The Proof Of Hit-Making Is In Investing In Music Videos: "The Era For Waiting For Your Song To Blow Up Before Shooting A Video Has Passed"

Director AM. image: Aaron Mheta

This is the second installment of the “The proof of making a hit” series by Gerald Muchandiona. The first installment was on the essence of music sampling

It almost feels like music videos have always been there ever since time immemorial. Of course that has not always been the situation on the ground. Music videos have revolutionized the way musical products are consumed and interpreted. There are so many players who have facilitated the success of the music video industry. However this piece will narrow the discussion towards music videos as tools and music video directors as facilitators. To build on this discussion we will have to dig briefly into the history of music videos.  

According to a  music video is a short film, of variable length that integrates a song or album with imagery that is produced for promotional or artistic purposes. Primarily music videos are used as a marketing device intended to promote the sale of music recordings. Furthermore a music video is basically a short film that integrates a song with imagery, and is produced for promotional or artistic purposes. They are primarily produced and used as a marketing device intended to promote the sale of music. Music videos use a wide range of styles and contemporary video making techniques, including animation, live action, documentary and no narrative approaches such as abstract film. Most music videos interpret images and scenes from the song's lyrics while others take a more thematic approach. Other music videos may not have any concept, being only a filmed version of the song's concert performance.

Although the origins of the music videos date back to musical short films that first appeared in the 1920s, 1980s were the period music videos came into prominence when the channel MTV based its format around the medium. Prior to the 1980s, these kind of videos were described by various terms including "illustrated song", "filmed insert", "promotional film", "promotional clip" "promotional video" "song video" "song clip" or "film clip".

In 1894, sheet music publishers Edward B. Marks and Joe Stem hired electrician George Thomas and various artists to promote sales of their song "Their Little Lost Child". Using a magic lantern, Thomas projected a series of still images on a screen simultaneous to live performances. This would become a popular form of entertainment known as the illustrated song, the first step towards music video. In the late 1950s the Scopitone, a visual jukebox, was invented in France and short films were produced by French artists, such as Serge Gainsbourg. This use of the Scopitone spread to other countries, and similar machines such as Cinebox in Italy and Color-sonic in the USA were patented. further goes on to say "depending on who you ask, early examples of short films set to song, were invented in the 1930s (Warners Brothers Spooney Melodies'), the 1940s (Soundies) the 1960s ('Scopitone's Videos) all variations on performance-based clips used to promote popular music of the day. The mid-1960s also saw musicians collaborating with filmmakers on short art films that used dance, narrative and location to channel the spirit of their songs. Music videos form a large part of an artist's general creative wisdom and output.

Video productions are broken into three distinct stages. So whenever a Director charges an artist, just know the costs do not always start with and end with the camera. The costs are broken down into Pre-production, production and post-production

1. Pre-Production
This is the first and important stage, regardless of the available budget, as it includes planning and finalizing the video concept or story, location scouting, casting actors, picking crew, booking equipment etc. Without this stage the shoot will not happen successfully.

2. Production (Shooting days)
As the name suggests, it is the day for action! Here, all crew members, actors, lights, equipment, locations, props, logistics and welfare work together to create a masterpiece. From industry experiences to minimize costs most visual directors try to finish a project in a day because if there is a spillover, everything has to be rebooked, hence more money to be spent.

3. Post production
This is the final stage, more like the mixing and mastering of a song during music production. All components are weaved into one final video. Everything from editing to color grading, and sometimes scoring  (if there is a cinematic story infused). The concluding involves the video being exported (different formats for different TV channels streaming platforms)

The introduction of channels such as MTV in the 1980s dramatically changed the game. Music videos became a necessity to gain popularity (especially among the youth demography) and sell records. August 1, 1981 a 24 hour American cable channel called MTV changed the game. 1980s were the golden era for music videos because they came into prominence when the channel MTV based its format around the medium. It first premiered The Buggles's video Video killed the radio star, MTV pioneered a particular aesthetic, on that music journalist Rob Tannenbaum describes as "aggressive dictatorship, contemporary editing and FX, sexuality, vivid colors, urgent movement. Music artwork used to be an important tool to convince people to buy albums with nice artwork, music videos took that role. The launch of MTV made music videos one of the most important promotional tactics in the music business. A greater importance was placed on appearance of musicians and gimmicks because of music videos. In Africa today, DStv channels such as MTV base, Trace, Trace Africa, Channel O just to mention a few still show the importance of music channels as a medium to market music. 

By mid 2000s, as MTV started to focus its programming on reality TV, music videos had begun to migrate to the internet. In 2005, an online video platform named Youtube was launched. It took less than a year for Google to acquire it. This platform shifted the power from TV gate keepers and into the hands or rather fingertips of the average home viewer. Youtube is today, the second biggest search engine after Google and the largest streaming music service worldwide. So, discovering new music videos is easier. In 2009, major record labels Sony, Universal and EMI combined forces to create VEVO, a dedicated streaming site for music videos that were syndicated on Youtube. The comment section for Youtube differentiated it from a TV channel like MTV. Youtube's comment functions, alongside social media platforms Facebook (2004), Twitter (2006) and Instagram (2010) improved how music videos interacted with audiences and feedback mechanism created in real time. The consumers would share their thoughts, GIFs and clips from them. Music video's went viral for example Souljah Boy's Crank that dance in 2007.

