Perhaps you haven't heard, but the music industry is facing a bit of a crisis. In the decade since Napster, the music industry has been plagued by rising reluctance on the part of consumers to pay for music they can find online for free. Add to this MTV & VH1's shift away from airing music videos (an important promotional tool), and the result is an industry desperately looking for a way to rescue its finances.
With the loss of MTV & VH1 as reliable outlets for music videos, Vevo (billing itself as "the Hulu of music videos") has come forward to fill the gap--liaising between musicians/labels, advertisers, and content providers such as YouTube. One of Vevo's key strategies to maximize revenue has been to develop more product placement deals, so that music videos are becoming increasingly rife with ads. The videos at left illustrate this increase--the first edits together clips from several music videos to demonstrate the prevalence of integrations; the second focuses solely on the most egregious of these videos, Lady Gaga's "Telephone" video, which features a full 13 instances of integrations from Virgin Mobile to Polaroid to Miracle Whip. To my mind, this effort has been successful in increasing the promotional power of music videos without huge sacrifices to quality of content.
As my fellow curators this week have discussed, one of the primary complaints about increased product placement in media is a concern that integrations privilege the revenue-generating ad over the narrative function of the content. But how does that argument work when applied to music videos which, although arguably narrative, are more about the music than the storytelling? Does Gaga's use of Diet Coke cans as hair rollers disrupt the "story" of "Telephone"? It perhaps interrupts the story being told in the short film that serves as a music video in this case, but it certainly doesn't disrupt the narrative of the song itself--only the visual experience of the video.
Despite the concerns of some, perhaps product integrations in music videos are an acceptable consequence of the shifting economics of the music industry. As Aymar Jean Christian explains, these integrations should be viewed as an industry's desperate attempts to maintain its bottom line, not necessarily as a creative sacrifice. Although admittedly eyeroll-inducing, watching Britney Spears hawk her own perfume in "Hold it Against Me" seems a small price to pay if it means the industry can survive to create more music.