Viral & Serial Videos Important Tool to Independent Artists

When Toby Keith went to make a video for his song “Red Solo Cup”, he decided to give it a “viral” feel, trying to take advantage of a trend in video production that many independent artists use out of necessity. “Viral” videos started as a phenomenon in the amateur ranks, and then became a stylistic approach by independent artists who could not afford big video productions.

Though the “Red Solo Cup” video starts with a fuzzy screen and a “record” light blinking in the corner, make no mistake, the video was painstakingly planned out and produced. But the “viral” feel of the video, and of the song itself, (Toby calls it “the stupidest song he’s ever recorded), is probably a big reason the video has been #1 on CMT for going on 2 weeks. However you won’t find the song “Red Solo Cup” anywhere in the Billboard charts, at least for the moment. And if you do in the future, it will likely be from the strength of the video.

In late August, Shooter Jennings released a video for his song “Outlaw You”, shot in a true, one-take “viral” format that rocketed to the top 5 of CMT’s video chart with no attention paid to radio at all. The postulate that YouTube is the new radio may be more true than ever. It was thought “video killed the radio star” went out of vogue when MTV pulled most of its music programming for reality TV and began to focus myopically on the teenage demographic. Sometime in the late 90’s, videos became an elective in music. But since the death of MySpace, and since Facebook pays little attention to the social networking aspect of music in a direct manner, YouTube might be music’s most dominant social networking tool.

Following this success and attention to video, many independent artists are making video a bigger priority. And not just one video, but multiple videos, “serial” video releases if you will, of both viral and more conceptualized varieties, to keep their music in the forefront of fan’s minds over a longer period than just an album’s initial release. Dale Watson released an original video for each song from his recent The Sun Sessions album. Through Paste, Scott H. Biram has been releasing a video a week from his latest Bad Ingredients project. And Hellbound Glory has just released two videos from their upcoming Damaged Goods record, with more on the way. Both Hellbound videos are directed by Blake Judd of Judd Films, and edited by Cody Meek.

As the filmmaker for some of Scott Biram’s new videos, all the new Hellbound Glory videos, and Shooter’s viral “Outlaw You” video, Blake Judd has a good perspective on the resurgence of videos in music.

From my point of view,  the game is changing. Venues can’t promote like they used to, fans don’t go to show as much, and bands aren’t getting the exposure on the road that they once did. It’s all moving online.  You can reach far more people through online content now than you can on the road.  You still have to get on the road, even though most bands lose money or just break even, to build that fan base and get to that great but small group of people that still go to shows, to help spread the word and make personal connections. But the point is, sometimes less is more with online content, and at the same time, more is better.

And I don’t know exactly what the term “viral” means. They’re just single-take or two-take videos that give you a feel of a band and their music.  Like I keep saying to some of these bands who need content, less production and more videos that just represent their music in a solid manner will benefit them greatly.

Judd Films will be filming videos this week for Shooter Jennings’ upcoming album Family Man due in early 2012.