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How Music Videos Have Evolved (with Tati Cirisano)

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Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

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the long-lost big budget music video

Music videos have had a fascinating lifecycle. When the MTV-to-record store pipeline was strong, the industry poured money into videos. Each music video were four-minute commercials for record labels to reach their target customers. They were the strongest marketing opportunity that money could buy.

In 1987, Martin Scorsese had a $2.2 million budget to direct Michael Jackson’s 18-minute short film for “Bad.” That video had a bigger budget than Taxi Driver.

Today, there are endless ways for artists and record companies to reach fans. Music videos aren’t the only game in town. Even if the music industry’s revenue ever exceeds its inflation-adjusted 1999 peak, those music video budgets aren’t coming back. The million-dollar videos are few and far between.

Most music videos are consumed on YouTube, where the views and consumption data show that bigger isn’t necessarily better. Some of the most-watched music videos ever are Luis Fonsi’s “Despacito,” Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You,” and Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars’s “Uptown Funk.” Those videos are good, but they largely got those views because the underlying songs are massive hits. Plus, those artists had other social channels to reach their fans and promote the album. It diminished the impact that a single video could have.

This is the biggest reason for declining budgets. Eyeballs have shifted. In MTV’s heyday, the goal of a music video was to make the biggest statement possible so that the artist can sell more CDs. In the streaming era though, music videos feel more like a minimum viable product.

You can listen to the full episode here or read below for more highlights.

the return on investment

Videos are now both a revenue-generating and a promotional tool. Those views generate ad dollars for the video itself, but they also drive attention elsewhere.

Lyrics videos are low-hanging fruit. Some look like basic words scrolling across a screen like karaoke, but even lyric videos have become an artform of their own. User-generated content is another revenue-generation opportunity. Artists like Lizzo, Lil Nas X, and Doja Cat have put in work toward TikTok campaigns (inspired by their music videos). The current era is a performance marketer’s dream.

But performance metrics and analytics don’t eliminate failure. There are plenty of top artists who spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on videos that barely scratch the surface on YouTube. Some videos with billion of views cost a fraction of those that have tanked, and vice versa. Plus, the artists and record companies now deal with a new challenge —algorithms.

If a video didn’t get much play on TRL or 106 & Park, then that’s on the fans. But on YouTube and TikTok, algorithms are impossible to control and hard to predict. The biggest challenge in the social media era is constructing virality. Most artists, and to a broader extent, have a formula. But they’ve all had songs they thought would bomb but took off, and vice versa. Like Lil Nas X in “Old Town Road,” even the masterful plans need a bit of luck.

where the money flows

On our past podcast episodes, Tati and I have talked about how form follows function in music. We’ve seen how pop music evolves to sell its primary format. From MTV to CD sales to ringtones to streaming to TikTok, we know what a song or video from each phase sounds like.

But what does a YouTube music video look like?

It’s less distinct than the examples above, but I often think of NBA YoungBoy’s videos. The videos are quite similar. There are subtle, formulaic patterns that are a clear attempt to work the algorithm in his favor like MrBeast does with his YouTube videos.

I also assume that the viewing screen plays a factor. Mobile accounts for over 60% of all video views on YouTube. Since most videos are watched on 4-inch screens, it’s harder to justify an expensive, over-the-top music video production budget.

These are just a few highlights from our episode! Tati and I also talked about:

–  dollars shifting to music documentaries, live streams, and visual albums

–  the most expensive music videos ever

–  the impact of viral dances on music videos

Listen here:

0:00 What is the role of a music video today?

3:28 MTV’s role in music videos

7:28 Comparisons to TikTok

11:09 Music video budgets peaked in mid-90s

13:43 Napster changed everything

15:30 Music videos as career launchpads

18:10 YouTube revitalizes music videos

25:00 Range of video budgets 

30:55 Big dollars going to documentaries and short films

34:12 Rise of lyric videos

39:51 Does YouTube have a music video formula?

43:37 Measuring ROI of music videos in 2023

TRANSCRIPTION:

[00:00:00] Tati Cirisano: There’s an argument to be made that MTV like almost invented the music video or almost like made music videos a thing because having that audience there and having that like cultural impact is what led to bigger budgets for music videos so I almost feel like MTV gets credit for like kind of inventing the music video. 

[00:00:19] Dan Runcie Intro: Hey, welcome to the Trapital Podcast. I’m your host and the founder of Trapital, Dan Runcie. This podcast is your place to gain insights from executives in music, media, entertainment, and more who are taking hip hop culture to the next level.

[00:00:47] Dan Runcie Guest Intro: This episode is all about music videos and what their value prop is in the industry today. Back in the MTV era, the role of a music video was clear. This was your four minute opportunity to sell the hell out of your artist and for your label to promote its artist. Yet fans bought into the lifestyle, the identity, the persona of this person, and get them to go to Sam Goody, go to Tower Records and buy the albums.

It was a marketing channel and it was a marketing channel that the record labels were continuing to put money into, and as the effectiveness continued to grow, they put more and more. Into that and that budget exploded. By the time we got to the mid to late 90s, we saw music video budgets hitting millions of dollars, and artists were doing out of this world things in these videos.

But we slowly started to see those budgets slash. Went at the introduction of Napster and the CD era started to decline and the money was no longer flowing the way that it once was. But we started to see music videos take a new turn in the YouTube era. And now in the TikTok era, what is the ROI of a music video?

