Thursday, August 30, 2012

Audey Espineda: Digital Media Convergence and Music Video Online

Search for the most viewed video of all time in Youtube and who it is will shock you. It is the music video of Justin Bieber’s debut single, Baby. With more than 7 billion views, it is no surprise that a phrase (Bieber Mania) was concocted simply for his popularity, and unsurprisingly his stardom is a result of digital media convergence. However, would Justin be as renowned if he started his career during the 80s and/or 90s, when MTV was the key distributor music videos? Would he be as renowned without social networking websites and Youtube? This paper will look at the phenomenon of digital media convergence in relation music videos online. It will briefly explore the predecessor of music videos; Talkies then continue to examine “convergent artists” (Giuffre, 2012) such as Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson. It will also examine music video specialist in Australia such as GTK and Rage, corporations that help develop the careers of some of the most popular artists today (i.e. ACDC). Then proceed to discuss the effects of the Internet, Youtube and social networking on music videos and contemporary artists.

Before MTV, Rage and Youtube, industries during early 20th century were attempting to merge sound and film. Hence, films showcased during 1900 till 1926 were silent, audiences seeking music were forced to do so separately via radio. Careers were also detached, artists must choose between music and film. The Jazz Singer was “first talking picture” (Allen, 1997) and is undoubtedly the ancestor of music videos. This film is the first example of two industries and devices converging together, and is a pioneer of digital media convergence. As a result, a genre and an iconic approach to narration also materialized, Musicals. A flamboyant and colourful way of storytelling, and as a consequence new artists also emerged. Perhaps the most legendary is Elvis Presley, a paradigm of what many considered as “harmonic convergence” (Schultz, 2011). By being a musician and an actor, audiences were able to listen to his music and watch his films; occasionally pertaining both in his films. Another benchmark of this type of artistry is Michael Jackson, though he may have not acted, both he and his music are samples of cultural convergence. He not only combined both dancing and singing into his music, but the originality of his music captivated several ethnicity.  He was able to eradicate the walls of racism, specifically during an era of strict racist barriers, whence both white and black individuals listened to different music.

Television has also revolutionized music videos, once audiences were required to visit their local theatres to watch sound films. TV has also allowed industries to launch TV shows that specialized solely on music videos. ABC’s GTK and Rage are examples of such music shows, not only did they broadcast music videos, but also they provided new talents the opportunity to be scouted by airing performances. Molly Meldrum was Countdown talent manager, and he has helped to universalize one of today’s juggernaut group, AC/DC. Kimball (undated) states it has to be said that Molly Meldrum and Countdown unstintingly championed AC/DC from the outset, and this played a hugely important role in their Australian success”. Contrary to Rage and Countdown, MTV was a channel especially dedicated to music videos. The music videos aired on MTV however, were films featuring already established artists, artists whom have had been scouted and were simply promoting their songs.

Rage Logo

The Internet and the introduction of Youtube was the foundation of music videos online. It diversified online and TV viewership whilst providing the opportunity for viewers to make feedback. Sheehan and Morrison (2009) state, “As Internet connectivity and digital capabilities continue to expand…online users are expressing their thoughts, … and creativity online”. Many entrepreneurs sought out this opportunity, which led to expansion of social media, which according to Meikle and Young (2012) is “blend of personal communication and public media”.  Online users were sharing personal videos and experiences to the public, however it is not only personal clips that were being uploaded but recorded music videos as well. It was easy for audience to watch their favourite artists online, rather than waiting in front of the TV for their favourite films. “ The specific moments a viewer wants to see can now be searched and accessed without the hassles of watching live broadcasts…” (Hilderbrand, 2007). 

The Internet therefore became an interactive media hub, where consumers watch and make comments. Of course, this convenience allowed striving artists to share personal performances. The interactivity of online viewers created a viral word-of-mouth advertisement, allowing talent managers to see who is gaining popularity. Justin Bieber is an example of this; his homemade videos were immensely popular that it caught the interest of talents agencies.

Of course, there are some established artists who have decided to create music videos specifically for online use. They found that not only were they able to reach a wide range of demographic, but also saw a chance to rapidly gain popularity. Artists today however, are broadcasting their videos online and on TV. Naturally, social networking such as Facebook, help define what is to be shown TV, the more popular it is, the higher the chances of it being shown on television. Undoubtedly because of the demand for mobility, industries such as Rage and Billboard have had to develop websites and apps to allow consumers to watch films and make feedback. The introduction of iTunes has further influence music video consumption. Music videos can now be purchase via iTunes; thereby fans were able to watch their idols almost anywhere. 

To conclude digital media convergence has shaped the way society views music videos, gone are the days of waiting and watching TV and the inability to comment.  In regards to the question stated in the introduction relating to Justin, perhaps, his stardom though has been boosted by Youtube and social networking. Nevertheless, the term Bieber Mania is a product of digital media convergence, and baby-faced enthusiasts.


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