tapehead | Monday January 24th, 2011
Douglas Rushkoff cited in his seminal 1994 book Media Virus that in comparison, the average length of shots in Hollywood narrative films had become markedly shorter in the wake of the music clip and its popularization through MTV. Some saw this as proof of the aforementioned phenomenon. A faster editing frequency doesn’t necessarily equal a shorter attention span, though, it’s just a different way of organizing visual information.
The internet equivalent of zapping – surfing and clicking on hypertext links (although less arbitrary, more interactive than zapping and demanding more coginitive effort) – and the proliferation of YouTube supposedly shorten attention spans even more. Until 2010, video uploads on YouTube couldn’t exceed ten minutes, which meant chopping up sitcom episodes into three, feature films into seven to ten installments. Concurrently, content created especially for web viewing clocked at an ideal length of one to two minutes. So where does that leave the four minute music video? Still a staple of all video sharing sites, of course, both in its official/professional promo clip and fan video modes. But bands and labels are also exploring shorter forms as well. The Los Angeles based visual content production collective Blip Boutique is creating one minute length films with strong graphics, concise stories and punchlines (and packshot at the end) to promote new songs and albums. Some especially noteworthy “blips” (as the shorties are known as) are for Elvis Costello, Robyn and the Beastie Boys. The Beastie Boys’ animated tour of NYC’s five boroughs could be an inspiration for something similar about Berlin’s “Kieze” (’hoods).
Blips do have antecedents, in TV commercials for albums. They range from the conventional (The Rolling Stones’ Goat’s Head Soup) to the sublimely absurd, like the advert below for Captain Beefheart’s 1970 album Lick My Decals Off, Baby.