The History of the Music Video

  • The Illustrated Song

    The Illustrated Song
    Some time in 1894, sheet music publishers Edward B. Marks and Joe Stern hired electrician George Thomas and various performers to promote sales of their song "The Little Lost Child". Using a magic lantern (an early type of projector), Thomas projected a series of still images on a screen as the same time as live performances. This became a popular form of entertainment and was the first step towards the modern music video.
  • Phonoscène

    The phonoscène was a forerunner of sound film. It combined a chronophone sound recording with a chronograph film shot with actors lip-synching to the sound recording. The recording and film were synchronized by a mechanism patented by Léon Gaumont in 1902. The first phonoscènes were presented by Gaumont in 1902 in France.
  • Talkies, Soundies and Shorts

    Talkies, Soundies and Shorts
    Between 1926 and 1959, many short and feature length musical films were created. Spooney Melodies in 1930 was the first true musical video series, with each short typically 6 minutes in duration, featuring art-deco style animations and backgrounds accompanied by film of the performer singing. 50s musicals were also very important to the creation of the music video, with films such as "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" and "Singin' In The Rain" paving the way for similarly styled musical short films.
  • Visual Innovation

    Visual Innovation
    In the late 1950s the Scopitone, a visual jukebox, was invented in France and short films were produced by many French artists to accompany their songs. Its use spread to other countries such as the USA and Italy on similar machines. In 1964, The Beatles starred in their first feature film A Hard Day's Night, directed by Richard Lester. Shot in black-and-white and presented as a mock documentary, it was a loosely structured musical fantasia which inspired a countless number of later music videos
  • The Beginnings of Music Television

    The Beginnings of Music Television
    The Australian TV shows Countdown and Sounds, both of which premiered in 1974, were significant in developing and popularizing the music video genre in Australia and other countries, and in establishing the importance of music video clips as a means of promoting both emerging acts and new releases by established acts. In the United Kingdom, Top of the Pops began playing music videos in the late 1970s, although the BBC placed strict limits on the number of 'outsourced' videos TOTP could use.
  • MTV

    In 1981 the US music channel MTV launched. The first video it ever aired was "Video Killed the Radio Star" and from then on it aired music videos 24 hours a day. With this new outlet for material, the music video would, by the mid 1980s, play a central role in popular music marketing. Many artists from this era, such as Adam and the Ants, Duran Duran and Madonna owe their success to the quality of their music videos.
  • Rise of the Directors

    Rise of the Directors
    In December 1992, MTV began listing the names of directors alongside music videos, reflecting the fact that music videos were being conceptualised, created and influenced more and more by directors rather than just the artists themselves. Directors such as Michel Gondry, Spike Jonze, Stéphane Sednaoui, Mark Romanek and Hype Williams all got their start around this time, bringing their unique vision and style to the videos they directed.
  • The Internet Becomes Video Friendly

    The Internet Becomes Video Friendly
    Before video sharing websites made music videos readily available to everyone on the Internet, the earliest purveyors of music videos on the Internet were members of IRC-based groups who recorded music videos from television and then digitised them, making them available through downloads. In 2005, the video sharing website YouTube was launched. This made it easy to upload, view and share music videos worldwide, making them even more relevant and popular.