I remember being 7 years old and in the second grade. My best friend, at the time, had this great idea for me to come over to his house everyday for spring break that year. I walked up to his front door on a Monday morning after my mom dropped me off. The door was opened and I was greeted by Hanson’s MMMBop. I turned the corner into the living room where the sound came from. For the first time in my life, I saw music on a T.V. It just so happened to be a high-pitched harmonious boy band. My friend’s brother asked me if I had ever seen MTV. I shook my head. “Yeah, this is Hanson,” he said. But at that time, I was more interested in playing hockey in my friend’s garage. Later that week I was running in my family’s cul-de-sac, singing the song from memory. I didn’t pick up on it then, but it was in that moment that I took on a new perspective and appreciation for music.
I was a year short of the 80s. That was when some classic artists took the leap to showing some of their music genius on the television. Let’s recall what music-video programs used to be known for. We’ve got the dance fever Club MTV featuring Madonna and Janet Jackson. There’s also a solid dose of Phil Collins and George Michael in MTV Most Wanted Top Twenty Countdown that was perfect for indulgers of soft rock. Who could forget the Headbanger’s Ball? Even if you weren’t a fan of heavy metal, the slow-motion scene of big hair thrashers dueling inside a gaudy ballroom was mesmerizing. The wooing effects couldn’t have been stronger. Music now had a face and it was all the rage.
Nearly 30 years later brings us to an age beyond MTV into the world of social media. Virtual sensations like Youtube and Vimeo allow music fans to view whatever they want whenever they want it. Without turning this into too much of a statistical dork fiasco, I want to comment on why visual music was and still is significant. Two words here: concert revenue. I want to remind the loyal readers that aesthetically pleasing music primed America for a ridiculous boost in concert ticket sales. According to Statista, 1990 to 2014 compiled $66.1 billion revenue for concerts ticket sales. If you attended a concert in 2014, you helped contribute to the $6 billion year of the glorious music industry. People just like you and I understood the huge impact from watching music videos.
It makes sense. Artists look the part. The Rap genre tries to pull off the exotic look, with ties to ‘making it big’ and overcoming obstacles in life. Generally, fans of Rap want to listen and live the way Rap music is perceived. In Alternative music, the same is true with trendy fashion and the bipolar effect. Music has a way of forming us to a certain style (I even got pierced and tattooed). Still, the best way to get a fix of what was given to us through media seemed so obvious. Go and see the artists perform their magic, live.
In an interview with rock legend Huey Lewis, audience members of the Bonnie Hunt Show were given a few earfuls for what it means to be a successful musician. “Music used to be the domain of blind artists. It’s very tough for them to have hit records anymore because they can’t make a video.” Lewis was hinting at the popularity of television. “Television is more important now…and I would’ve done anything to play music and have people show up.” It’s important for the musician to pull off a good image.
Sure, this may sound morbid. But, I don’t think it has to be. In fact, I love the way music is transformed into a performance. Kings of Leon dazzled me in 2010. Going to that concert was probably the highlight of the year. I recount the visual aids from the lights, to the overhead monitors and the merchandise tables outside the stadium walls. Heck, it was even raining that night which brought in another fabulous sense of visual complex. All that has little to do with the audible music, which by the way was incredible! I was trying to remember where I first heard Kings of Leon. Was it on the radio or from a music video? Honestly, I can’t remember, and that’s really the main point. In the current day, both sides dual and compliment. Great artists pull off the look and the sound.