10 Music Video Milestones That Predated MTV - Deepstash
10 Music Video Milestones That Predated MTV

10 Music Video Milestones That Predated MTV


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10 Music Video Milestones That Predated MTV

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Before MTV: Video milestones

In the years that followed MTV, hit songs and their accompanying music videos would become linked in the minds of music fans.

But the format of music videos precedes MTV. There is an evolutionary chart that dates back nearly a century.


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1894: "The little lost child"

In 1894, two clothing salesmen, that also had a side business as songwriters, came up with a novel way to sell the sheet music to "The Little Lost Child."

They hired an electrician to create a series of "magic lantern" slide projections of photos to accompany performances of the song. They sold two million copies of the sheet music.


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1929-1938: "Screen songs"

Fleischer Studios produced a series of "Screen Songs" from 1929 - 1938. It was the first short films created to illustrate popular songs.

The animated shorts featured the frolics of funny animals and other cartoon archetypes set to songs. Many included a bouncing ball above the lyrics that encouraged theatre-goers to sing along.


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1929: "St. Louis Blues"

With the advent of "the talkies" in the late 1920s, musical numbers became part of cinema.

"St. Louis Blues" was one of the first short films made to showcase a preexisting song, starring Bessie Smith. While "Screen Songs" introduced the idea of pairing a song with a visual sequence, "St. Louis Blues" pushed the idea along that a singer's aura can be encased in a short, music-driven film.


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1956: "Stranger in Paradise"

In 1956, Tony Bennett's record label filmed the first music video of the golden-voiced vocalist walking through Hyde Park in London.

He set the footage to the hit version of "Stranger in Paradise" and distributed the clip to TV stations in the U.K. and U.S.


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1959: The video jukebox

The video jukebox that played Technicolor films were installed in bars across the world.

Two rival companies began selling similar "video jukebox" devices at the same time. The one was a Cinebox in Italy - the other the Scopitone in France. Both had three-minute films of famous musicians that guaranteed to get people's attention in a bar.


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The Beatles' promotional videos 1965

The Beatles started producing promotional videos in 1965 for their singles to fulfil the demands of every Top of the Pops or American Bandstand-style show across the world that wanted to book them.

They started with "Paperback Writer" and "Rain" but improved over time, with "Penny Lane" using horses across a grand city scene.


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1970: The Now Explosion

In the 1970s, The Now Explosion was a 28-hour, free-wheeling TV program in Atlanta that seemed to pioneer MTV and the YouTube mashup edit.

The idea was to try and replicate Top 40 radio on a UHF station. For a brief period, The Now Explosion was very successful, but later the idea proved to be financially unsustainable.


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1974-1987: Countdown

In Australia, the government-owned Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) introduced Countdown, a weekly showcase of lip-synched performances and music videos.

Countdown could promptly make a song a hit. The show lasted until 1987 when competitors like the imported MTV, overwhelmed it in the marketplace.


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1975: "Bohemian Rhapsody"

The promotional video that accompanied Queen's 'Bohemian Rhapsody' single was probably the start of the music video. Previous promo clips were mostly about the band, but "Bohemian Rhapsody" was about the song.

The video spared the band from trying to recreate the complex composition live on TV. The band controlled how their song was presented on TV, something an MTV-era musician would take for granted.


33 reads

1978: "Video Concert Hall"

USA Network, one of the first cable channels, began using the library of music material from record labels to fill its programming hours. The network started a segment called "Video Concert Hall" in 1978 where they simply played promotional videos and concert clips.

Another early cable network, Nickelodeon, tried a music video show called PopClips.


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