Are Music Videos an Art Form?

Some of my earliest memories of dance involved VH1 and MTV.  VH1 was more popular in our house because it was more family-friendly.  My parents even watched it with us.  We would put an empty VHS tape (remember those?) into our VCR (Yep, I’m that old!) and when one of our favorite music videos came on, we hit “record.”  We had at least two or three tapes full of Michael Jackson, Phil Collins, Paul Simon, Ah-Ha, Enigma, among others.  In my mind, these were true works of art and to this day, I attribute them as being part of my introduction to visual storytelling.

Today, my favorite music videos have gone from a VHS tape to a Youtube playlist, but it’s a lot of the same stuff, including more contemporary artists like OK Go, Iron and Wine, and Woodkid.

When I was working on The Navigator Official Music Video, I feverently researched and took notes on all the music videos that had inspired me in my childhood as well as modern ones.  Some included dance, some didn’t- but either way, the list was comprised of work that truly made my heart sing.  I decided I should reach out to some of the directors and choreographers who worked on these videos.

Except I couldn’t find out who they were! No info. Nothing. Nada.

The music videos I remembered from my childhood all had credits- everyone from the director to the choreographer to the producer, the dancers and actors- everyone directly involved with the video could be found inside that little box in the lower lefthand side of the screen.  Here we are in the 2000’s and nine times out of ten, the only information in the descriptions is the musical artist and record label.

I tried Google. IMDB. IMVDB (Internet Music Video Database.)  I even tried the musicians’ websites.

Hardly anything!

I posted this question in some of my filmmaking groups:  Why do the directors, choreographers, and producers not appear on credits for most music videos anymore?  Some of the responses I got:

“No one cares about getting credit for music videos.”

“Music videos are considered a low art form in film.”

WHAT??? LOW art form? This was news to me!

I. Was. CRUSHED.

What about Thriller? What about Take On Me?  What about all the music videos from the 80’s and 90’s that influenced my formative years as an artist?  What about all the amazing videos out there now from artists like Macklemore and Blue Helix?

Of course, by the time I learned this shocking piece of information, we had wrapped The Navigator, a music video that took almost an entire year of planning, choreographing, shooting, and raising over $4,000 in crowdfunding.  It was a huge undertaking and I was immensely proud of the work I did on it.

Some music videos out there have tainted the water, it’s true.  But it’s sad that they have developed a bad rep in the film world because they are also a rich opportunity to create something beautiful and artistic.  It’s a chance for musicians to collaborate and tell the story of their song through a different medium.

The band OK Go has raised the bar for contemporary music videos. While most artists probably don’t have the budget to shoot a video in zero gravity, neither did OK Go when they started out. Their early videos were super simple, but still unique and creative works of art- they are proof that all you need is a few treadmills and a camera.

The next time you watch (or create!) a music video, I challenge you to look at it as its own art form- a piece of work built, of course, on the foundation of an incredible song.