Monday, 21 May 2012

'For media audiences, the internet has changed everything' Discuss. (50)

Since the internet came to prominence it has revolutionised all aspects of the media industry. The new technologies and opportunities introduced to us through the internet have transformed the way which media content is produced, but also the way in which audiences can view, listen to, and consume it.

Possibly the most influential new website which the internet and the web 2.0 era has produced is YouTube. After starting in 2005, YouTube's rise to popularity has seen it become the core of the internet's user-generated content. This website has revolutionised media sharing, and allowed audiences to at ease, view mainstream and amateur videos and music for free, while also giving audiences the opportunity to leave feedback and discuss the content in the comments section below each video. Wesch noted the way that audiences have formed online communities on YouTube, with the website providing them with a forum to communicate and exchange user-generated content as part of a participatory culture. This has also transformed audience culture as there is now an 'invisible audience'. This term refers to the fact that the audience for a video is not pre-determined and could potentially be viewed by anyone. YouTube has also had a massive effect on the way that music audiences consume media, providing users with the ability to find and listen to almost any song for free on YouTube.

YouTube is only one of many websites which has changed the way in which audiences consume music online. Myspace in the mid-2000's was also a big influence on the industry as many mainstream artists had a Myspace page to promote their music and offer samples, and many amateur artists used the website to get themselves noticed and signed. This has led to the creation of the 'long tail'. In this context, the long tail refers to how big labels can now supposedly make as much money by signing many genre-specific artists with niche audiences, rather than pouring all their effort and resources into a few major artists with mass audiences. Many still argue however that the latter strategy is more effective as artists with niche audiences do not benefit as much from aspects other than album sales, such as merchandise and tours.

Artists Found Through YouTube

Justin Bieber
Soulja Boy
Cover Drive
Esmee Denters

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

1B: Discuss the use of media language in one of your media products (25)

As part of our advanced portfolios, my group and I created a music video for the song 'I'm 17' by Rizzle Kicks. This video was a debut for our artist and therefore required a strong performance on screen. The genre of our video was urban and could be specifically classified as a rap/indie hybrid due to the use of rap vocals but an indie instrumental.

For a debut record it is important for the artist to receive maximum exposure from the music video. This is so that their image can be established and they become recognisable in the future based on this piece. To establish our artist's image camera-work was important. Our artist was the focus of the majority of our shots, including many close-ups to give everyone a good look at him, and to improve the effectiveness of the lyrics through close-ups of lip syncing. Goodwin identified the use of close-ups as a vital convention in music videos, and it is especially important in our genre as the focus is all on one individual and his vocals, with there being no other band members and no instruments used. We also used many mid-shots in order to show a variety of performance rather than just lip syncing. This included shots of our artist bopping humorously, interacting with the camera, and dancing his way down the street. We also used a close-up shot of his feet as he danced to focus on the elaborate movement he was making with this part of his body. With the amount of movement involved in the performance we also decided that camera movement was important. This led to the use of many tracking shots, most notably when our artist is facing the camera head-on as he walks through the park, and when he is being tracked from the side walking down the street. We also used pan shots during the recording booth scenes in order to keep them exciting and spice them up. The camera movement here, metaphorically kept the video moving with the pace of the song.

Editing went hand-in-hand with filming techniques in creating an effective video. With the songs uptempo feel, it was important that the video reflected that and conveyed the fun, upbeat instrumental and lyrics. Therefore the technique of our editing in terms of pace, would have to be similarly fast. This meant we used many short cuts, and had many different scenes and settings interlinking and being re-visited rapidly in a sporadic and unpredictable order and fashion, which we felt conveyed and reflected the hectic feel of the song. One key editing technique we used was the use of jump-cuts from long to short distances as if to increase the anticipation, and build to an explosive climax of the video, similar to a sudden dramatic zoom effect. This shows how we broke continuity rules, similarly to how our artist could be seen as a rebellious rule-breaker for example in the shot where he kicks a can while walking down the street. We also used many effects on Final Cut Express in order to add to the messages in certain lyrics. For example when our artist refers to being drunk we use an overlapping/double-vision effect as if the viewer is watching through impaired 'drunk' eyes. This shows the language of our editing in full force as it aids the communication of the lyrics to the viewers. Hall (1980) cited the fact that producers always have an intended way for visuals to be read; a preferred reading. In this case the preferred reading was that our protagonist is maybe mischievous for drinking, but it is all good-humoured and light-hearted. However an oppositional reading could be that we are condoning 'binge' drinking, however we tried to avoid this by not showing any particularly negative effects or consequences of our protagonist's drinking.

