Blurring the Line between Professional and Amateur: Digital Media Convergence and the Online Music Video
There is little doubt that the music video has shown itself to be a dynamic form of audiovisual media. Driven by the participatory ethos of Web 2.0, it has molded itself to weather the storm of “convergence culture” - “where old and new media collide, where grassroots and corporate media intersect, where the power of the media producer and the power of the media consumer interact in unpredictable ways” (Jenkins 2006:2). This essay shall posit that the digitisation of the music video has exposed convergence culture and remix culture to both professional and amateur content. This exposure will be presented as vital to the continuing strength of the medium, with the nature of this exposure being influenced by both media cultures and audience cultures. Thus, the online music video has been shaped by a number of factors, all of which contributing to convergence culture and the music video’s unique position within this culture.
When considering what drives digital media convergence, it is necessary to avoid the rhetoric of technological determinism. Although the advent of Web 2.0 has brought the music video into a mobile and networked space, the social basis of this media environment has been instrumental in redefining the music video within convergence culture (Holt 2011).
As Munt (2011:1) asserts, “convergent music video is enabled by the network of Web 2.0 and facilitated by the trend towards amateur content, participatory media and Creative Commons licensing”. However, this convergent music video is also a reaction - a reaction to changes taking place in the music industry. Music publishers see the online music video as a way to cut distribution costs. However, they also understand that “the intensification of the information flow creates a need for stronger means to generate attention” (Holt 2011:53). Thus, because of the collaborative power of Web 2.0, the music industry has sought new ways to utilise the music video. The central outcome - music videos take advantage of this collaborative power. Munt (2011:3) believes that digital media convergence, in the case of the music video, is evident in the “dispersal of clips across social networks, mobile media platforms and devices”. This assumption is correct; the music industry began to take full advantage of online music videos in 2008, three years after the birth of YouTube’s clip-culture (Holt, 2011). This delay highlights the music industry’s initial apprehensiveness in distributing music videos online, before the power of media networks became apparent.
The Web 2.0 environment allows for a great deal of intertextuality, “through which audience engagement with one medium is enhanced and amplified through others” (Bird 2011:503). Such audience engagement with online texts has led some to herald the rise of remix culture. Fagerjord (2010:190) posits that “remix is what comes after convergence... remix as a certain mode of creativity, allowing anyone to become a media auteur”. Such a proposition leads us to believe that digital media convergence is simply a vehicle for the reassessing of the power relations between media producer and media consumer. This claim certainly rings true in the case of music videos.
English alternative-rock band Radiohead released their eighth studio album, The King of Limbs, in February of 2011. The music video for the album’s lead single, Lotus Flower, was released online in the same month, and features frontman Thom Yorke dancing somewhat strangely as the song plays in the background.
Despite being professionally choreographed, directed and produced, the video became the target of remix culture. Whether or not this attention was an intended after-effect is debatable, however it does showcase both convergence culture and remix culture. The video was dubbed by a number of YouTube users, replacing the Radiohead song with various other songs, leading to some entertaining renditions.
Such appropriations quickly spread through social media, amplifying their impact and adding significant cultural capital to the Thom Yorke meme. This combination of media convergence, remix culture, professional production and amateur reproduction is critical to the ongoing strength of the digital video format, and it rightfully portrays the music video as malleable. The music video is being created and distributed in new ways; the music video is being recreated and redistributed in new ways.
Online music videos are affected by both convergence culture and remix culture, due to the increasing power held by media audiences in terms of media reproduction and redistribution. However, many amateur internet users have produced and distributed their own original music video content. Mathieu Saura, known by his pseudonym Vincent Moon, is a filmmaker from Paris known for his unorthodox approach to the online music video (Munt 2011). Moon’s website, La Blogotheque, features low-budget lo-fi music videos filmed live to promote a sense of intimacy. Munt (2011:4) rightfully claims that “this approach stands in opposition to the preferred industry practice of methodically planned and executed music video productions”. Moon tends to join a number of these scenes together to form what is known as a Takeaway Show. This in turn “reinforces that trend in media convergence towards a multiplication of media” (Munt 2011:5), as can be seen in the Takeaway Show of Icelandic band Sigur Rós.
The music video’s relationship with convergence culture appears to be a symbiotic one, as does its relationship with remix culture. It is clear that this mutually beneficial media environment relies heavily on the collaborative culture of media audiences. Meikle and Young (2012:109) rightfully acknowledge that “to understand media in the convergent era, we have to think of their users as dynamic and active”. The online music video is now also a dynamic and active media form; the music video paradigm is blurring the line between the professional and the amateur by combining the participatory nature of Web 2.0 with a distaste for the static and premeditated characteristics of the traditional music video format. The social capacity of the new media environment, driven by digital media convergence, appears to be the central catalyst for this blurring, and has helped position the music video as a truly dynamic form of audiovisual media.
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Fagerjord, A, 2010, ‘After Convergence: YouTube and Remix Culture’, in Hunsinger, J, Klastrup, L & Allen, M (eds.) International Handbook of Internet Research, Springer, London, pp. 187 - 200
Holt, F, 2011, ‘Is music becoming more visual? Online video content in the music industry’, Visual Studies, vol. 26, no. 1, viewed 19 August 2012, <http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1472586X.2011.548489>
Jenkins, H, 2006, ‘Introduction: “Worship at the Altar of Convergence” ’, in Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide, New York University Press, New York, pp. 1 - 24
Meikle, G & Young, S, 2012, Media Convergence: Networked Digital Media in Everyday Life, Palgrave Macmillan, UK
Munt, A, 2011, ‘New Directions in Music Video: Vincent Moon and the “ascetic aesthetic” ’, Text, Issue 11, viewed 20 August 2012, <http://www.textjournal.com.au/speciss/issue11/Munt.pdf>