Lyric videos are animated music videos that showcase the words of a song, animated in time to the music. These can range from simple words on screen to fully animated and illustrated creations.
At face value lyric videos may be a simple concept, but it’s one that’s taken off on YouTube. They have become a popular genre for music labels, due to their constant need to produce more visual content for their bands and artists. If you haven’t yet heard of the ‘lyric video’ then clearly you don’t spend much time on YouTube! Search the words ‘lyric video’ and you’ll get about 72,400,000 results (including a couple of our own in the first page results).
Once the domain of fan-made iMovie or Windows Movie Maker slide shows. The lyric video has evolved into fully animated, highly styalised visual genre of it’s own. Go back to 2010 and you’ll find fan made DIY Karaoke videos like this…
But fast forward to 2017 and you’ll see professionally produced lyric videos, like the ones created by RMV Productions, are serious artistic contenders. They even command their own category at major international music awards.
THE ROLE OF YouTube
In todays music industry YouTube is as important as radio for the promotion and distribution of a record. It is by far the best way for artists to reach their fans with new music. But while most artists can’t afford more than one or two full videos per album. They know that all the songs from the album should be on YouTube. So many artists are now making lyric videos to promote many (in some cases all) of their songs.
For labels, it’s a way to keep people listening to the official product on a platform that would otherwise be flooded with unsanctioned alternatives. Lyric videos have become the standard video release to coincide with an audio track’s availability. For artists such as Katy Perry, her lyric videos generate more views than her higher-budget promos.
According to YouTube, since 2011, the number of views for lyric videos has increased seventy times. Top lyric videos now pull in over 700 million views per year! And year on year the number of lyric video uploads continues to double.
This simple track visualizer, (while technically not a ‘lyric’ video’) which we created for Calvin Harris, garnered 7million views on YouTube in the first weekend alone!
But it’s not just the big name stars who rack up the views. This lyric video we created for new pop-star Maty Noyes has a respectable 30k views and counting .
Gabrielle Aplin has over 300 thousand views for the video we created for her song ‘Miss You’.
And then at the top end of the scale you have the mighty Ed Sheeran, who of course has a whopping 200 million videos and climbing for Castle on The Hill.
THE HISTORY OF ‘LYRIC VIDEOS’
I’m sure many of us can remember pre-internet days as a teenager when we would read through the lyrics sheet which came with a CD or vinyl record. Our marketing manager Victoria reminisces; “If an album didn’t come with the lyrics I would hand write them while listening to a song over and over. It was always really annoying when there were those one or two words you couldn’t quite understand,” she said. “you wanted to know exactly what the artist was trying to say.” Fan-made lyric video’s populating YouTube are a modern day version of this. Fuelled by the fans desire to know and understand their favourite pop-stars songs. Gone are the days of enjoying album artwork and the lyrics within, but the lyric video has brought this fun part of the music industry back for modern fans in an online world.
While YouTube has played a big part in the rise of lyric videos, it’s technically not a new concept. George Michael and Prince both toyed with them in the 80s and early 90s, when they just didn’t feel like making music videos.
And going further back, there’s Bob Dylan’s iconic, homemade cue-card video for ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ from 1965.
The New York Times first picked up on the genre in 2013, commenting: “When Cee Lo Green’s popular song, the sometimes politely titled ‘Forget You’ was first released as a lyric video in October 2010, it was an early, bold entrant in the genre. Sharp fluorescent backgrounds and moving block type emphasized the song’s frank dismissal of a former loved one and helped catapult the song on YouTube. Since then, official lyrics videos have grown as creative exercises in using animated text effects and clever conceits to share a song’s meaning with its fans. Katy Perry has been a leader in inventively toying with lyrics videos. When she released the lyric video for her summer single, “Roar,” the screen displayed a scroll of animated text-messages matching both words and text-messaging icons to her verses.”
YouTube comedy channel ‘Key of Awesome‘ had their say on the genre with this hilarious parody lyric video. Making fun of the often ‘placeholder’ nature of lyric videos and giving a nod to the fan made versions and the music industries attitude towards them.
With the rise of lyric videos, motion graphics are now a big part of the visual world of music promos. It is now a regular occurrence to see lyrics and graphics appearing onscreen in many music videos. Check out the animated lyrics all over this video by Run The Jewels, and the illustrations all over this video by London grime artists WSTRN. Not to mention these early examples mixing video and motion graphics by Franz Ferdinand and Justice, and of course Bruno Mars’ simple yet effective new video for ‘That’s What I Like’
SO WHAT NAXT FOR THE GENRE?
RMV Productions creative director Pete says “I would expect to see more money invested in lyric videos with full 3D, highly polished and cinematic animations being created. And with advancements in VR I think we’ll be making 360 lyric videos very soon, as well as interactive augmented reality; fusing live real world video with digitally superimposed text”
The genre show’s no signs of slowing. Katy Perry is back with another quirky video from her new album and Ed Sheeran is releasing lyric videos for each of the tracks from his smash hit album ‘÷’ (Divide). Including three created by us!