• The origin of the music video is something many people have argued over; this is because it is a grey area,
as some people believe that the first music promotional film should be classed as the first music video.
However many disagree with this, I am going to go through the history of the music video and discuss how
over the years they have evolved from films the audience would consume in the cinema to videos the
audience can access at the tip of their fingers. This is because not only has the music video changed and
developed over time but the technology the institutions can use has too. Therefore this has allowed music
videos to advertise the artist and brand in a better way that may appeal more to the consumer. In present
day music videos are more likely to have a narrative and are there to tell a story to the audience. For
Example Bob Dylan’s “Here Lies Nothing” music video tells a story that does not relate to the
song or the lyrics. It could be seen as more of a short film than a music video.
1920s – 1950s:
• Before the technology enabled artists to shoot promotional films, there were “talkies”. This is sound incorporated with film; at first
these were exclusively short clips. The earliest feature-length movies with recorded sound only included only music and sound
effects. The first feature film originally presented as a talkie was “The Jazz Singer”, released in October 1927. This was made with a
Vitaphone, which was the height of technology and was a leading brand of sound-on-disc technology.
• Animation artist Max Fleischer introduced a series of sing-along short cartoons called Screen Songs, which invited audiences to sing
along to popular songs by "following the bouncing ball", which is similar to a modern karaoke machine.
• By the early 1930s, talkies were a global phenomenon; however in the UK and the rest of Europe they were treated with suspicion
by critics and film-makers. Some say they worried that a focus on dialogue would disrupt the visual aesthetics of silent cinema. Also
in the 1930s many cartoons featured popular musicians performing their hit songs on-camera in live-action segments during them.
• Soundies (which were three minute American musical films), produced and released from 1940-1947, were musical films that often
included short dance sequences, similar to later music videos.
• In the mid-1940s, musician Louis Jordan made short films for his songs, some of which were spliced together into a feature film
“Lookout Sister”. These films were, according to music historian Donald Clarke, the "ancestors" of music video.
• Musical films were another factor that lead to the development of the music video. For example many modern music videos have
been inspired and influenced by these old Hollywood musicals, Madona’s video for Material Girl (1985) has said to have been
influenced by “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” (1953). Also it has been said that Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” was influenced by the
dance scenes in the fights of “West Side Story” (1967). Therefore this shows how modern artists have looked back at history and
have based their image and ideologies on artists before them. This supports Michael Shore’s (1984) theory that music videos are
recycled styles; they are surface without substance. He argues that it is just a look and that there is no depth to the music video.
• In his autobiography, Tony Bennett claims to have created "...the first music video" when he was filmed walking along the
Serpentine in Hyde Park, London in 1956, with the resulting clip being set to his recording of the song "Stranger in Paradise".
• The clip was sent to UK and US television stations
and aired on shows including Dick Clark's American
1950s – 1960s:
• In the 1950s promotional music videos developed from being talkies to actual films with a narrative and in between this
narrative there would be an artist singing. In these music films the artist would portray a character; for example Elvis
played Clint Reno in Love Me Tender (1956). This was so that the audience could reach a mass audience, without leaving
their country to tour.
• Other artists that have been in musical films would be Cliff Richard, who stared in Summer Holiday (1963) as Don. The
audience would go to the cinema to watch these films; therefore they were not easily accessible for the consumer who
could not afford to go to the cinema. The cinematography in these musical films was pretty basic, however at the time it
was innovative and this technology was all that was available.
• In 1961, for the Canadian show Singalong Jubilee, Manny Pittson began pre-recording the music audio, went on-location
and taped various visuals with the musicians lip-synching, then edited the audio and video together. Most music numbers
were taped in-studio on stage, and the location shoot "videos" were to add variety. In 1964, Kenneth
Anger's experimental short film, Scorpio Rising used popular songs instead of dialog.
