One of technology’s biggest influences on the media industry is the notion of choice – not just in the amount of content there is to pick from, but the ways in which consumers can experience their entertainment. Choice is especially relevant in music, with so many outlets available for discovering and listening to new artists. Bands are finding unique ways to push content out creatively using these platforms, and among the most popular recent trends are lyric videos.
These clips differ from traditional music videos in that they don’t feature artist performances, but are tonal adaptations of songs that recreate their mood through a blend of film footage and the lyrics displayed as motion graphics. Music Business graduate Chris Martignago works as an A&R consultant for Atlantic Records, and sees lyric videos as an increasingly essential part of an artist’s advertising initiative. In addition to being able to monetize another media stream, he explained that they also provide new ways for fans to engage in and be inspired by content from musicians.
“Lyric videos are incredibly relevant because it gives the consumer the option to listen to their music how they want to – and for some it’s the words that really affect them,” Chris says. “We live in such an à la carte society where you expect to be able to pick and choose exactly what you want. If somebody wants a lyric video, and you don’t have one, then you’re losing out on a segment of your audience. It’s an important piece for any band.”
This genre has also been a successful route for many content creators, including Film graduate Peej Phillips who has built the foundation of his companies The Fresh Group and the upcoming Coalition United on producing lyric videos. Peej targeted the emerging market shortly after graduating in 2011, contacting some of his favorite bands online and offering to create their lyric videos for free. After a few months and a dozen clips he had built contacts at different record labels, which led to his current work with the big three – Universal, Sony, and Warner Music Group.
“What’s great with these versus other media is that I look at them as short independent projects that are completely separate from anything else,” Peej says. “You have to follow the artist’s style and the album’s color guide, but creative-wise I’ve had projects where the sky’s the limit as long as you can do it in a certain time frame and budget. So it’s great for filmmakers like me – there’s a short turnaround time so it’s always fresh content, and you have a lot of freedom to interpret. I’ve also been seeing more and more great stuff from other directors in terms of their cinematography and compositions.”
The creativity that goes into these productions has been key in helping them stand apart from long-standing music video traditions. Peej’s clips for artists like Pitbull, Luke Bryan, Zedd, and AWOLNATION are highlighted by thoughtful lighting and camera work, along with tasteful design and placement of the typography. Compared to the dozens of fan-made videos that often find their way online, the level of quality these dedicated directors are capturing has elevated their status as an art form – with MTV even introducing a lyric video category at the 2014 Video Music Awards.
“People think of a lyric video as you just animating the words to a song and getting some background images together, but it’s a very involved process,” Peej says. “I rely on a team of about nine people – animators, cinematographers, and editors – and a lot of times we’ll work directly with the artist, going back and forth on the phone and through email showing mockups and storyboards. After that we get a crew together, film on location, then take that footage and blend the lyrics in time with the music. We work really hard on them.”
The adoption of lyric videos by the industry is a welcome compliment to the overall fan experience, but also makes as much sense on the business end. In many ways it’s a perfect marriage. Artists can use them as advertising platforms through YouTube and sponsored social media posts, while giving people a deeper connection to their favorite songs with original, well-crafted, and artist-approved interpretations.
“People want more from their music, they want to experience it more than just through their speakers, and that’s the direction we’re still going in,” Chris says. “It’s constantly evolving, and a lot of new things coming up are going to be about not limiting yourself to whatever you believe are the boundaries of a three minute song. Music needs to be more than the turn of the radio dial or the mindless click of a mouse because people get bored. You need to give people more and I think lyric videos are a great example of where we’re headed.”