What role do they serve in today’s industry? And to break it down, we’re enjoying by Tati Cirisano, an analyst at MIDia Research. He’s been on the podcast a bunch of times, and this topic was right up her alley. So we talked a bit about that and more. Hope you enjoy this episode. Here’s our breakdown on the role of music videos in today’s industry.

[00:02:16] Dan Runcie: All right. Today we are going to take a trip down memory lane to the wonderful World of Music videos, how this art form has evolved over the years. And I’m joined by Tati Cirisano from MIDiA Research, Tati welcome. 

[00:02:28] Tati Cirisano: Thank you. Good to be

back once again. 

[00:02:31] Dan Runcie: Yeah, definitely. Can I start with a story? You mind if I start with a story with this one? 

So, a couple weeks ago I was catching up with, CEO from one of the major record labels. This is someone that if you’re probably listening to this household, if you’re probably listening to this podcast, you probably know, and they run a label that is also a household name, and they were telling me about a conversation they had with an artist who is also a household name and how this artist wanted to have a million dollar plus seven plus figure, multi-million dollar music video budget because they wanted to make this big splash with what they were doing. And the CEO was like, no, I’m not giving you that. Like, what do you think this is? And for context, this is a artist who hasn’t had a big hit since George Bush’s first term. Let me say that roughly, just to give some context here. So,

So it’s been some time, but I also was a bit surprised because this is someone who seemed like they were up with the times in tech, and I remember asking the label exec, I was like, what’s the deal? I thought this artist was with this. You see the movies they’re making here, there, and this, that, and the third.

And he was like, Hey. You would be surprised sometimes the egos get the best of these people and this is what they want. And that was a big inspiration for this conversation because I know you and I have talked about things like Spotify versus YouTube. YouTube, of course, having such a big focus in music videos and it’s role.

But that’s what made me think it would be a great time to take a trip down memory lane and just revisit music videos themselves and. Going back to 1981, I feel like we could start music videos well before that. That obviously was there, but I think that was the origin place for a lot of what became known as the Modern Music Video and MTV itself.

What’s your take on how impactful MTV was? Because there was definitely a big shift of any music videos we saw before and any music videos we saw after.

[00:04:36] Tati Cirisano: Yeah, I mean, you’re right that like we could start this even further. Back in history, there were artists like the Beatles were making music films in like the 60s. David Bowie did the same but there wasn’t really a place to showcase them the way that MTV, like, the one that MTV created. So I feel like it’s not just that really iconic, amazing music videos, like those of, like Michael Jackson and, others made MTV a thing.

I feel like there’s an argument to be made that MTV like almost invented the music video or almost like made music videos a thing because having that audience there and having that like cultural impact is what led to bigger budgets for music videos and labels kind of focusing on this as an art form and a promotional piece.

And that also led to more interesting creative videos. So I almost feel like MTV gets credit for like kind of inventing the video, the music video. 

[00:05:30] Dan Runcie: And inventing the video as a distinct art form that can live on its own in distinction from the music itself, because you mentioned The Beatles, you mentioned some of those other artists from that time. Music videos almost felt more like a utility. They were a commodity. Let’s put the camera up while you’re recording the tune, and maybe we’ll add in some things.

Maybe they’ll add in some B-roll. And that’s what it very much existed as for years. But then MTV takes it and makes it this unique thing. And we saw from the early days, whether it was Duran Duran, David Bowie, Michael Jackson, Madonna, they were some of the early people that really made it their own thing.

And you saw more of those movies and that’s where MTV being able to capture the eyeballs there, the growth of cable as well, and them becoming one of the more popular channels there. You see this platform having this type of impact, you invest more dollars into it, and this becomes a much stronger marketing channel, which then commanded and justified them putting more and more money over time into these videos.

[00:06:35] Tati Cirisano: Yeah, and speaking of Madonna, I think it also made music a lot more visual where music videos kind of opened this pathway for artists to become not just music icons, but kind of like style and fashion and cultural icons. there’s so many videos that. Are just kind of like etched into everyone’s brains and so many iconic outfits like people still dress up as, Britney Spears and the Baby One More Time Video and like all these other iconic ones. I think it, started making music more of a visual thing. And in turn, that also helped drive fandom around artists. Cuz if there’s one thing I’ve learned in all the studying of, fandom that I’ve done and how it develops, it’s pretty much always about context.

It’s always maybe listening to a song makes you a fan or doesn’t make you a fan. It makes you a listener of the artist. But it’s only once you know more about, who they are and like what their style is and what their aesthetic is and all these other things that you become a true fan. I think a lot of fandom was formed by sitting around the TV with friends and like watching a video for the first time on MTV.

It was just a more captivating way to get to know an artist and have that context around them. 

[00:07:47] Dan Runcie: It’s a big point, and that’s something I definitely related with too. Growing up in that era, you were able to see and interact with those artists. If I had just heard these artists on the radio, it would’ve been a very different relationship. But I know that for a lot of people, that’s how they gravitated to music.

That’s how they captured this, and that wasn’t the way that it, I grew up for me, whether it was watching them on MTV, watching them on BET, That was the experience, and especially as things started to take off in the CD era, we saw more artists having success with it. We also started to see more pushback as well.

I think it was around the early 90s, even the late eighties, this was around the time MTV was really kicking into gear. And the sales and numbers, everything was just up and to the right from a growth perspective. But we started to hear more critiques, some of the more traditionalists in the music industry started to say things like, these music videos are turning artists into one trick ponies.

It’s no longer about the music anymore. It’s about making, Music video. And that’s clearly resonating with some of the critiques. We now hear about TikTok as well. But it makes me think about the patterns that music often follows and when there is a new art form that does allow some type of growth, there’s critiques, but those critiques also do stem from bit of this.