• The Beatles started producing music films in the 1960s; with A Hard Day’s Night, which was shot in black and white and
was portrayed as a mock documentary. It interspersed comedic and dialogue sequences with musical tones. The musical
sequences furnished basic templates on which countless subsequent music videos were modelled. It was the direct
model for the successful US TV series The Monkees (1966–1968. They also produced Help! which was filmed in colour. In
1965, the Beatles began making promotional clips (then known as "filmed inserts") for distribution and broadcast in other
countries—primarily the USA—so they could promote their record releases without having to make in-person
appearances. By the time The Beatles stopped touring in late 1966, their promotional films, like their recordings, had
become highly sophisticated.
• The monochrome clip for Bob Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues" filmed by D. A. Pennebaker in 1965 but not
relseased until two years later, was featured in Pennebaker's Dylan film documentary Dont Look Back. Eschewing any
attempt to simulate performance or present a narrative, the clip shows Dylan standing in a city back alley, silently
shuffling a series of large cue cards (bearing key words from the song's lyrics). Many people argue that this was the first
promotional music video/film.
1970s – 1980s:
• The long-running British TV show Top of the Pops began playing music videos in the late 1970s, although the BBC placed
strict limits on the number of 'outsourced' videos TOTP could use. Therefore, a good video would increase a song's sales
as viewers hoped to see it again the following week. In 1974, the American rock band Sparks was sanctioned by the UK
to create a video clip to promote their hit single "This Town Ain't Big Enough for the Both of Us", and this use of music in
video has been considered by many to be the first of its kind in Britain. In 1980, David Bowie scored his first UK number
one in nearly a decade thanks to director David Mallet's eye catching promo for "Ashes to Ashes".
• In 1975, The Who released their all-music feature film Tommy, directed by Ken Russell, based upon their 1969 rock
opera of the same name. Also in 1975, the band Queen ordered Bruce Gowers to make a promo video for their new
single "Bohemian Rhapsody" to show it in Top of the Pops; this is also notable for being entirely shot and edited on
videotape. The Alan Parker film adaptation of Pink Floyd The Wall transformed the group's 1979 concept double-LP of
the same title into a confrontational and apocalyptic audio-visual labyrinth of stylized, expressionistic images, sounds,
melodies and lyrics. The long-running British Rock music show The Old Grey Whistle Test produced a number of
pioneering videos made especially for the program throughout the 1970s and early 1980s.
• The first music video shown on MTV was The Buggles' "Video Killed the Radio Star". This was followed by the video
for Pat Benatar's "You Better Run". Sporadically, the screen would go black when an employee at MTV inserted a tape
into a VCR. MTV's lower third graphics that appear near the beginning and end of music videos would eventually use the
recognizable Kabel typeface for about 25 years, but these graphics differed on MTV's first day of broadcast; they were
set in a different typeface and included record label information such as the year and label name.
• In 1984, the channel produced its first MTV Video Music Awards show, or VMAs. The first award show, in 1984, was
punctuated by a live performance by Madonna of "Like A Virgin". The statuettes that are handed out at the Video Music
Awards are of the MTV moonman, the channel's original image from its first broadcast in 1981. Presently, the Video
Music Awards are MTV's most watched annual event
1990s – Present day:
• MTV allowed music videos to become mainstream and over time the technology
used to create these videos has developed and has enabled music videos to look
more professional. Now in present day music videos are somewhat short films and
they are used to promote the artist/band. Music videos are produced in the same
way films are. An example of a music video that is like a short film is Bob Dylan’s
Beyond Here Lies Nothing; which shows a woman who is trying to escape the
house and they fight. However the ending is confusing because she stabs the man
and runs him over but then goes back to him.
• The set up of the VMAs gives credit to music videos as a separate entities.
Therefore now artists invest a lot of money into music videos, as they are valued in
the industry. For example Nicki Minaj won an award for best hip hop video for her
• Artists now use their music videos as a different platform to tell a story to the