YouTube, VEVO, and a band’s individual website are usually where fans go to see music videos these days, and often the attraction of the music video is the initial viewing for fans, who then move on to unless this video is super engaging.
But for Gen Xers, the music video was more of an event, something to be seen over and over and something that could keep you entertained endlessly. The 80s saw the music video become one of the most effective ways to market your band. MTV became the place where most artists got their big break, with the network devoting the majority of its programming to music videos with occasional concert specials launched in its early days.
The world premiere of a new video was a big thing, sometimes nearly eclipsing the popularity of the song itself. And a great video can sometimes catapult an average song to greater heights. Labels poured big budgets into creating concept music videos and these musical shorts captured the imagination of a generation of music lovers. And, since MTV didn’t initially segment its audience, you could make a Billy Idol fan out of a viewer who had just tuned in hoping to catch Madonna’s latest video. Rock, pop, R&B, rap and metal could all coexist with overlapping fans of each.
But MTV wasn’t the only game in town. Canada had MuchMusic, VH1 initially catered to an older music video-watching audience, NBC devoted a late-night Friday slot to Friday night videos. USA Network had a mix of music videos and interviews on their long-running Night Flight series and even HBO set aside time in their schedule for repeat Video Jukebox viewings each month featuring some of the best new videos. Simply put, the music video was not only seen as a good marketing tool for your song, but it also earned you national exposure on many major television networks.
But as we now know, the music video has largely been relegated to something most commonly found via an online search or algorithm suggestion, as opposed to a block of featured programming on a major network. Even MTV, the network named Music Television, began phasing out music videos, opting instead to fill their airtime with reality series. Unfortunately, the large-scale, big-budget music video seems to be increasingly a thing of the past, with most music videos these days focusing on the highest-grossing performance-based clips, as there are fewer music platforms. high level to support them.