Are music videos worthless?

Why is it that we want to watch 16 and Pregnant instead of current music videos? We ask Sydney musician and music video maker SPOD (aka Brent Griffin) to weigh in on the latest viral clip doing the rounds.

So FL asked me to respond the comedy video doing the rounds featuring a fictional “MTV Executive” and his perspective on why they don’t play music videos anymore. It proposes a funny and clear perspective on what’s happened to outlets such as MTV not playing and breaking new artists anymore, and why that has happened. I think it’s a hilarious, concise and depressing video that illustrates clearly the base level of why popular vendors of entertainment – be it television or radio – pump out such base level garbage. But why is it that we want to watch 16 and Pregnant instead of current music videos?

Now a bit of transparency, I’m obviously biased as a music maker and a music video constructionist, so I can see the value of a music video and believe in the making of music as an artform and a great companion on the highway of life, but is there a reason for people to still bother making music videos if the only guff that gets played on TV is basically Mike Judge’s Idiocracy come to life?

The music video isn’t the problem. Music videos are an ad for a band – they can be explained as nothing more than a marketing tool. I completely understand that, but outside of strictly commercial music, you’re selling people a reason to care about your art, to visually explain your art to someone in a four-minute block that perhaps will gain an understanding of what you stand for, what you see yourself as and an illustration of your musical ideas or point of view. With the infinite possibilities of distribution now, it’s better than ever to make an exciting or interesting music video that’ll draw people to your band, or draw them in closer to what you do. But because of the democratisation of distribution, there’s so much noise in this day and age, and everyone has direct control of curating their own entertainment, so passive forms of entertainment are getting dumber and it’s not in their interests to challenge or inform their audience, as an audience can do that on their own time. We’re in a new era of entertainment self-maintenance.

Mainstream TV and radio has become such a honed nugget of trash, that it serves its purpose perfectly. To mindlessly entertain people for a bit so they don’t have to think about what’s going on around them. Like a cheeky Mersyndol for the soul, it takes off the edges and stops people worrying about the truth of their life for a slither of time. That’s great, but people are still going to search for something that resonates with them more personally if that’s part of who they are. TV has always been that, and the internet is quickly following suit, but the need for something more substantial isn’t going to end just because the river of shit is getting more polluted, but then there’s the shifting nature of monetising art. It’s always getting worse, right?

“It’s better than ever to make an exciting or interesting music video that’ll draw people to your band, or draw them in closer to what you do”

From getting zero royalties for video plays on YouTube and Vimeo to streaming services which are basically condoned piracy, there’s still someone getting rich off art, but it’s still not artists. But whatever, that’s always been a problem ever since mankind has been spoilt enough to have artistic pursuits as a viable source of survival. Ask any artist who can afford to pay rent or buy a house, and 19 times out of 20, it’s thanks to the pocket of someone much larger that they don’t necessarily agree with moralistically. It’s been quite a quick shift since the righteousness of the ‘90s into the general absolving of guilt for accepting the corporatisation of society and having a nibble on the teet that can afford to feed them. There’s a wider avenue of forgiveness these days. Let’s not lose focus though, Beck did write ‘MTV Makes Me Wanna Smoke Crack’ back in the ‘90s, so the problem isn’t a new one, it’s just the angle has shifted. Hey, Australia is lucky, we still have Rage.

But back to the point, there are more bands than ever all still as hungry as ever to become successful, but how will the current climate of total information freedom pan out for artists? Are we in the true oasis of creative freedom or in the static filled corridors of gentrified hell?

Eh, it’s all just entertainment. Some people put a higher level of expectation into it, people who believe music and art can give a satisfying context to life, but I can’t begrudge the throngs of people who look at music, television and art as nothing other than a stream of vibrations to stop their soul from being an anchor to the bottom of the ocean of existence. I just feel bad that we’re so deftly perfecting how to cater to that while losing a grip on encouraging the smaller voice.

SPOD launches his new single, ‘Couple Of Drinks’, this Thursday (December 6) at The Gasometer in Melbourne.