Our video's narrative followed no particular structure, but also played a key role in backing up the lyrical content. We only used narrative where we felt it specifically related to a particular line or few in the song. To exemplify this; there is a line which reads "6 o'clock already? get the booze in!" therefore we showed our artist bursting through his front door with a box of beer.

Mise-en-scene was also a key area in our video. The mise-en-scene creates a diegetic world full of connotations. These denotations are a signifier, and the consequential connotations are what is signified, for example the use of an urban setting connotes the idea that our artist is from a grounded, working background. We also showed this through our artist's dress code which portrayed that he was 'cool' and in touch with his youth culture, but by no means rich or flashy, therefore making him easy for our audience to relate to. One definition regarding semiotics was by Fiske (1982), who stated "denotation is what is filmed, connotation is how it is filmed". An example of this was when we filmed our artist dancing but used a hand-held filming method, to connote the up-tempo and unorganised nature of the song.

Overall media language was very important in our video as it performed the function of letting the audience get a feeling of how we wanted our artist to be portrayed, and how we wanted the song to be interpreted in a light-hearted fashion.

Monday, 30 April 2012

Henry Jenkins

1. What are Henry Jenkins’ ideas about how the media landscape is changing?

Spectatorial culture is giving way to participatory culture. Average citizens now have the tools to tell their own stories, rather than just the big bosses having the apparatus to produce media and tell stories. This is also apparent as tales which in the 20th Century were just told by big industries who had the rights to them, whereas now tales are re-told by anyone who can create videos on YouTube and other such websites.

2. What is ‘convergence culture’?

This refers to how media can be played across numerous channels and platforms now such as the internet and different websites, and all the different tools for viewing such as a phone, tablet or computer. The Wikinomics idea that we all contribute to create information rather than just using an individual source.

3. How are Jenkins’ ideas similar to those of David Gauntlett and Michael Wesch?

Jenkins' ideas are similar to Gauntlett's as they both note how citizens have the power to tell their own stories now and to contribute to a collective source of news, rather than just 'media Gods' contributing. Wesch's ideas could also be seen as similar to Jenkins' as he notes how the internet can be a forum for everyone to contribute and re-create tales with their own videos.

4. How might we disagree with Jenkins’ utopian ideas about the media? (Answering this question may require some independent thought – be very afraid.)

It could be argued that although everyone now has the power to produce and tell stories, it is still only the major industries who have a wide enough audience to have their views heard and taken notice of, because they are still seen as the dominating and most reliable providers of news and entertainment.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Discuss the extent to which the distribution and consumption of media has been transformed by the internet (50)

The internet has played a major role in revolutionising the music and entertainment industry since coming to prominence, and continues to change the way products are consumed and distributed.

The long tail theory suggests that the internet has significantly changed consumer habits as there is a more fragmented audience now whom are actively choosing what they want to listen to. This creates more niche markets and means that labels can now benefit more from signing many artists of different genres, than focusing on one mainstream artist and the coinciding mass audience. This means that the soncumer market is no longer dominated by only a few major artists as it was before the internet.

