Friday, August 31, 2012

Media Convergence Essay

Joseph Sheehan, 41460219

Music Video Online

As technology becomes increasingly sophisticated and the popularity of accessing media content from various platforms grows, the phenomenon of digital media convergence continues to be an important issue in the contemporary world for many technological, social, cultural and economic reasons. 

Media convergence is described by Dwyer as “the process whereby new technologies are accommodated by existing media and communication industries and cultures”, referring to “the intersection of distinct media and information technology systems that have previously been thought of as separate and self-contained” (2010, 2), whether it is watching television on the home computer, accessing the internet through the TV set, or listening to music on a mobile phone.

However, there is more to digital media convergence than new technologies and methods of accessing media content – the connections between industries, producers and consumers are redefined and must be considered in new ways (Jenkins 2004, 34). It can also lead to the appropriation of existing media and industries as a result of new settings, especially online.

In contrast to previous models of media production, the phenomenon of media convergence turns the passive user into an active one, with today’s media production incorporating a more “bottom-up consumer-driven process” (37). At the same time, corporations are learning how to exploit the unification of different forms of media to increase revenue and connect with a broader audience (37).

The music industry is one sector that has been affected by media convergence, and this has impacted the accessibility of music video, the content of the music video, and the concept of the music video as a form of online marketing. According to Hildebrand, “television-computer convergence” has been coming for quite some time (2007, 48). In the past decade, developments in digital technology have caused a shift in consumer behaviours and the way that television is received and watched – high-speed internet and advances in computer memory have resulted in the growth of “internet video distribution” (48).

Video sites such as YouTube reveal the acceleration of spectatorial consumption (49), and indicate a larger trend of consumers expecting content on-demand, fitting with Jenkins’ description of the user who is active, rather than passive (37). Hildebrand states that the internet and YouTube have “accelerated and exaggerated these expectations for availability” (50). Furthermore, while previous passive consumers were “isolated individuals”, new consumers are “socially connected” (Jenkins, 37), giving rise to the phenomenon of the “viral video”, where a video is shared among internet users at such a speed that its view count may rise into the millions overnight. This is a clear example of Dwyer’s understanding of media convergence as existing media accommodating new technologies – the internet serves as a new vehicle for consumers to access music video.

How has this new accessibility changed the concept of the music video, both as an art form and marketing device?

According to Dwyer, the “introduction and rapid diffusion of digital media have brought about profound changes in the nature and organisation of contemporary mediated communication”, with different forms of media becoming increasingly available online and via mobile technology (6) – the internet is Dwyer’s “new technology” which accommodates “existing media” (2) As a result, the majority of people are now able to be constantly “plugged in”, accessing music, video and other media from anywhere, at any time. Holt argues that online video has become a major communicative tool (2011, 52), and this has had a profound impact on the distribution and consumption of music. Due to the new accessibility of music video through the internet, on sites such as YouTube, music is experiencing “audiovisual convergence”, and video is infiltrating all aspects of the music industry (50), and is taking on new and extended functionality. 

Music video allows consumers a highly visual experience with their music, stretching the range of communication and adding a new layer of sensory stimulation, adding a “visual dimension to music consumption” and creating a narrative surrounding the music (52). Online accessibility is also influencing the form of the music video – the parameters and rules of MTV are being disregarded, and artists are producing long “cinematic song-videos”, such as Telephone by Lady Gaga (2010), which according to Holt resemble a “real cinematic experience of the artist and the music” (52).

At a total length of almost ten minutes, the music in Telephone doesn’t begin until close to the three-minute mark – the length of most mainstream pop songs. The video follows the typical Hollywood convention of a three-act structure, with the beginning establishing the setting and “characters”, the middle detailing most of the action, and the end wrapping up the story. While many music videos include or allude to a story or plot, the video for Telephone takes this further. The music is intermittent, broken up by action scenes and dialogue, and there is even the inclusion of opening and closing credits.

In this way, Lady Gaga has taken advantage of the internet accommodating the existing media of the music video, and she has transformed its traditional conventions in the online setting to create an appropriated form. Holt’s concept of “audiovisual convergence” is expanded to incorporate cinematic conventions.
The phenomenon of music video online has also extended to economic factors. The function as a marketing tool which has always been the undercurrent of music video is being used in new ways, in an environment where the sharing of information is important for promotion (52). In this way, the distribution of online video has become an important feature of music promotion.

Holt argues that the music industry is “under pressure” to provide online content to fans that is readily accessible (53). One of the main factors contributing to the growth of audiovisual convergence is the need to be noticed in a media-intense society (53), and music video online is an important promotional tool for artists in the contemporary market. According Valler, Lady Gaga is an artist who exploits opportunities for audiovisual convergence and spreadability for economic purposes (2012). In this way, the internet is Dwyer’s new technology, accommodated by the existing media industry of the music business (2).

As we can see, digital media convergence can lead to the appropriation of existing forms of media and industry, as they are accommodated by new technologies. These new settings can lead to the transformation of media and the way they are distributed. This is apparent with the phenomenon of music video online, and has impacted the medium as an art form, economic tool as its accessibility.


Dwyer, Tim. 2010. Media Convergence. Berkshire: McGraw-Hill.

Hildebrand, Lucas. 2007. “YouTube: Where cultural memory and copyright converge.” Film Quarterly 61 (1): 48-57.

Holt, Fabian. 2011. “Is music becoming more visual? Online video content in the music industry.” Visual Studies 26 (1): 50-61.

Jenkins, Henry. 2004. “The Cultural Logic of Media Convergence.” International Journal of Cultural Studies 7 (33): 33-43.

Lady Gaga. 2010. “Telephone.” On The Fame Monster. Digital recording. Santa Monica: Interscope Records.

Vellar, Agnese. 2012. “Spreading the cult body on YouTube: A case study of ‘Telephone’ derivative videos.” Transformative Works and Cultures. 9 (2012).

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