Friday, August 31, 2012

Essay: Digital Media Convergence and Music Videos

Digital Media Convergence and Music Video

by Jessica Ferraro

Digital media convergence has had a profound impact on the way media is produced, shared, and consumed. Over time there has been a step away from traditional analogue forms, and a step towards innovative digital media distribution, allowing for the convergence of previously incompatible media forms. Online music video has seen a great shift in the way it is broadcasted and produced. It has been shaped and influenced by technological, economic, cultural, and social factors, transforming it from a one-sided, tele-visual industry, to an interactive media culture.

The most significant form of convergence that has shaped online music video is technological convergence. The increasingly rapid development of new technologies means that television, as a medium to watch music video, is being left behind by more convenient, “video on demand services” such as the internet (Hilderbrand 2007:48). Music videos in themselves are convergent, blending audio and visual content, and advances in technology have allowed for music videos to converge yet again, bringing together the formerly separate platforms of television, computer and internet technologies. Before internet technology, music videos, which were specially designed for television, were produced with big budgets and restricted to popular established artists. The increasing popularity of YouTube has led to new opportunities for musicians to broadcast their videos in new, revolutionary and exciting ways. The hi-fi nature of television music videos was no longer necessary in order to receive attention on the internet. A group that reached international recognition due to the ‘Lo-Fi’ nature of their videos is OK GO. The music video for their song “Here It Goes Again” went viral shortly after its debut on YouTube in early 2006. The band shot to fame due to the video’s ‘homemade’ Lo-Fi aesthetic, depicting the band performing what Hilderbrand refers to as a “well choreographed and rehearsed” routine on a set of treadmills (2007:51). The band continued to follow this pattern, following up with increasingly intricate DIY videos for the songs “This Too Shall Pass” and “White Knuckles.”

Technological convergence has therefore had a large impact on how music videos are produced and distributed, making the creating and viewing of music videos more accessible than ever before.

Cultural and global convergence has greatly shaped online music video consumption and creation as it connects people from all over the world. Since its launch in 2005, the increasing popularity of YouTube has led it to become not only an outlet for viewing and sharing media, but it has become a part of popular culture, breaking down preconceived cultural boundaries and allowing a space where people from otherwise separate cultures can converge and interact with each other. Before internet, television was one of the only mediums that could broadcast music videos. As suggested by Goodwin, the success of MTV was due to the fact that “music videos [were] consumed as a part of popular culture” (1987:38). With the introduction of internet websites such as YouTube which encouraged people to connect with each other, television and MTV were becoming less and less favourable (Sheehan & Morrison 2009). The introduction of the internet has meant that everyone in the world can simultaneously have access to the same media content, leading to the success of online music videos, and encouraging a community where people from all over the world can participate in a global conversation.

Social convergence is another factor that affects and influences online music video distribution. Previously, television provided one-sided media content meaning that audiences could not partake in or respond to media, their role was to simply watch it. The transition to online digital media has allowed for social convergence on host sites such as YouTube. The development of these sites has provided not only a place for professional musicians to upload music, but has created a place where ordinary people can converge and share original material. This creates a participatory culture, which according to Sheehan and Morrison, “allow[s] consumers to distribute content that they create” (2009).  An increasingly popular YouTube trend that illustrates the social convergence of online music video is the ‘response’ video where music and music videos are covered and re-posted to YouTube. One of the most recent examples of this is Gotye’s SomebodyThat I Used to Know’ which has spawned thousands of reply videos since its 2011 debut, some of which, such as Walk Off The Earth’s ‘Five People One Guitar,’ have found their own respective fame. This extreme response to his music video prompted Gotye (Wally De Backer) to produce a remix of ‘Somebody That I Used to Know’ comprising of a compilation of various YouTube covers of the song. 

This emphasises the belief that all content, whether it is created by a professional musician or a fan, has the potential to gain success, fulfilling Sheehan and Morrison’s claim that all “YouTube posters [are] directors” (2009). This shows how sites such as YouTube have allowed for a participatory culture by encouraging social convergence through user-generated content and interaction.

Economic convergence has had a resounding impact on how online music videos are created and viewed. In the years since the step away from television as the only medium for viewing and distributing music videos, companies have turned to online music videos to advertise their product and generate profit. As put forward by Goodwin, MTV was driven by advertising as music videos were funded by record companies specifically to sell a product – the music, artist or a sponsored brand (1987:37). The growing popularity of the internet meant a shift was needed to push advertising into the online music video market. Hosts such as VEVO, launched in 2009, have been introduced to promote recording artists signed to influential labels such as EMI, Universal and Sony. This highlights the shift from MTV to online channels to maximise scope and, therefore, profit (Goodwin 1987:43).
The introduction of YouTube apps for smart-phones and smart TVs highlights how the site has converged across multiple platforms, allowing for easy access anywhere and anytime. The combination of cross-platform promotion which encourages use and popularity of sites, with host sites dedicated to promoting specific talent or products has made the site such as YouTube a successfulmodern and wider-ranging replacement for the previous television-exclusive market.

Digital media convergence has greatly shaped the way that online digital media is created and distributed. The introduction of new internet technology has redefined the boundaries of music video production, while the nurturing social communities of YouTube have encouraged a new culture of user-generated content, and hosting sites, such as VEVO, have made it possible for major music labels to converge their talent in one online space. This represents a drastic step away from the analogue systems of the past, and a step towards a more modern, convergent future.




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