Friday, August 31, 2012

Covergence Essay: Music Video Online

Discuss the phenomenon of digital media convergence in relation to Music Video Online.
Julia Barton (42736951)

In recent years our lives have been dramatically redefined by the advances of digital communication and thus, so too has the way in which media industries and individuals create, distribute and consume content. It is apparent that as we rapidly transition into this new era, the gradual migration online (of industries and individuals) has effectively enabled the digital convergence of a multitude of media. It is within this context of considerable change, that this essay will explore the general implications of digital media convergence as well as considering more specifically, the ways in which digital media convergence has revolutionised the nature of online music video. Moreover this will be illustrated through a consideration of YouTube and the fundamental role it has played in the restructuring the music video industry. 

In understanding the phenomenon of digital media convergence, it is of fundamental importance to consider the extent to which recent developments in technology have contributed to its materialization. Undoubtedly, the increased connectivity and accessibility of the internet has been the key factor in enabling the convergence of various digital media (Jenkins: 2006). Before the creation of internet, various media forms and industries operated as largely separate entities and thus functioned without the reliance or interference upon others (Hilderbrand: 2007). As of recently however, we are witnessing a mass migration online whereby various media and industries are ‘coming together’ and converging in one space (Dwyer: 2010). In doing so, it is now possible for audiences to conveniently access a range of media via a singular medium. Arguably, one of the most radical changes created by digital media convergence is the increased degree of power awarded to individuals – particularly in regards to publishing their own material as evidenced in the example of online music video. 

Furthermore, as a result of digital media convergence, the music video industry has been profoundly affected – particularly, in regards to the means of distribution rather than production. Perhaps the most noticeable difference to that of the past is that individuals are no longer reliant on music television programs to play their videos. Due to the development of a series of online video-sharing sites, individuals and musicians alike now possess the capacity to broadcast their videos without the approval of anyone but themselves (Burgess: 2009). Moreover, the act of distributing music videos online is effectively unrestricted and unregulated. This stands in stark contrast to the past whereby only a very small proportion of music videos were broadcast to global audiences and they were usually the videos of universally popular artists (Meikle & Young: 2012). However, as is evidenced on the website YouTube, the quality of video and the popularity of the artist are no longer discriminating factors – potentially anyone, anywhere, irrespective of talent or professional quality of the video can now be broadcast themselves to the world. 

Moreover, the production of online music video has been influenced considerably by the new platforms of distribution – in which have been supported to a very large extent by digitally convergent media. Undeniably, YouTube has rapidly evolved into the most popular platform for online music video dissemination. A brief perusal of the content published online reveals an incredibly varied range in terms of the nature and quality of online music videos (Hilderbrand: 2007). At one of the spectrum are those professionally produced videos (usually the products of exceedingly wealthy and self-indulgent pop stars) whereas at the other end of the spectrum is a collection of lo-fi budget videos (commonly produced for the purposes of YouTube consumption). However, it is evident that online music videos no longer have to adhere to a certain standard in order to gain air-time or the attention of audiences (Burgess: 2009). In fact, quite often the most simplistic music videos gain the greatest amount of attention from audiences as indicated via YouTube’s view count and ‘like’/‘dislike’ option (Burgess: 2009). Similarly, amateur remixes, renditions and parodies are exceedingly popular amongst audiences as statistics have revealed. 
Somewhat inevitably, the various online spaces dedicated to video-sharing have facilitated the discovery of many musically gifted individuals and groups by international talent scouts. Thus, the simple act of uploading an amateur music video of yourself onto a site such as YouTube, which may then be accessed and viewed by potentially anyone (anywhere), could see you propelled into super-stardom. One needs to look no further than the remarkable precedent set by the teen sensation Justin Bieber whose initial discovery (and continuing success) can be largely attributed to the public platforms enabled by digitally convergent media. Due to the enhanced connectivity and accessibility of the internet in the twenty-first century, individuals can freely browse, view and forward the videos of their favourite artists to others (Burgess: 2009). As a result, videos can be searched and accessed without the delays of watching live broadcasts, making recordings or waiting through commercial breaks (Hilderbrand: 2007).  Thus, this undoubtedly reflects the demands of the modern day consumer who live in a world increasing characterised by instant gratification and immediacy.

All in all, it is apparent that the convergence of various digital media has played a profound role in remodelling the music video industry. As this essay has illustrated, music videos no longer belong solely on the television screen and instead have took up a new residency in the online realm. As a result, video-streaming sites such as YouTube have not only provided public spaces for individuals to freely share their videos with others but have also effectively replaced television as the primary means of music video distribution. 

1. Burgess, J, and Green, J. (2009) YouTube: Online Video and Participatory Culture. Polity Press. 

2. Dwyer, T. (2010) Media Convergence, McGraw Hill, Berkshire, pp 1-23.

3. Hilderbrand, L. (2007) YouTube: ‘Where Cultural Memory and Copyright Converge’, Film Quarterly, Vol 61, pp 48-57.

4. Jenkins, H. (2006) Convergence Culture, New York, New York University Press.

5. Meikle, G, and Young, S (2012) Media Convergence: Networked Digital Media in Everyday Life, Palgrave Macmillan.

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