News and notes from Fredericksburg's entertainment scene
Equalizer: People want to see music
BY JONAS BEALS
THE FREE LANCE-STAR
People my age like to lament the “demise” of MTV. There was a time when the channel played nothing but music videos (it being Music Television and all) and pregnant teens were watching along with the rest of us.
While MTV now has multiple channels dedicated to broadcasting music videos, they are narrowly focused and tend to get lost in the upper reaches of the cable schedule. Most of us are content to watch the pregnant teens MTV now gives us. It makes me long for the days of “I Wanna Be a Lifeguard” by Blotto.
It feels strange to lament the end of the oft-derided music video era. It would also be wrong.
According to a recent Nielsen survey, more than 60 percent of 13- to 17-year-olds surveyed listen to music on YouTube, a video site. And it’s not just the kids. Almost 45 percent of respondents 18 and older get their music the same way. Videos are still killing the radio star.
It makes sense. YouTube, while not always free (many videos are preceded by ads), is simple and easy to access. It’s also under the user’s control, allowing people to stop, fast-forward, rewind and skip to a new song whenever they like. It’s like an MTV where you are the producer. If you want total vintage-MTV immersion, you can even intersperse clips of veejays like Martha Quinn and Dweezil Zappa.
Sound fidelity and video quality are not paramount concerns on YouTube, so listeners make a sacrifice by turning to the site for their music. On the other hand, the selection is astounding, especially for a legal outlet.
Due to its popularity, a presence on YouTube has become a necessity for artists large and small. Even esoteric musicians can provide a near-bottomless rabbit hole of videos for their fans to fall into.
As has happened with audio production, the cost of making a video—complete with special effects and professional-quality editing—has fallen within reach of the most amateur artists. The result is a flood of listening and viewing opportunities a few mouse clicks away.
Not only that, but some bands can enhance their message using YouTube. My heart added more room for the band Free Energy after a series of bizarre promotional “Free Energy Power Hour” videos revealed an absurdist sense of humor.
Seattle rapper Macklemore is a talent worth listening to in any medium, but his videos put his (sometimes serious) messages over the top. His video for “Thrift Shop” is about as silly as it gets, but it’s been like a daily vitamin for me over the past month.
Perhaps more impressive than the continued evolution of the legitimate music video on YouTube is the venue it provides for the crate-diggers and rare-record collectors. There are countless 45s, 78s, eight-tracks and LPs that now live online, and many of them are easily accessible through YouTube. It might be the only place you will ever hear songs that would otherwise be lost to the march of technology and likely will never be re-released in any form.
There is an especially strong funk and soul presence on YouTube, rich with rare offerings from the ’60s and ’70s. A personal favorite of mine is the “Hot Rod” 45 by King Curtis, which isn’t available on Spotify or iTunes, but is on YouTube.
Or you could just look up that Blotto video and pretend MTV was never overrun by poor role models. Do it. It’s there, and it’s still awesome.
Jonas Beals: 540/368-5036