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The Wall Street Journal has a piece up by John Jurgensen about declining budgets in the music video industry, a development that has something to do with both music business economics as well as new modes of viewing and distribution.

From the article:

But music executives also say the big video budgets of the 1990s are generally unnecessary, now that videos are most often watched on small screens like laptops and video iPods. Reality TV programming and the success of amateur “viral” videos that viewers watch and email to friends have changed the expectations of young viewers, says Monte Lipman, president of Universal Republic Records. Better and less expensive video technology has also helped keep costs down. And a big budget doesn’t guarantee wide TV exposure. “For every video you’d see on MTV, there were 10 more that didn’t make the cut, and that adds up to millions,” Mr. Lipman says.

Instead, labels often now focus on creating Internet-friendly clips that could take off as viral videos. They reduce budgets by shortening shooting schedules, using young directors hungry for work and often filming bands in front of a green screens, so that settings can be added later, rather than filming in multiple locations.

“I can say that a lot more of the money is going into low-fi production,” says Michael Nash, Warner Music’s senior vice president of digital strategy.

Directors, producers and musicians have responded to changing music video landscape in a variety of ways. Some have modified their production routines. Hype Williams, a music-video director best known for his big-budget videos for hip-hop stars like Missy Elliott and Busta Rhymes, says he’s reduced his typical video crew from about 40 members to about a dozen in recent years. He also now designs his videos to be watchable on small screens like video iPods. “In the last four months, it’s all been close-ups,” he says. “You have to think like that now.”

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