fans, footage from tours and shows, or anything else really. What I despise, loathe and really hate are blatant attempts at ‘getting views’ – yes Rihanna, I’m talking to you.

Do you think that music videos are getting more desperate? What do you think of the phrase “no publicity is bad publicity”? What is your favourite, and least favourite, music video so far this year? Let us know.