Types of Music Video

  • 13 Jul, 2017

Not all music videos are made equal, and guess what? It isn’t a bad thing. There are different types of music videos that work best for different artists and different types of music. So what are they? Not to be confused with genre (which would basically be the same as film genres) this is the rundown of the different types of videos and where I’d say they’re placed best.

Performance Music Videos

This is the staple, it is the oldest type of music video and most videos consist of this. Performance music videos are exactly that, the artist(s) performing the song – but it doesn’t have to be that simple. Where are they performing? It could be in front of an audience which would make it a live stage performance, it could be at a location that matches the feel of a song like the grounds of a country house or how about in a recording studio with acoustic instruments making it a live lounge video. How it’s shot, where it’s shot and how it’s lit are important decisions to make because it will influence the outcome of the video.

The good thing about a performance video or even performance elements in a video is that it can fit anywhere and with any artist. How? Simple; you shoot in the style that suits the artist or song. It can be simple and dressed down focusing on really good lighting or it could be something huge and spectacular, it can focus on a massive dance routine or the artist’s sole performance. Take a look at these examples Beyoncé’s Single Ladies is a very stylish dance based performance video, The Pretender by Foo Fighters is a straight up band performance in a huge space and Sinead O’Connor’s Nothing Compares To You is mostly her face to the camera – okay that’s actually combined with other reflective shots but I couldn’t miss that one out.

So a performance music video is just that, a performance, or more specifically – your performance. Here's a performance video we produced for Effie:

Narrative Music Videos

Eventually people got tired of filming performances and putting them on TV like The Jackson 5’s Rockin’ Robin and realised they could use their music videos to tell stories… just like in films.

In case you can’t tell from the incredibly accurate name; narrative music videos are music videos with a story; they have a beginning, middle and end. This allows directors to tell the stories they want, how they want and even in the genres they want. You can tell a story from start to finish like Drake’s Hold On, We’re Going Home, show parts of what seems like a bigger story like The 1975’s Robbers or even an alternative narrative like our very own Remedy by The New Citizen Kane where the audience makes up their own mind on the story. This is where the film maker can really shine because they can tell a story in the genre and cinematography of their choosing, sometimes without adhering to the rules of storytelling.

Songs for the most part are already stories, even if the song doesn’t have lyrics, they all tell stories. The interesting thing here is that the story can be the song rolled out for you to see, sometimes the story is an alternative interpretation and other times the story seems to have nothing to do with the song at all but what works works like Alt-J’s Breezeblocks.

Does the story of your song require visuals to match? Then maybe a narrative music video is the way to go and just remember there are different ways to do it.

Concept Videos

Great name right? But what would be considered a concept? What is a concept music video? The best description I can give is that it is an artistic expression. There’s an idea behind it or theme that drives the visuals like Childish Gambino’s Sweatpants. Now these can be quite fun because where narrative videos can have less rules; concept videos have none. It’s a limitless playground where anything is possible. CGI? Sure. Stop motion fun? Of course. A series of shots depicting different people’s expressions? Absolutely! Interpreting a song and then bringing it to life in a way that only you (or the director) could like the hauntingly spectacular Feathers Falling by Amani.

Now I’m not saying every type of video has a place, but most do. You wouldn’t imagine One Direction having an artistic concept video, this is an approach more akin to non-mainstream or non-pop music. Due to concept music videos not necessarily telling a story (at least via conventional methods), it’s important that the video captures the feel and tone of the song and this approach doesn’t marry well with pop music and their audiences unless it’s a cross-genre like Darwin Deez and his very cool and very quirky Radar Detector – he’s an indie pop artist and a character so it works.

A Concept music video is an alternative approach for alternative artists. It is the most open and freeing approaches that make way for amazing outcomes.

Lyric Videos

It does what it says on the tin. Or does it? Okay mostly it does but that doesn’t mean there isn’t space for innovation. For anyone who’s not 100% sure; a lyric video is a music video where the lyrics appear on screen. The first level of innovation came by making the font and visuals match the song – sweet font and vibrant colours for a bubble gum pop song, edgy font and more hard-core imagery for heavy metal. The next level of innovation was the style of animation for the visuals and text – slow and sexy or fast and impactful. Those are the basics and can be seen in Jodie Abacus’ video I’ll Be That Friend. Notice the vibrant images matching the tone of the song and the font design? It feels right. But lyric videos don’t stop there, it can even be fused with other video types to create something cool and new. Take Ariana Grande’s Everyday which fuses lyric and performance videos or one of my personal favourites Suit & Tie from Justin Timberlake ft. Jay Z which combines lyric, narrative, concept AND animation! Now how cool is that?

In the music video industry lyric videos serve more of a practical purpose; usually as a place holder until the actual music video is made, a video for when the artist isn’t available for a shoot or a less expensive option. These aren’t bad things and I wouldn’t go as far as calling lyric videos a Plan C option or even Plan B, it just serves more as a function and simpler option.

Lyric videos are relatively new and have been evolving fast. As a fan of how inventive these videos can be I’m looking forward to seeing what will happen next.

Here's one we made earlier:

Animated Music Videos

First things first; the term “animation” is an umbrella term. We sometimes get artists saying they’d like an animated music video, here’s the thing; that could mean anything between cell animation like old fashioned cartoons, CG like Monsters Inc, stop motion like Wallace and Gromit, filming against Green Screen then placing them into another environment and many other variations. They all require different skill sets and disciplines, each very respectable. Animation is basically giving movement to something. In the context of music videos animation can be applied to all types; it can be a narrative stop motion video, a performance video against green screen or a 3D CG concept video full of fun and weird shapes.

Animation is by definition – versatile. Animation should only be used when it’s right, it should feel right and not used as a gimmick. I’m a huge fan of stop motion and the amount of skill, talent and discipline that goes into it and history has some fantastic examples (yes of course I’m going to show you): Nina Simone’s My Baby Just Cares For Me used Claymation stop motion, Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer used both stop motion (animating objects) and pixilation (animating people) and a personal favourite of mine Her Morning Elegance from Oren Lavie is particularly inventive. Animation opens new windows of opportunity. When you are limited by what you have; animation makes the options limitless.

Performance, narrative, concept, lyric and animation are in my eyes the main types of music videos. The interesting thing is that in most cases a video will utilise one, two or all of these – the key is that they must all work cohesively with a larger idea. Yes these types exist and are used and used but you can make each element your own by showing people something they haven’t seen before or showing people something they have seen in a way they would never have expected.

Last modified on Thursday, 03 August 2017 10:19
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