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. And we’ve seen this time and time again where a lot of those artists that had. Had critiques about MTV, whether it was Mariah Carey in the very early days, or even groups like REM, they would go on to make some of the most iconic music videos from the 90s as well.

And I think we’ve seen the same with whether it’s streaming or TikTok music videos was one of the things that I remember as having a bit of that cyclical pattern.

[00:09:32] Tati Cirisano: Yeah, and there’s so many trends in music videos that I feel like now we’re play, we’re seeing play out on TikTok or have already seen like there was sort of the dance, video craze of like, single ladies and crank that and PSY with Gangnam style.

There were all these music videos that were about getting everyone to do a dance. And that was the way, that was like the promotional thing of if you got people to do that, then they would do it at the club when the song came on, they would do it in public. It would sort of become this bigger moment. And then that was kind of the first phase of TikTok when it started to rise in the 2020 when in early 2020 was like all dance videos.

and even. I remember there were some videos that people, I know we haven’t gotten to YouTube yet, but when YouTube came into the equation, people were uploading their own versions of videos and now that’s like a pretty common thing. But yeah, it’s interesting how all this stuff is cyclical and I think like video to the stuff about, the criticisms and like being one trick ponies and that kind of thing.

I think that video has kind of, with music, always been about creating a cultural moment, aside from it just being another art form that I think artists delight in taking part in. Cause it’s just another way to be creative. But I think it’s, it’s, about creating a cultural moment and creating a cultural moment in this day and age has morphed into this concept of virality, but it’s always been about the same thing.

Like viral in the 90s was, people wanting to be Britney Spears in that music video I was just talking about, and it kind of like being, this thing everyone was talking about for months. The same thing is happening now on TikTok. It’s just happening faster. so yeah, I think that a lot of this stuff is cyclical and those criticisms, the point is that it’s a promotional tool, so of course it’s gonna lead to kind of like flash in the pan moments.

So, Yeah, I have complicated feelings about those criticisms, I guess.

[00:11:28] Dan Runcie: Yeah, I do too. I understand and I think that what we saw in the next decade, especially with some of those artists that came around and ended up leaning in, said a lot about where it is. And not every artist needed to do the MTV thing. Not every artist needed to lean into it all the way. Granted, I do think that most artists had music videos to an extent, but there was clearly a wave of where things were going.

And right around the mid to late 90s, We saw the peak, at least from a budget perspective, of how much money was being put into music videos. And when you’re talking about creating moments and in the pre-internet era, there wasn’t necessarily as much virality, but the thing that got people locked in was how visually stunning or something that you’ve seen that’s never been seen before.

It’s almost this bigger was better era. And then we get to points where in the mid 90s, Both Madonna and Michael and Janet Jackson are having music videos that aren’t just one or 2 million. That screen music video was rumored to be around five to 7 million depending on the source you look at, in 1995 dollars, and that’s that black and white video.

They’re shape shifting and all this stuff. And we continued to see this over the next couple of years. Of course, hype Williams and everything that he did from music videos was always unique, is always futuristic and with all of the elements that he had there. But it took a lot of money to make those music videos the same way with NSYNC and all those no strings attached music videos.

Those were multimillion dollar music videos too. And it brings me back to even the things that they would spend money on. I’m thinking about, Busta Rhymes and Janet Jackson, they had that once. It’s gonna be a music video where you have the silver liquid that’s like coming over. Both of them and Busta Rhymes took guitar lessons.

Apparently that’s what MTV’s making the video thing had said in its, little popup that comes to the music video. But all of those 

things 

[00:13:24] Tati Cirisano: I missed those popups. 

[00:13:26] Dan Runcie: I know it was such a fun era, right? It was. It was such a, I guess a lot of that’s been now disrupted by what we see on YouTube, which I know we’ll get into in a minute, but that was such a moment.

I think it spoke to, why people were willing to put in money at the time with just where things were with the era that was the marketing channel. Music videos were seen purely as an expense to be able to sell more CDs the same way that touring at the time was seen as an opportunity to try and sell more CDs.

And the artists that sold the most often got the biggest budgets. And at the time, bigger was all often seen as better, especially when it came to the contemporary Pop X and that whole ecosystem of music, video culture, and everything around it made that take off the way it did.

[00:14:13] Tati Cirisano: no, absolutely. I think the promotional power was worth it at the time. and like you said, you could justify spending that much on a music video if you were gonna make it back in CD sales if you were one of these superstars. So it made a lot of sense at the time. And then came master.

[00:14:31] Dan Runcie: Yeah, that changed everything because and there was a fair amount of overlap there just with the way things were because so much of the industry was still focused where it was, I look at even the music video economy where there was a cyclical nature where because of the demand, The programs themselves or the channels themselves started launching programs dedicated to showcasing music videos, whether it was 106 and Park or TRL.

They had different shows throughout the day, but all of them were some unique flavor of just trying to show you more music videos. And that’s what was cool about it. You were able to have this whole ecosystem there, but then as you mentioned, Napster comes in, changes everything. The dollars are no longer flowing, and it.

Is harder to justify spending millions of dollars on a music video if you can’t confirm that that artist is gonna be able to do that. I think in a lot of ways, the peak was, we talked about them before in sync, Britney Spears, Nsync being able to sell, I think it was nearly 3 million units of an album the first week that it comes out.

