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The Sale of Music

I studied Marketing in college, and the first business that I started was an Advertising Agency which basically means I just outsourced TV Spots to myself, for local small businesses trying to sell shoes, and construction... and divorces.

Later on I did lifestyle photography and TV spots for big brands while I was trying to make a career for myself in music. So anyways, subliminal advertising and brand awareness, association, things like that were all really familiar to me when I started shooting Music Videos full time. However, selling an album is nothing like selling a cooler, even the way you convert your reach into dollars and cents is on two different planets when you start talking about music vs almost any other type of product.


Since I'm only involved in the production of music videos and usually have little to do with promotion, everything I do for promoting the song has to be right there within the boundaries of the video. Effectively you're making an advertisement for the song, which is an ad for the album, which is an ad for the tour; which in 2022, is likely the greatest contributor of revenue.

Considering that, an advertisement for a song, or any other work of art, isn't going to be anything like an ad for Coca-Cola. I remember when I was a kid cable TV would always have ads like ,"Get Blue October's latest CD, exclusively at Target" and you didn't even hear the music sometimes. So a traditional TV Spot like that isn't creating new fans, I don't think anyone would rush to Target to buy an album by a band they've never heard of, just because they saw the cover art. Those types of ads are just to reach existing fans.


So the music video is about getting people to listen, and also needs to have re-watchability since a lot of singles need the listener to hear the song a few times before it really catches. And oftentimes the highest quality songs that remain hits for decades are not so catchy that most listeners like it instantly. I hated metal the first 100 times I listened to it, but now there are metal albums I've listened to consistently for 10 years and have never grown old on me.

Another thing that's important for promoting the song is visually playing off of elements of the music that could easily be overlooked by listeners. For example, rap and hip-hop beats have a lot of claps, snaps and beats underneath the most prominent components, which is usually the lead vocals in almost every genre. It's important to emphasize these smaller bits, and ways you can do that are for example, maybe a light flashes in time with a clapping track that's mostly lost in all the bass and background vocals. You could direct the choreographer so that the dance steps are on a background tune instead of the more obvious booming bass track. If the listener is given a broader palette of sounds present in the music, they're more likely to appreciate the complexity of it and it could change the way they hear it when listening on Spotify. Also, I'm sure the producer would be thankful that you brought out all that fine detail they contributed.

This also goes for the most obvious and surface level parts of the song, the big bass drops and breakdowns or down choruses. These of course need visuals that augment the impact of them. For the same reason that your favorite song just hits harder when you have it turned all the way up in the car, the Music Video ought to have the same effect. If, for example the song lightly builds up to a big crescendo of sound, so to the video could be minimalistic and slowly paced to match the song only to suddenly explode into color and motion at the appropriate moment. The next time a listener jams in their car, they'll associate the song with that. That's pretty simple, but it can go a lot further than that. If you can successfully nail the nuance of shooting a video that's pleasing and satisfying to watch because of the fluid motion or the color palette or whatever it is, that's gonna be associated with the song and can convert a first time listener into a recurring fan. For most, the easiest method for doing this is packing the video full of half-naked girls in slow motion, but the problem is; when everyone and their mother is doing that, you have to come up with something better or at least more. It goes both ways, because I can certainly think of videos that were so gross-out or cringe that it turned a lot of people off from that song and in some cases the whole act has become a love-to-hate group because of the choices they made in music videos.


The lighting is used to emphasize the guitar strum tune at around 00:20 and the bass drop at 01:10; among others. Things in the track that I didn't notice the first time listening to the song and wanted to bring attention.


This goes aways beyond branding artists with wardrobe and stylistic choices, but I think that's a given. In this case, I'm not even really talking about ways to make the artist themself appeal to their audience, but the music itself. In some cases, the music video is used as a tool to point out the lyrics and make sense of them, but that feels really outdated and in my opinion, things like the lyrics need to be added to, not rehashed in video form. I've always said that if the music video is just a shot-for-shot visualization of the lyrics, then you've defeated the purpose of making a video. People can probably come up with that in their head, they don't need it played out and that's what lyric videos are for.


The big bass hits are an obvious place for cuts, but the more subtle sounds that make up the track are reflected in the video by rack-focuses, camera movement and even a character's eyes moving.


What I love about shooting Music Videos, is that even after considering the promotion of the song and the artist, there's so much room left for artistic expression, symbolism, narrative and those things are a marketing tool in itself because people who love music love art and they will seek out videos that have a sense of originality and personal style brought by the director. People like weird things. People like when a lot of thought went into something. When they can sense that it means something, a lot of people like to interpret it. And people certainly like when something makes you feel emotion of any kind. What's little left of the optimist in me would like to believe that there's still an audience out there who can celebrate really artistic filmmaking even when paired with contemporary music.


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2017