So… in the 80’s and 90’s, at the height of MTV’s popularity, it would happen all the time where a sorta-catchy song that wasn’t really working on the radio would have a weird or fun video that would shoot the song to the top of the charts. Now that music videos don’t really get a lot of play on television and most of it is done on YouTube, it takes a lot for a weird, unique music video to give a song success it wouldn’t have otherwise.
So is “Here it Goes Again” the last time this is going to happen? OK Go were a decently known indie rock band with little-to-no radio play and almost no chart success. But with “Here it Goes Again”, they wanted a fun video to put up on the internet and maybe get some buzz for their new album. So the no-cuts, dancing on the treadmills video was born. It goes viral and you hear that song everywhere. OK Go sell millions of copies of that album, millions more downloads of that song on iTunes and boom, they’ve made it… even if just as a “one-hit wonder”, there is nothing wrong with that.
For conversation’s sake, I included “Gangnam Style” by Psy here as well… even though it really isn’t in the same spirit here as OK Go is. “Gangnam Style” would have literally zero chance on American Radio if it wasn’t for the video (whereas OK Go MAYBE would have had a shot if Alt Stations picked up that single). The video blows up, breaks all kinds of YouTube records, that’s great for Psy and probably changes his life. Not quite the same, but I know if I didn’t include this bit, most of you would probably just be thinking “yeah, OK Go sure… but what about Gangnam Style?”
The video made the song a hit, but it’s such an internet-only anomaly that it never would have happened on the highly meticulous MTV in 1985, as edgy as that station was at the time (or so I’m lead to believe).
Are these the last musical acts that will be “made” by their music video? The way people listen to music now is already so splintered and varied. There are a dozen or so genres that all have devoted followings, and many of those have even more varied sub-genres and the like. Some people just listen to what they know or hear on the radio, others let Pandora feed them what they might like, and even others seek out the newest and most unique music they can find (and some people do a combination of everything). From there, some people use YouTube to queue up a bunch of music videos, or use Spotify to listen to the newest music. And from time to time, in a dusty, dank warehouse somewhere, people are looking at album art in a record shop. It’s going to take a lot for a music video of some unknown act’s never-before-heard song to push them to the big time, especially without the help of a big record label or radio station backing them.
OK Go struck gold while YouTube was in it’s infancy, but now that the video streaming service is rapidly changing and feeding you videos of what it already knows you like, is the opportunity still there for the next band to make a unique video and have it transform their lives? Probably not, I hope so, but I’m not holding my breath.