Thursday, August 30, 2012

Media Convergence Essay

Discuss the phenomenon of digital media convergence in relation to Music Video Online.

‘You are now entering convergence culture’’ (Jenkins, 2006:11).

Digital media convergence is the phenomenon of the merging media forms, industries, cultures and practices surrounding digital media today. According to Jenkins, digital media convergence is the “flow of content across multiple media platforms, the cooperation between multiple media industries, and the migratory behaviour of audiences” (2006: 2). Through the digitization of media, creation, distribution and consumption, media routes have become more and more accessible to the individual. Media platforms are now places where audiences can create, provide feedback and interact with each other like never before. Digital media convergence is not merely the convergence of appliances and devices but as Jenkins states, ‘convergence occurs within the brains of individual consumers,’(2006:2).

Both Dwyer (2010) and Jenkins (2006) similarly discuss the different categories of digital media convergence. These categories include, technological convergence, industrial/economic convergence, cultural convergence, social convergence and global convergence. All of these contribute to the phenomenon of digital media convergence.

Dwyer asks the questions, ‘How will people access media content in the future? What combination of TV, computer or mobile device, and which kinds of content will become common?’(2010:1). These are the questions that media industries are trying to unravel in order to keep up and to remain relevant in today’s changing media scope. As Jenkins proposes, the new convergent media environment is both ‘top-down corporate-driven process’ as well as being ‘a bottom-up consumer driven process’. Consumers now have more control than ever over what they consume, where they consume it and when they consume. Audiences are no longer bound to traditional, old style media consumption. Jenkins describes modern day consumers as ‘active’ and ‘migratory’.

In order to demonstrate this idea of digital media convergence and the shift of media consumption among consumers, this essay will explore the idea of music video online and the influences that lead to the types of music videos that we consume today and how we consume them.

Music video began as a concept as early as the 1920’s with the incorporation of singing and performing acts as part of a major film. For example, The Jazz Singer, 1927. Below is an excerpt from the movie.

Over the years musical productions focused on the idea of tying a particular song to a singer, for example, Judy Garland and Over The Rainbow from Wizard of Oz and Julie Andrews and Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious from Mary Poppins. During these scenes from these particular movies,the focus was on these singers and the song, an early peak at what was to become of the music video. 

 For the purpose of this essay I am going to focus on the King of Pop, Michael Jackson and how he influenced social, cultural and media constructs through his music video creations. In the early 1980’s Michael Jackson’s music videos were beginning to draw the attention of audiences. Instead of just listening to the tracks via radio or recording, consumers were compelled to watch his videos on TV because they were so unique and were part of the art form.

Michael Jackson was leading the convergence between music and film creating a new form of media for audiences to consume and enjoy. With the launch of MTV in the US in August of 1981 Jackson’s music videos dominated air –time.

Michael Jackson was not only a pioneer of music video but was also breaking down racial barriers of the day. Jackson was one of few African-American artists to break through to the popular culture industry so early, and have such a positive presence and influence over it. He created meaning through his videos, Lynch describes the power of meaning through images when he states “music and images have persuasive power in creating messages” (2001:2). He was creating a convergence between cultural musical tastes and aesthetics. An article from the Telegraph describes Jackson’s contribution to popular music video by saying he ‘broke down long-standing racial barriers in the music industry, spanning traditional divides between pop, rock and dance music, and establishing himself as a black star who appealed to audiences of all backgrounds and paving the way for future African-American stars.’ Telegraph (2009).

Michael Jackson, along with other artists, primed the world for the new art form of music video through his unique and inspirational artistic talent.

Below is Michael Jackson’s Thriller music video from the 1982 album Thriller, possibly one of his most memorable.

Along with the launch and development of MTV, television began to broadcast major music events such as Live Aid. In Australia, music video on television had always been a strong part of our media consumption with ‘Get to Know’, ‘Countdown’ and finally ‘RAGE’ which launched in April of 1987. Music video on television thrived for many years, however, with the introduction and fast development of the Internet, music video began to change. Soon enough, MTV stopped showing music videos and moved to reality television and RAGE has become a relic in itself. Music video television is fading due to the many devices that can provide us with a similar satisfaction. Music, as Jenkins describes has been dispersed to “DVD player, car radio, walkman, computer MP3 files, a web radio station or a music cable channel.” (2004: 2).

Music video online has become a phenomenon in itself as it has very different characteristics to the music videos that were once broadcasted on television. The music industry no longer has the financial support to produce music videos of the same stature due mainly to the illegal downloading of songs. This has lead a new phenomenon of low-fi, do it yourself style, increasingly artistically focused music videos that are uploaded online for free and reach an extremely wide audience. Artists today are moving away from the music video as a promotional tool, advertising themselves to the audiences, and moving towards using music video as an art form.

The main video sharing website for music videos today is the media giant YouTube. Hilderbrand summarizes the essence of YouTube as an online sharing website when he states, “YouTube introduces a new world of media access and amateur historiography that, while the images are imperfect and the links are impermanent, nonetheless realizes much of the Internet’s potential to circulate rare, ephemeral and elusive texts”. (2007:7)

Jefferton James is an example of a modern day music video producer who works with small time indie bands along with working for major music companies such as MTV, Sony and Universal Music Australia. Below is a showreel of his work from 2010-2011.

From this showreel of clips, we can see the artistry involved in the images shown. There are no clear promotional references and it is aesthetically focused. Is this where our new digital age has lead music video?

The phenomenon of digital media convergence is changing all areas of media, from the way we create to the way we consume. Specifically, the Internet today is a user-generated environment, which creates opportunities for new aesthetics and trends. Through the journey of the music video discussed in this essay, from television to online, we can realize the effects of digitization on creative process and the end results.

By Gabrielle Wheeler McGregor - 42458897

Reference List:

Jenkins, H. (2004), 'The cultural logic of media convergence', International Journal of Cultural Studies v1, pp. 33–43

Jenkins, H. (2006) Convergence Culture, New York University Press, pp 1-24

Dwyer, T. (2010) Media Convergence, McGraw Hill, Berksire, pp 1-23

Hilderbrand, L. (2007) 'Youtube: Where Cultural Memory and Copyright
Converge', Film Quarterly, Vol 61, pp 48-57

Lynch, C. (2001) Ritual Transformation through Michael Jackson's Music Video, The Journal of Communication Inquiry, v25, pp 114

The Telegraph UK (2009), Michael Jackson's Thriller: pioneering album that broke down racial barriers in music industry, viewed August 29 2012 at

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