Like people skipping school in order to go buy, no strings attached. That just didn’t happen any more to that level. I mean, we eventually saw examples like Adele and even this Taylor Swift album, but it wasn’t the same way that it was then, and it shifted everything and I think it eventually Led to lower budgets.

We still saw a lot of creativity. I still remember watching tons of music videos, especially in the mid to, especially in the mid two thousands. But it was definitely a different vibe cuz it was this pre and post Napster, but pre YouTube era where the budgets were still somewhat strong, but it wasn’t quite what it was before.

[00:16:13] Tati Cirisano: and there was this whole ecosystem before that, like, it’s, kind of stunning me to remember how many different roles there were. Like music directors I feel like got a lot more shine because there were the VMAs and all these kind of things dedicated to them. But then there were the VJs of the time.

and there were kind of like the. dancers and the other like characters in these videos, which kickstarted a lot of actors and actresses careers. Just being in these music videos, there was this idea of like the video vixen, which is a term I absolutely cringe to the n degree at, but like that was a role, like there was such an ecosystem around it. You’re totally right and then it really so much since then. 

[00:16:54] Dan Runcie: When you think of the term video vixen, who’s the first person that comes to mind?

[00:16:58] Tati Cirisano: I think of people like Eva Mendez in the Miami video with Will Smith, I think of Scarlet Johansen. which one was she in? It was like some, 

[00:17:09] Dan Runcie: Justin Timberlake, what goes around comes around.

[00:17:11] Tati Cirisano: Yeah, there were so many, I don’t know. Alicia Silverstone I know was in a couple of music videos. Kim Kardashian was in Fallout boy, thanks for the Memories, which was a bit later and like she was already famous. But like that remembering that blows my mind. Like there were just so many of these examples. I don’t know. 

[00:17:27] Dan Runcie: Yeah, there’s a few that comes to mind. I think about someone like Vida Guerrera, like she was always in a bunch of them. Even male video vixen’s too. I’m thinking 

[00:17:37] Tati Cirisano: Yeah. 

[00:17:38] Dan Runcie: Beckford and, Toni Braxton’s Unbreak my heart, in that one. And then Tyrese and, what music video is that was that angel of mine with Monica.

So you definitely had ’em back and forth. Even the artists themselves sometimes ended up being vixens and other ones. Terrence Howard was in a bunch of ’em. But I think that this too, it talks about just how music was a launchpad, right? You mentioned the VJs earlier. So many of these VJs started as those types of personalities, but then they went on to go do other things.

I mean, Carson Daley is a media personality now doing his own thing. He got his roots in TRL. I feel like, aJ from 106 and Park still does media things suspense. Terrence Jay definitely does as well. So you see those, but you also saw it on the music video side too, where directors like Spike Jones is now doing, you know, Hollywood movies.

 Look at the Daniels, they directed turn down for what? the little John’s music video, and then they just directed and won an Oscar for Best Picture and best Director with everything everywhere, all at once. So music continues to be a launchpad in 

[00:18:45] Tati Cirisano: What a pivot. Turn Down for What to Everything Everywhere All At Once.

[00:18:50] Dan Runcie: Yeah, never would’ve guessed that one, never would’ve guessed that one. And I think with that, we should probably start now talking about the YouTube era because things took another turn here. You mentioned a little bit of this earlier where user-generated videos started to take off, but I think the success of YouTube started to tell people that, Hey, The things that are going viral and getting attention.

It isn’t just using the most amount of money possible to see outta this world stuff. As cool as it was to see Hype Williams creating action figures of Missy Elliot running around in space, we don’t necessarily need to see that much out of this world to do it. It can be Soulja boy doing his type of dance and then having all this other user generated content on Crank that Batman, crank, that Spider-Man, crank that whoever, and we saw that time and time again.

So I think YouTube, and this was before any of the licensing deals came. The fact that crank that blew up became the number one single in the country stuck out in a way. And I think that led to another evolution of what people were willing to spend money on and how they thought about the promotion of music videos as well.

[00:19:59] Tati Cirisano: Totally like remember the okay go music video with the treadmills. Like remember how cool we all thought that was? I mean, I’ll speak for myself, but like it’s like funny to think about now. That was such a big deal. That they made this like really low budget video, just kind of like running around on treadmills.

And I think that’s the other thing that’s interesting about YouTube is, so pre MTV, there was like not really any place to showcase music videos. Then there was this channel for it, but it was really limited to the major label signed artists. And then you got to YouTube where there wasn’t any gatekeeping around music videos anymore.

Anything could be uploaded and anything could be played. And there was just less of that gatekeeping. But then the flip side of that is it also means that it’s a lot harder to stand out. And so YouTube has, kind of made any one of those videos a bit less impactful for that reason. Over time, I think, and that gets back to like the fragmentation that, you know, I love to talk about.

[00:20:57] Dan Runcie: It’s fascinating because I think that each time something goes viral or each time something breaks out on YouTube, You do get a lot of copycat behavior. You see a moment where things are happening. It isn’t always rational, but that’s kind of the beauty of it. And then you go on to something else. I was looking at things talking about the 10 year anniversary of Harlem Shake, of that whole video wave where people were doing all those crazy dances.

The music then stops, and then a couple years later we saw Black Beatles and that saw reach a whole nother level because of the freeze challenge thing that people were doing. And that was a whole nother culture with it because again, we started to see less flashiness of them trying to do particular things.

But once the licensing came, music videos then became revenue generating tools. On their own and it was no longer necessarily just about trying to have a song get retired on the charts, whether it was on a 106 and Park and TRL there became the subculture of how can we get this music video to hit this?

