I just heard a report on npr today about music videos, and how mtv doesn't play them anymore and labels are hesitant to make big budget ones (and supposedly viewers don't care). The big thing is now co-branding; big videos get made when corporations fund them in part.
I started thinking about it, and I have three thoughts. One is that music videos aren't dead, and that the reason for their decline is due mostly to quality. The report talked about the golden age of videos - in the 80's - when bands like Devo created an identity for themselves with their art-film videos. (Their video for Whip It was made - for free - by an art student friend of theirs). When videos became ultra popular corporate America stepped in and made big budget videos like TLC's Waterfalls. Then CGI became a big deal and it got way overused and that's where we are now. There are a few alternative music video-viewing channels out there, but they all play the same lame-ass videos that MTV occasionally plays. I think it's possible for a return to quality videos to revive the genre.
My second thought is related to the first, that an indie consortium of amateur music video makers could be successful. Technology is such that a lot of people can now make decent quality videos, and if there was a reason for them to do so, an outlet for their videos, they would make them.
My third thought is that music videos as we know them are in fact dead. The rise of the internet has resulted in an expectation for demands to be met almost instantaneously. If I can go online to check out a video right now then there's no reason for me to wait to see it on MTV. And if all that matters is the song anyways, then I'm just going to download it from a P2P site. There's an overload of information these days, and traditional filters for music (radio, MTV) can't deal with the pressure of the flood. New music is seeping through the cracks, and artists are appealing directly to listeners for attention.
I believe this is all a good thing. The overload will result in certain types of music standing out from the pack - good music. A well-crafted song will be an oasis in a desert of mediocrity, and listeners will cling to quality artists for support and emotional fulfillment (the whole point of music, right?). Likewise, if these artists create videos of sufficient quality they will be rewarded. I envision videos similar to Thriller, the Michael Jackson mini-movie. I think of a move towards 'music movies' - 15 to 20 minute short films that are much more than simple vehicles for songs. I'm picturing full blown concept music videos - a series of songs that tell a meaningful story that are then portrayed as a short film. Everyone talks about the internet being the death of albums and the subsequent rise of singles, but I think the opposite will also be true. People will get sick of listening to one song at a time, just 3 or 4 minutes of emotional attachment, and will seek a more lasting relationship. A musical story will be the answer. Or so I think.