Wednesday, September 8, 2010

When Music Videos Are No Longer Enough

Music has always been a huge part of people’s lives. Just a quick walk out on the city streets will reveal a good number of people with earphones glued to their ears and feet happily tapping to some beat. Everyday, it seems, newer songs are being composed and created—and what better way is there to promote a new song than by video?

In the 1980s, back when the television set was the most popular tool for entertainment, MTV was born, and music videos became a big hit. These videos certainly helped promote whatever song they were being accompanied with. Even at present, with the Internet taking over other forms of media (including the TV), music videos still find their way to a big audience. A quick search for the most viewed videos on YouTube (the most popular video-hosting website) will return mostly music videos from different artists. However, at the end of the day, music videos, no matter how creative or unique they may be, are still really just videos accompanied by music. With the fast-paced change in technology these days, it won’t be long until we find music videos to be just a thing of the past.

The band Arcade Fire seems to have noticed this. In promoting their new song entitled “We Used to Wait,” they decided to take their music video to another level. Working with Google (which also took this chance to promote Google Chrome and Google Maps), the song was made to accompany not only just one music video, but an interactive series of videos designed to trigger the viewer’s memories of his/her own past.

It starts off with the website asking for the address of the hometown you grew up in. A browser will pop up and the video starts off with a person running down a street. Moments later, another browser will appear with the image of the streets of your own hometown, and a small figure running down it—the person running earlier is now you. Other browsers pop up with images of birds flying and close-ups of your street, all these playing in time with the song. The highlight of the video comes later, when a browser appears asking you to write a letter to your younger self. The letter then becomes animated and becomes part of the video, turning everything more personal.

Songs are most often liked because people can relate to them. Now, this particular song by Arcade Fire may not appeal to other people because the lyrics may not be of any significance to them. This interactive video, however, literally takes images and memories of the viewer’s past to make it something of significance to every person who sees it. In the end, the song and the video only reminds yourself of who you were, and it becomes something of personal importance to you. The song, then, becomes your song—and this inevitably makes a good number of people want to purchase the song, merely because it triggers this emotional memory in them.

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