Number of streams or this hit this number of views. And I know we start to see this now more where most of the services are publicly sharing how many streams and views their songs and music videos have. But I feel like we started to see this on YouTube first, and a lot of the chatter that you would once see started to live in the comments section.

And you started to see these subcultures of fans that would gravitate and connect to songs in that way. And I felt like that was something that was unique.

[00:22:29] Tati Cirisano: Yeah, and there were a lot music videos, over the past, like five years, over the past 10 years, like the single ladies video and like Childish Gambino with this is America. And even like more recently, like the Kendrick Lamar video with like the AI generated faces, I forget which song that 

[00:22:46] Dan Runcie: Oh yeah, the hard part five.

[00:22:47] Tati Cirisano: Yes. But you’re totally right that rather than the go, the virality of a music video. Just being about driving streams. they also, those videos also became revenue generated themselves. So going viral on YouTube, having a video that everybody was gonna be anxious to watch, was a big deal for that.

And there, I feel like there were kind of less so today, but like pre TikTok in like 2016 to like 2020. It kind of feels like there was a bit of a mini revival of like, Music videos being this bigger promotional tool, like, do you remember all the promotion around the Thank you Next video for Ariana Grande?

That was nuts, like, we were all waiting weeks for that video to come out and there was so much, conversation about it and so many clips and so many interviews in the press and I feel like there was kind of a moment before TikTok came around when music videos were once again, kind of this really big promotional tool and way to kind of break through the noise and generate revenue.

[00:23:47] Dan Runcie: With Thank you, next. That was the one where they spoofed mean girls, right?

[00:23:51] Tati Cirisano: Yeah, and like a bunch of other of those types of movies, like there was like a clueless scene in it. I feel like there 

[00:23:57] Dan Runcie: Oh yeah, yeah. 

[00:23:57] Tati Cirisano: I feel like there were a bunch, maybe I’m remembering it wrong, but I think they, they did that with like a bunch of different, like 90s and two thousands movies. And there were so many cameos. There were so many cameos. 

[00:24:08] Dan Runcie: Oh yeah, that’s right. It did. It did. And I think a few of those music videos, you mentioned Salish Gambino as well. He’s clearly someone that I think is calculated and knows what he’s doing from a communication perspective, but with that video, it wasn’t even necessarily about how much money was spent on this or something. It was more so here’s this timely thing and there was a shock value that was linked to it, and I know that music videos have always had a bit of, have always had shock value, especially since the MTV area era think specifically about an artist like Madonna and then even Britney later on that leaned into this.

But we started to see artists lean, lean into it even more from a. political standpoint, making statements and trying to say things that they wouldn’t otherwise have said. And even thinking about artists like Joyner Lucas who had someone that was wearing a Make America Great again hat in their music video to then show that as some type of hypothetical conversation of what it could be like to talk to people that may think differently.

I may be misremembering parts of the music video, but we started to see more of that integrate where. That then stems from how flexible this art form can be. You can have a music video like wp, which I do think was one of the more recent, you know, TikTok era music videos that created a moment. You could have them have these standalone things as well. 

[00:25:29] Tati Cirisano: Mm-hmm. That’s exactly what I mean with how music videos give you so much more context like it’s just another way for the artist to tell their story and express themselves. It’s just another avenue for that, and there’s so many different ways to do that. It is such a flexible art form. 

[00:25:44] Dan Runcie: Yeah, definitely. I have a few stats here that I think would be helpful just for some context setting. As we mentioned earlier, we talked about music video budgets in the late 90s and even the early two thousands where, top artists getting million dollars plus for their music video wasn’t uncommon.

But here, let me share some numbers. Cardi B had shared some self-reported public numbers of things she spent on music videos just over the years. This was from two years ago, so I’m sure she’s done stuff then. But Bodak Yellow, that was the music videos that they had done. That one in Dubai, that was $15,000.

Granted, she was much smaller at the time. People likely weren’t charging her as much, but she did that for just $15,000 and then, Bar Cardi, that was $150,000. The money music video, which did look like a pretty elaborate and not cheap music video. That was 400,000, please Me. The one that she did with Bruno Mars, that was 900,000 and then WAP was a million dollars.

But those are two artists coming together, and that was also another expensive looking music video with a bunch of cameos as well. So even WAP, something that I would consider on the highest degree. Of what, major record label might be willing to spend. Even that was just a million dollars or compared to how much more they were willing to spend a couple decades before.

[00:27:02] Tati Cirisano: Yeah, yeah, I mean that, that kind of doesn’t surprise me. Like I feel like the ROI for music videos has just gone down a lot and it just doesn’t make sense to spend much more than that on a music video. Like you can still make a splash, it can still be, a good promotional tool. And a way to, generate more revenue, but they don’t tend to last as long as they used to, and it’s just really hard to get people’s attention on one thing these days.

I think short form is also being prioritized or that’s kind of the sense that I’m getting and yeah, it doesn’t totally surprise me, does it? What do you think about those numbers? 

[00:27:44] Dan Runcie: It doesn’t surprise me either because of where so much music is consumed and how things go viral. But it is a bit interesting when I think about music videos as a visual art form and what tracks and what resonates compared to other forms of entertainment where I do feel like we’ve continued to see bigger and bigger com, bigger and better, at least from the money that’s put into these productions for major film studios, for instance, what they’re putting into superhero films, what they put into Fast and Furious films, or even what James Cameron had put into Avatar. Spending 300 million, not even on the marketing, just on the budget for these movies isn’t even unheard of now. So there’s clearly an attraction of doing that, even if it is one of these tent pole franchise movies, even for some of the things that have gone straight to video.

