Music videos: Sound and visionaries

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

YouTube has revitalised the music video, says Elisa Bray – and unleashed a new generation of directing talent

Once bands had a budget of several thousand pounds to make a music video. For the biggest pop stars, a million was not uncommon. Now acts will be lucky to get a fraction of that. Without the support of MTV, record labels redirected their funds, while the top MTV directors expanded into feature film and commercials. Renowned directors Michel Gondry, Spike Jonze, and Jonathan Glazer all started out in music videos.

At the same time, a host of up-and-coming directors continued to create videos that ended up on YouTube, and now it seems labels are expanding their video budgets again. It's no surprise, given a 37 per cent annual rise in the number of online videos watched in the UK, almost all of which are viewed on YouTube, that the audience for the music video is bigger than ever.

YouTube also offers a new generation of directors the chance of being spotted. Phoebe Lloyd, head producer at the music-video production company Pixelloft, says: "It is a good time for aspiring directors. YouTube and the internet in general has had an important role to play in recent rejuvenated interest in music videos. It is certainly easier for a very talented individual with a great idea to get noticed now, because videos are watched and rated purely on their merit. A very low-budget music video with a great idea can go viral and amass vast numbers of viewers, while at the same time a large-budget major-label video may fail to hit the mark and gain comparatively miniscule exposure for the artist or band.

"Record labels are all looking for online content to draw people to their YouTube channels and band pages. And with the recent developments in technology, allowing high-quality videos to be presented in HD, we are noticing a slow rise in budgets because the visual quality is starting to count once again. It's certainly a more exciting time to be involved in music videos than it was several years ago. Fingers crossed for the future."

Sasha Nixon who is the head of music videos at the production company Partizan, says the trends within videos are dictated by which style of music is predominant at the time. "When the trend in the music world is rock and indie you tend to get performance videos, but 'faceless-producer music' tends to be more conceptual ideas. Now the musical trend is more singer-songwriter."

But for some directors it's all about inspiration. Adam Smith, better known in the industry as Flat Nose, has been art director for the Chemical Brothers for 12 years, alongside his work directing episodes of Skins, the new series of Dr Who and Mike Skinner & The Streets' promotional videos. Smith made the film of the visual show that will accompany the dance duo's live gigs later this month for YouTube "because everyone posts really badly filmed versions on YouTube from when they're off their nuts and we wanted people to be able to see it properly."

If he's made the video for a song, it will be because of a personal connection to it: "I go for music that I love that triggers some kind of response in me – to quote a Chemical Brothers song." Usually the narrative within a song dictates what he does, but his video for the Chemical Brothers' "Galvanize" took on a story-line all of its own. "It was the Arabic melody that inspired me", he says. "That got me thinking of this kid in Paris and the film La Haine. It was based around this dancing craze in LA called crumping."

Scenarios for The Streets' music are more straightforward, since Skinner's lyrics tell stories. But for "Blinded by the Lights", Skinner asked Smith not to set the video in a club, contradicting the lyrics. "I thought 'oh no'" says Smith, "but I set it at a wedding and embellished a lot of the narrative. There was a parallel narrative with the song – it doesn't necessarily always have to correlate."

Behind the Camera: rising video stars

Vincent Moon

The 30-year-old Parisian has made a video for REM, but is most championed for doing the videos for the Take-Away Shows on La Blogothèque. This live-music web series features various indie acts – including Stephen Malkmus and Vampire Weekend – performing stripped-down sets in public places that have built up a cult following.



Ray Tintori

The 26-year-old has directed videos for The Killers, MGMT and the Cool Kids. He made the video for "Time to Pretend" and "Kids" by his college mates MGMT, featuring psychedelic animation. Spike Jonze hand-picked him to work on his next film.