Music videos are a worthy investment which can take an artist's musical career to the next level. The era for waiting for your song to blow up before shooting a video has passed. These days new releases drop accompanied by videos. A music video is now a medium for your music to blow.  Having a music video is an essential element which equites having the song in the first place. The music business evolved to audiovisual business. You tell stories through music videos which can address social challenges or can be relatable to your audience. According to "music videos are uniquely placed to tell us about the changing shape of mainstream popular culture." The world of branding and advertising has seeped into music videos and it helped music producers to generate an alternate source of revenue. Brands are also immensely benefitting from it, as they realized the reach of music artists and their videos. This form of association of brands and music videos can be phrased or associated with a marketing process called product placement. Brands pay large amounts of money for a few minutes in mainstream artists' music videos. Technically brands are paying to share fame with musical artists. According to Mercedes Benz and Adidas reportedly were able to reach 4.1 billion views by placing their products in the 2012 released surprise hit PSY 'Gangnam style'.

Videos have the power to demonstrate a command of fashion, character, movement and world-building that many mainstream feature filmmakers couldn't dream of. Music videos display culture, high art and artists' message creating striking cinematic moments in the same effort. Music videos help artists to build and develop their identity or brands. It also helps greatly in interpreting the song in a visual way. Music videos are so important, they help the listener to remember a particular song. Fans get to explore an artist's other talents such as acting and dancing (Ammara Brown). Musicians introduce themselves to audiences they cannot tour to through music videos. Translating music to compelling visuals with immense reach is essential. From experience it is easier to convince someone to watch a music video than listen to an audio. Music videos also present another source of revenue for artists via streaming, royalties and product placements. 

The creative work presented by Music video directors helps the artist to present and market their musical products. They are equal creatives because they help bring the lyrics to life, they help artists build images which attract endorsements which are lifestyle or fashion related. 

The music video industry can also be a  platform for music video directors to propel themselves career wise. Michael Bay started by directing music videos, they gave him a testing ground for his work. The power of music videos goes deeper. As Hip-Hop began to explode into the mainstream in the mid-to-late 90s, music videos provided a vital ground for filmmakers like Hype Williams who produced Busta Rhymes and Janet Jackson's What's It Gonna Be, TLC's No Scrubs, The Notorious BIG's Hypnotize. Williams played a critical role and had influence on the feel of popular music videos as the decade edged into the millennium. Through directors, artists share their values through music videos. Most music video directors work their asses off in music videos before transcending into film.

"A great video is not only measured by its vocal content alone but  by the visual quality can only achieved using the best camera equipment and lenses available in the entertainment industry" - Stanley Obiamalu 

This section will showcase some of the music videos from Zimbabwean musicians that propelled the initial songs to hit statuses after a well executed visual creative process. Many music videos interpret images and scenes from the song's lyrics while others take a more thematic approach. Other music videos may not have any concept, being only a filmed version of the song's concert performance. These different formats are well represented in the following 17 Music videos; 

Jah Prayzah - Mwana wamambo  (Official Music Video) shot and directed by Umsebenzi Ka Blaqs  

Ishan featuring Ti Gonzi - Kure (Official Music Video) directed by X Leoy V 

Jah Prayzah - Dzamutsana (Official Music Video) directed by Umsebenzi Ka Blaqs  

Winky D Featuring Gemma Griffiths - Mugarden (Official Music Video) directed by @iam_sos1 aka Stanley Obiamalu Sommadina of SOS Media 

Hillzy - Muroora (Official Music Video) directed by KMane and Nick 

Takura - Zvemoyo (Official Music Video) directed by Director AM

ExQ - Riva (Official Music Video) directed by Umsebenzi Ka Blaqs  

Gemma Griffiths - Titungamirei (Official Music Video) directed by Marc Neilson 

Killer T - Ndamuda (Official Music Video) directed by Andy Cutta Films 

Freeman - Ngaibake ft Alick Macheso (Official Music Video) by Umsebenzi Ka Blaqs  

Djembe Monks - Rainmaker (Official Music Video) directed by Kalai Barlow 

Garry Mapanzure - Your man (Official Music Video) directed by Kay Gapu 

Munashe - Chido (Official Music Video) directed by Mudiwa Dzino and Tavonga Gozo 

Trevor Dongo, Feli Nandi - Mufudzi wemombe (Official Music Video) directed by Simba Gee 

Holy Ten - Kumba kune vanhu (Official Music Video) directed by BrandonSSKD 

Tamy Moyo - Kwandinobva (Official Music Video) directed by Andy Cutta Films 

Nyasha David - Moyo Muti (Official Music Video) directed by KMANE & NICK 


In conclusion, music videos are another way to gain new audiences for an artist. Numerous encounters when l have stubbled on new great music on Youtube. Partnership of a great music video director and musician can bring a career changing product. A bad video can suck life out of a song and a good one makes it phenomenon. Dj Snake's 'Turn Down For What' turned into a smash hit because of a fitting music video. PSY's Gangnam Style is also another great example. A great music video can reach an audience of millions of people. Music visuals are uniquely placed to tell us about the changing share of mainstream culture. So an artist's investment in visuals is of importance to put themselves in the conversations that matter. Music videos are are important art form.
Gerald Muchandiona

twitterinstagram How satisfying it is to leave a mark on a blank surface. To make a map of my movement - no matter how temporary - Craig Thompson

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