But that didn’t necessarily happen in the same way in music videos. It started to pull. We obviously know that the industry was hit harder than others, so it pulled back. But even as the industry continued to grow, and I think, I mean, I know now the numbers unadjusted for inflation have the highest, at least revenue on the recorded side.

Bigger hasn’t necessarily translated to better in that perspective. Even if you look at video games, the graphics, all the things that are stunning are the things that we continue to see. And granted in, video games, we’ve seen a few outliers, like when Nintendo, we blew up. Clearly that wasn’t a graphics thing, but they were tapping into something that Xbox and PlayStation weren’t at the time.

But in music videos, the bigger, better graphics of artists doing crazy things just didn’t resonate in the same way, the only music video I can think of is, Ed Sheeran, what’s that music video he did? I think he’s kind of floating around and stuff and moving. I think it’s bad habits. But one of those, I think that’s probably the most recent one, but even that one I don’t think is like that expensive of a music video, but we just haven’t seen better.

I’m thinking back to in the 90s. Yeah, I mentioned the Hype Williams music videos or even, you know, Backstreet Boys like moving around in space and larger than life. We just haven’t seen that translate in that same way in music videos. 

[00:29:51] Tati Cirisano: Yeah. Well the other thing that you just that just made me think of when you mentioned film is how do I put this? Like album promo cycles these days are so much less premeditated, right? It’s more about putting songs out and seeing how people react, and then deciding which ones to push forward as a single, then deciding what to put music, video resources behind.

So I think that the other difference with music versus something like film and TV is things are just getting decided on the fly. Like a song goes viral and then you’re like, okay, now we’re gonna make a video for this song, but you wouldn’t decide that until you saw how the songs were performing.

 So I think that that’s a big, big factor in it as well. But we’ve also seen some good, like low but lower budget music videos. Like I loved the Ice Spice Pink Panther for boys a Liar. And it was literally just them like hanging out on a fire escape. And I was like, this is perfect. So I think we’ve also seen like some good lower budget ones come out of this as well.

But yeah, definitely doesn’t feel like the same, you know, spending all this money on like these crazy graphics and like whatever it is, has as much of an impact or is, as worth it as it might be in film. 

[00:31:04] Dan Runcie: I feel like we’ve seen a few outliers here or there in music. Kanye West’s music videos, especially in that, let’s say 2007 to 2015, 16 range, it seemed like there was still a good amount of money that was being put into those. And even some of the extended ones that, that short form video, the short form film version of Runaway, still felt like a pretty expensive music video.

And I’m pretty sure Hype Williams directed that. But I also wonder is. Is the definition of what we consider music video, and the expansion of that. Also shifting what people are putting money into and how it’s categorized. And by that I’m talking about some of these documentaries that have come out and what bucket we put those in.

I look at something like when Taylor Swift had recorded those pond sessions after the folklore evermore albums had come out. She essentially did an entire visual album of her at this pond or wherever. She wasn’t that like Cottage and Sells and sold that to Disney, and then Disney then streams and puts that out and it’s an hour or two hours or however long it is.

Beyonce is recording her Coachella performance and then sells that to Netflix, and then Netflix puts that out. And you’re essentially watching an alternate version of a Beyonce music video that is just over this two hour or two hour 15 minutes, however long it is. But when I think about that, I think about these visual albums and just how so many of them have spanned in, had different forms and ways they’ve gone about it. Is that where some of these more expensive projects are going? Is that where some of the more expensive dollars are going when looking at video as it relates to music, as opposed to just this music video bucket that we may have put it in?

[00:32:53] Tati Cirisano: I think so, and I think I would also put in that category like the more. Like the short films that our music videos. And that’s something that artists have been doing forever. But I mean, like, I don’t know, like the Taylor Swift All Too Well video and even like, I feel like the SZA Kill Bill video was like longer than the song and like had, a lot of artists are starting to add more of a story and create more of like a short film. And I think part of that is a way to like just stand out from all the other music videos and actually grab people’s attention because you are really telling a story, you’re taking it to the next level. And even having parts where like the song isn’t even playing, and I think you’re probably right, that more of the budget that used to go to music videos, Is now going more sparingly to a few of those types of projects for the bigger artists. Whereas, l ike for what was traditionally a music video is now becoming lyric videos or sort of like these animated videos that I’ve seen come up that are so much cheaper to produce and often also involve AI generation, which is, an area that I feel like we haven’t really touched on in all of the discourse about AI and music is like AI for music videos.

And maybe that will end up lowering the cost to making these really fantastic crazy concepts that we used to see that used to cost 7 million. And now, well you can click a button. So I don’t know, maybe we’ll see like a reversal of what, of everything we’re talking about, of like music videos kind of shrinking and instead becoming bigger. But yeah, I think you’re right.

[00:34:28] Dan Runcie: The point that you mentioned about music videos and just the storytelling, adding in the short film piece of it. I don’t know if he was the first, but Michael Jackson Thriller is the one that comes to mind there, just with how that became this extended film. But again, not everyone was getting that much budgeter opportunity to do that in that way.

Michael Jackson had built up the track record in order to make that happen, and then as you see, we continue to see that now with Taylor and others. I’m glad you mentioned the piece around lyric videos and AI, because lyric videos have long been the low-hanging fruit. Of YouTube, especially for artists.

Yes, it’s great to have your own music video, but sometimes people don’t want that. They just wanna be able to have it there playing and Sure from a purely practical perspective, you could tell yourself. They can go listen to that and Spotify or they can just go listen to the audio version. That’s what they want, but not necessarily.