Saam Farahmand

One of the more inventive directors out there, Farahmand has worked on a wide range of videos, from Janet Jackson to Cheryl Cole, Klaxons, Simian Mobile Disco and The xx. He graduated in Fine Arts from Goldsmiths in 2002, and recently opened a gallery in London where he exhibits young artists' work, and created the 3D sound sculpture of the debut album from The xx.

Peter Serafinowicz

The 37-year-old comedian and sketch writer, whose The Peter Serafinowicz Show ran on BBC2, was asked by Hot Chip to make the video (his first) for "I Feel Better". The London electro-indie band contacted him via Twitter.



Nicholas Bentley

The 29-year-old's Michel Gondry-esque mathematical technique and unique sense of narrative has just gained him a commission directing the latest Scouting For Girls video, "Famous". "One of the most agile directing minds I have come across" says Tom King, a director at video production company Gas&Electric. "Every piece that Nick writes is original. He takes inspiration from the visual world at large and has an amazing ability to turn everything on its head to create a totally fresh way of seeing things."



John Nolan

With his own animatronics effects company in east London, in the past year Nolan has shifted towards directing, and came to attention via a witty short film about cheddar cheese. He is now working with Chris Cunningham, James Lavelle of Unkle and Lady Gaga for her world tour. Adrian Harrison, managing director of Streetlight Films, says: "I instantly saw star potential, and discovered that he was working with Chris Cunningham who I had signed to RSA/Blackdog back in 1996. There is little unique talent out there but I see it in him – he has the potential to be a new star director."

Romain Gavras

The 29-year-old from France made films for dance acts Justice and Simian Mobile Disco, and is behind THAT video for MIA: "Born Free" was pulled from YouTube for its violent imagery depicting the genocide of red-heads. His father is the Greek French director Costa-Gavras.



Koja

With a style that is both abstract and commercially relevant, Koja are the Swedish duo Ulrika Axen and Tobias Eiving who met on Hackney Marshes; their name means "treehouse" in Swedish. They soon started making short films and music videos, and provided Mika's tour visuals, as well as making the unofficial videos for Fyfe Dangerfield's "She Needs Me" and Micke Lindebergh's "Applebag". Axen, who is 28, graduated from the Royal College of Art in 2007, while 29-year-old Eiving worked as a composer and producer before going into film-making. "Like a breath of fresh air" says Tom King. "They inhabit a world that is magical, theatrical, inspiring and totally fantastic. They have a fresh angle on music video that hasn't been seen since the glory days of Tim Pope. As artists get bolder and more daring they need directors like Koja to really bring them to life."

Tania Pedre

Pedre, 23, has just graduated from Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication with a degree in Moving Image Design and is the newest recruit to Gas&Electric's roster of directors. Her background in styling, dance and drama and her first music video – for the rising singer Rahel – is bold and colourful.



Nick Bartleet

He directs videos on an impressive scale, and combines a traditionalist approach to film-making with an understanding of how fashion, beauty and art direction can be utilised to elevate an artist in the eye of the viewer. Bartleet often edits, colours and creates the visual effects for his own videos. "Directing music videos is a balancing act where one has to juggle ideas with budget and a well-rounded understanding of all the elements of production can be a real bonus. It does help for any director today to be multifaceted," says Phoebe Lloyd at Pixelloft.

Arts and Entertainment

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment
V&A museum in London

Art Piece taken off website amid 'severe security alert'

Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
Arts and Entertainment
The Wu-Tang Clan will sell only one copy of their album Once Upon A Time In Shaolin
musicWu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own only copies of their latest albums
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper, Alessandro Nivola and Patricia Clarkson on stage

film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Kitchen plays Christopher Foyle in ITV's 'Foyle's War'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Downton Abbey star Joanne Froggatt will be starring in Dominic Savage's new BBC drama The Secrets

Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
film
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
News
art

‘Remember the attackers are a cold-blooded, crazy minority’, says Blek le Rat

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
    Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

    Diana Krall interview

    The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
    Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

    Pinstriped for action

    A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

    'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

    Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

    Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
    Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us