We all can agree that YouTube is a massive place. It is like Hermione Granger's magic bag in Harry Potter—it seems to fit everything and keeps surprising you with what can come out of it. What will cultural anthropologists think of the visual collection of global cultural history when they dial it up hundreds of years from now and try and make sense of it and who we were as a people? What can one infer from a visual record that runs from a cat in a shark costume riding a Roomba to visual, on-the-ground evidence of genocide and mass murder? Hard to say.
Luckily, we're not touching on that today. Instead, such a heavy intro segues nicely in to our pet peeve of the week; lyric videos. Being our end of the publicity pipeline, we're awash in these annoying pieces of promo, which themselves are generally promo for more promo, pre-cursors to the actual artistic videos that generally accompany new singles. From our perch, the Lyric Video usually hits YouTube sometime after the release of a single (visually represented by a static image of the artist or album artwork). Cee Lo Green set the standard with the brilliant typography and execution of "Fuck You"
four years ago. There's just something entrancing and titillating about seeing the word "FUCK", right in your face on YouTube for the first time. He pushed the boundaries and got away with it and succeeded in making the video and song the talk of its time. Then came the regular music video
for the song. To date, the lyric has played 11 million times. Nice. But the actual music video? Try 73 million times.
In the office we watch video all day (among other things) and when we get pitched on such newly created, digital clutter, we make a note: "There must be an actual music video coming down the pipeline soon" and move onto the next item.
From our vantage, there seems to be a standard marketing checklist of YouTube assets:
1. Release the song (static image)
2. Release the lyric video
3. Release the music video
4. Release a behind the scenes look at the making of said music video
5. If said music video doesn't really grab much traction, blow it up, start over with a new director and release this after a few months
All of which make it an expensive endeavor (unless the label is fronting the costs), and probably near impossible to receive a return on the investment. Even at 73 million plays. Cee Lo's "Fuck You" was at best a break-even and the Lyric video at 11 million was surely a loss.
Since the beginning of time people have loved watching other people, it started with pictography on the walls of caves and today it is video. Type is never as amusing or compelling, no matter how good. So skip the Lyric Video—put your best foot forward with great music and a great video to go along.