There are creative and unique things that you can do with music videos. It doesn’t always have to be the text scrolling across the same way it would on a karaoke screen or something like that. Artists have had unique ways to go about it, and AI music videos isn’t even necessarily something I necessarily thought of, but what’s holding it back? You look at the same way that the images went viral of the Pope in, you know, wearing the bomber jacket or whatever it was. The same thing can happen with the music video. And when I’m thinking about this, I’m thinking again about like how we started this conversation around where some of the critiques are that people have had with music videos when they first came out. Some of the critiques, we hear now about this more user generated era of music, videos and content as well. The path and the journey. It seems that once music gets too derivative in some ways, two things happen. One, it expands and grows the pie for the overall industry, which is good because we wanna be able to see the impact in music.

We wanna be able to see it grow. That’s always gonna naturally attract detractors that wanna see the thing in the pure form, but nothing stopping them from seeing the thing in the pure form. But we do wanna be able to see the growth in evolution there. And AI is the next version of this where, what is the core piece that you have, whether it’s the artist and the music that the rights holders have the control and ownership of, but whether it’s music, video, or just other ways to do it, what are the ways that that can be unlocked? And if that can be done in a great way, that’s where the potential comes.

That’s where you unlock all of the opportunity in the industry. And who knows, like you said, it doesn’t even need to be as expensive as it was, but you’re giving people the opportunity to do something unique. 

[00:37:06] Tati Cirisano: Yeah, and speaking of the SZA one, I don’t know if this is something that she planned or if it’s just something she’s encouraged, but there’s a whole culture on TikTok of fans making their own SZA music videos. Not copying the ones that have already been created, but making their own. And she’ll repost them and comments on them and like talk about the ones that are her favorites. And that whole thing is really fascinating to me. And it even like brings me back to the lyric videos because the whole reason that the music industry started to realize, oh, we should release these music videos, was because fans were already making them and it was just revenue that the industry wasn’t, and eyeballs that the industry wasn’t capturing.

So lyric videos were just a way to kind of formalize that, and I think we’re seeing that in so many ways on TikTok with sped up songs that fans uploaded and then record labels formalized. So I don’t really know where I’m going with this with music videos, but I feel like there’s a connection there of like, How, video could potentially enter more of that. I mean, music videos could potentially enter more of that, UGC space. But the other thing I wanted to bring up before I forget, is that I did grab some stats from our research at MIDia about, both of those things. So just for context here. 59% of global consumers use YouTube to watch music videos weekly.

 And then we had another question where we asked how do you engage with music artists beyond listening to their music? And 35% of consumers said they watch lyric videos. and that’s from our Q4 22 consumer survey and our Q1 23 respectively. So, both are

pretty high. 

[00:38:41] Dan Runcie: Yeah, I would say so. I wonder for some artists, the numbers that they’ve had for the music videos and lyric videos are probably closer than they think, right? And sometimes a lot of it just depends on what you’re in the mood for. Sometimes, there’s just so many more opportunities to have a passive thing in the background, and sometimes I’ve done it myself without even thinking, I think what is the user experience that then causes me to go to a lyric video, even when I know the music video is there. And most of the time it’s when I wanna have the thing in the background. Maybe I’ll go to it, but I don’t necessarily wanna stare at the screen for the next few minutes and it makes perfect sense and there’s so many more use cases for that.

So I wouldn’t be surprised if for certain artists, they both serve a purpose, but they might actually be making more from the respective lyric song. And I think when you just think about it overall, the Lyric song does enable you to have your entire album up on the streaming services guy, I guess you could technically have a few versions where I’ve seen some artists have the music video, they have the lyric video, and then they just have the still with the cover art of the album there.

So you have three different options and that could all be, revenue that goes back to the artist and the rights solar.

[00:39:53] Tati Cirisano: Mm-hmm. There’s also this interesting idea of like how all these things kind of play together. Like going back to the episode that we did on, that was about YouTube and, kind of contrasting these short form video platforms and how YouTube’s whole pitch is that they’re able to unite long form and short form so that, you know, there isn’t that gap where people watch a TikTok video about, and then they don’t actually go in and learn more about the artists. So, I don’t know. I think there’s something interesting there with YouTube being the main place where people watch music videos. The only, like the main place, I won’t say the only. And also having the short form video platform. So I think that is a really strong proposition to be able to kind of marry the two. 

[00:40:35] Dan Runcie: Here’s a question for you similar to that I actually don’t know the answer to this myself, but thinking about how like audio and music itself, we see how music has adapted over time based on the mode and the medium that it is, whether it’s CDs and streaming. And then we see the impact of TikTok and everything else.

And music videos we’ve seen similar where we knew what a an MTV era music video looked like, especially if it was a music video that’s trying to be on TRL. There’s almost a certain formula that you saw to it. And we also see now what a TikTok video can look like where you see the types of dances and you see the way that the music video is made almost in a way to make it easily be replicated, whether it’s a Drake, Lizzo, Doja Cat, Cardi B, plenty people have done this.

Do you think this exists as well with YouTube? Was there a certain type of music video that stands out to you, is Yes. This is a YouTube music video. This is a music video that personifies the YouTube era of music videos.

[00:41:38] Tati Cirisano: I love that question. that’s a really good question.

[00:41:42] Dan Runcie: As I’m thinking about it, there’s one person that did come to mind. NBA Young Boy is a person that I do think speaks to the YouTube era of music videos because he approaches this the same way that. Someone like Mr. Beast approaches videos. There is a formula there, he has his hook, he has the things.

