Michael Bell-Smith

Michael Bell-Smith, Subterranean House (Oonce Oonce), 2007, still from a black-and-white video.

FIVE YEARS AGO, music videos were specific things you saw in specific places. Working with music video meant engaging a big-budget, commercially motivated form that was strongly tied to the cable stations (MTV, BET, etc.) promoting it. Artists could be complicit with this structure, intervene in it, work alongside it, parody it, or deconstruct it, but, explicitly or implicitly, these acts were always undertaken with regard to this highly codified commercial system. It was a stratified relationship.

Today, discussions of who has access to technology aside, that relationship is far more level. Music videos are no longer about MTV: They’re about YouTube. With the exception of certain pay-for-placement programs—a special fee gets your video into a “promoted” section, for instance—YouTube treats all videos the same, whether they’re from a label like EMI or a guy with a guitar

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