Music Videos

Recording Recommendations

In this edition, our focus is on music videos.

Over the past decade, something interesting has happened in the realm of music videos. Videos have arguably grown less and less prominent in mainstream music. Stations like MTV and VH1 don’t emphasize the form anymore, and iPods and smartphones have provided a ubiquity to music that has removed some of the pleasure of simply watching and listening to a music video.

Just the same, in the a cappella world, we’ve seen videos on the rise.

Whether it’s Peter Hollens staging elaborate fantasy scenes, Pentatonix using makeup, costuming, and jump cuts to blow our collective minds, or any of the dozens, if not hundreds of college a cappella groups that have hopped to creating their own videos, the medium has exploded in not just quantity but quality.

Why the change? Ease of access is one of the most obvious answers, with digital cameras that are more affordable, and now that such a large proportion of the population has smart phones with built in video cameras (not to mention the fact that my iPhone 6 came with iMovie preloaded). YouTube has also offered up a platform for the release of videos—while some would-be major artists may have had their music videos pushed the margins by the bevy of original content uploaded each day by everyday people, a cappella has thrived on YouTube, with recordings of live performances getting a ton of play, and now a cappella music videos offering something quirky and different from poorly lit film of cats falling off of kitchen counters.

But how can an a cappella group make the most  of the video craze, and contribute meaningful work of their own?

Some of it comes down to taking advantage of the medium. Music videos are inherently visual, and built to complement music. Groups are best served to take advantage of this medium by doing something different and ideally more> than they perform live on stage. This may include splicing in footage that tells a story, or using compelling camera angles to sell the very best of the group’s movements and facials. It might mean recording in unconventional locations. Think about dance, about lighting, and about what kind images can evoke and enhance the sensations of the music are all steps in the right direction. In whichever case, the music video is generally best suited to do something intentional; simply filming a live performance or splicing in random footage of your group hanging out will rarely capture the audience’s attention and draw new listeners to your work.

In addition to the more creative elements of a music video, there are also technical factors to consider. Camera and editing technology has grown more accessible over the years which is great—on the flip side, because the fundamental tools are in so many people’s hands, the level of scrutiny about people’s work in the realm of videos has gone way up. While the group and its leadership should determine the overarching creative direction of a video to ensure that it matches the group’s identity, image, and aesthetic, I heartily recommend that the more technical aspects of direction, filming, compiling, and editing go into the hands of your group (or group community)’s resident filmmaker—and you don’t have one, I recommend seeking one out within your local community or social networks. Nowadays, so many schools have some level of film school, and many of the students there would love the opportunity to team up with an a cappella group to create a video that thousands of people will see.