There is a bit of the storytelling dynamic of what he is trying to do, or the challenge that they’re trying to overcome, and then they do the thing. But it’s definitely told in this way that has the hook and the elements that you naturally see. In YouTube and the way that the font for the name of the music video scrolls up, that is very much the formula.

How quick it is for the beat to start. All those types of things, I think speak a lot to the YouTube era.

[00:42:27] Tati Cirisano: Yeah, I also think, I’m thinking of artists who have sort of played into meme culture with their videos, like Drake has kind of done that. Remember how meme’d the Hotline Bling video was like. Even like the video for, what’s that song you have with Justin Bieber? Pop Star was like, kind of playing into like the stereotypes about them in a way.

Like I think artists like them who have sort of played into internet culture in their videos are maybe part of that YouTube era. Charli XCX, the boys video felt very YouTube, Yeah, I would say things like that. And then also videos that invited user participation, like the dance video craze, where it was kind of intended to get you to make your own version.

And that was kind of like the early TikTok was being YouTube. So, yeah, that’s a great question. 

[00:43:22] Dan Runcie: Yeah, and I think we saw some of this with Instagram as well, because I think about Drake in my Feelings. That was another one where there was clearly a Instagramable place where he’s saying, please repeat this, because TikTok really wasn’t blowing up the way that it was then, but he clearly made this video leading into that.

And if anything, I think that the video came after we saw the viral instagram clips of, what was that guy? Shaggy that was doing the dances for that music video and then Danny Le as well. So there were a few people that had done that.

[00:43:55] Tati Cirisano: Yeah, no, the correlation is so fascinating. I could do a whole nother podcast on how Drake lyrics invented Instagram captions, but we’ll save that.

[00:44:09] Dan Runcie: And no, we will definitely table that one. And I think as. Yeah. No. I have a few thoughts on that one, but as I think about this, I feel like a good way to, to close this one out is thinking about the ROI of these videos. And there’s a number of ways to look at it, but with the way that a video is now, what do you think the best way is to measure the ROI?

Because of course there’s the hard dollars that the video could generate, the impact, but what’s your take on that? 

[00:44:36] Tati Cirisano: Yeah, that’s a good question. I mean, aside from the things like, aside from the things that are just like hard views and streams, I think it’s also about cultural impact, which is kind of impossible to measure. it’s about UGC, like how many videos was. I don’t know, how many people kind of created their own version or did the dance in the music video, wherever it is.

I guess that kind of depends on the video, but I think there’s like some element of like creations related to the video that are part of it. and then did anyone dress up for Halloween as that music video? That’s the biggest measure of cultural impact.

[00:45:18] Dan Runcie: Like Lil Nas X dressing up as Ice Spice 

[00:45:21] Tati Cirisano: Yes. Yes. And I’m sure there were people that dressed up as Drake in the hotline bling video. the scene that that came out. So, look at Halloween costume sales, all you label executives. No, I don’t know it’s a really hard question to answer, but I think it’s, mix of those and it’s increasingly about, how fans are kind of like recreating their own versions of things. 

[00:45:42] Dan Runcie: Because there’s a clear need to, water creates something that creates shock value, but you can’t do those moments automatically cuz sometimes randomly it’s gun just being gunna and then, Rihanna dresses up like him for her Halloween costume in like multiple settings and stuff, and it’s like, oh, okay.

I guess this is a thing. Like I don’t think he knew that he was putting a fit out there, but you can’t always guarantee that that’s what’s gonna come out, right? You have artists like Da Baby that I think have always tried to do stunty things to get cloud out there, but I don’t know if, I’ve never necessarily seen people try to dress up like him for Halloween in that way.

But that’s a good one, and I think at first I was like thinking you’re saying it in jest, but it’s a hundred percent true. Like how are you able to capture zeitgeist? And I think that checking Instagram tags especially, or hashtags or just trending topics Twitter can tell you. Yeah. definitely. 

[00:46:36] Tati Cirisano: Well, many gift uses did you get of a clip from the music video?

[00:46:41] Dan Runcie: Exactly. Or are people creating gifts of you in some type of way? 

[00:46:45] Tati Cirisano: Exactly. 

[00:46:46] Dan Runcie: Definitely. Well, Tati, this was fun. We have a couple of topics that I know we’ll dig into eventually on this, but before we let you go, what are some things that you’re digging into? What should the travel listeners stay looking out for?

[00:46:59] Tati Cirisano: Yeah, that’s a good question, let me think. So many things. I mean, we have a new report at MIDia that’ll be out next month, for clients that’s about live music consumers. We did a big survey, with bands in town asking people about their attitudes towards ticket prices and all sorts of things like that.

 So if you’re listening and you’re client of ours, look out for that. If you’re not and you’re interested in it, feel free to reach out. but yeah, that’s the thing that I’m working on a lot right now and very excited about. 

[00:47:27] Dan Runcie: Nice. All right. We’ll stay looking out for that. Thank you. 

[00:47:31] Tati Cirisano: Awesome. Thanks Dan.

[00:47:32] Dan Runcie Outro: If you enjoyed this podcast, go ahead and share it with a friend. Copy the link, text it to a friend. Post it in your group chat. Post it in your Slack groups. Wherever you and your people talk, spread the word. That’s how travel continues to grow and continues to reach the right people. While you’re at it, if you use Apple Podcast, Go ahead.

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Dan Runcie

Dan Runcie

Founder of Trapital

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