The internet has not only altered consumption, but distribution as well. Web 2.0 has offered a new forum for people to share and listen to music, through websites such as YouTube and Soundcloud. Gauntlett would note how anyone has the power to produce and share music for free now, whereas before it was only 'media Gods' such as labels whom held distribution power. This also gives the audience power to dictate the sound and direction of musical content rather than just established musicians. Wesch used the term 'prosumer' to describe consumers who also produce their own material on websites such as YouTube where everyone can take part in the two-way activity of producing and listening. This shows how the industry has transformed as it is not simply a case of there being producers and consumers, but there is now a middle ground where people can do both. Some people however suggest that this activity is exaggerated as in actual fact, some statistics suggest that 80% of the videos are produced by the same 20% of people, rather than it being a case of everyone equally contributing and consuming in a kind of 'Wikinomics' culture.

The term 'Wikinomics' was used by Tapscott and Williams to describe the culture of everyone contributing to build something completely (in this case a website such as YouTube, or indeed Wikipedia; the site which inspired the term). Not only do online communities help to create websites and forums, but also they can guide the direction of the consumer market. This is seen with YouTube features such as 'recommended videos'; a section which suggests more videos a user might like, based on what they have already watched. Curators also perform a similar function, as they wade through all the amateur to professional material which crops up online, and provide reviews and suggestions of which ones have real talent; as an obvious weakness of the simple nature of producing music now, is that even un-talented people have the same resources to upload their material. This is a more advanced version of the consumer industry we saw pre-internet when only mainstream professional music was reviewed, mostly in magazines which consumers had to pay for.

The internet has clearly aided distribution as it has become easy for people to consume music without even leaving their house, thanks to inventions such as online downloading on services such as iTunes. Although this is very practical there are negative implications; such as the fact that this has lead to high-street music shops losing profits, and some becoming extinct. The more high profile negative issue which has arisen here however is the way that music can be illegally distributed through torrents and other illegal downloading methods; which evade any method of payment to the creators or distributors of the music. This online piracy is the main reason cited for decreasing profits being made by artists, and is rapidly transforming the way artists make profits; with much more emphasis now on touring and other promotions rather than album sales.

Overall the internet has revolutionised the industry in every way possible in terms of consumption and distribution. Some of this revolution has had a negative affect on the industry; such as piracy, whereas some areas such as the easy nature of uploading material, has had a positive impact, as it is now much easier for amateur talent to be scouted, recognised or even signed. A recent example of a band being signed due to their online performances is the carribean band; Cover Drive.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

1B Audience Essay (Improved)

For my advanced portfolio, my group and I created a music video for the song 'I'm 17' by Rizzle Kicks. Our video is designed to appeal to a niche audience, of a specific age (late teens) and a stereotypically rebellious subculture. Musically, our video is designed to attract indie audiences as well as urban audiences as the song is a rap over an indie instrumental (originally by Arctic Monkeys). In terms of gender, our video is more orientated towards males, as they can better relate to the role and behaviour of the protagonist, as well as the fact that the music is sung by a male.

In the planning stages of our video we took inspiration from acts we consider to be similar to Rizzle Kicks. These included Ed Sheeran, The Streets and Wretch 32 as they are urban UK acts with a more alternative, fun and less agressive twist than most. We found that these artists managed to produce creative videos on low budgets, shot in similarly suburban settings, such as The Streets' 'Fit But You Know It' video and Wretch 32's 'Unorthodox' video. Similar settings to these which we used included the shots of our artist dancing and bopping as he goes down the street, and sitting outside a row of shops while rapping and looking away from the camera. We inferred that using similar settings would clearly define the genre and attract the desired audience as they relate to the visuals for being similar to visuals associated with other artists in this genre. Ang (1991) and Hartley (1987) noted that the audience is in the interest of the institution and it is therefore important for them to be able to visualise and cater for this audience when researching and planning.

Our audience not only played a key part in the pre-production but also during production. We used our audience as a reference for how well we were performing our task of appealing to them with our video. We did this by gaining feedback from our peers after creating our initial rough cut of our video. This allowed our audience to have an input on what they liked about the video, what they felt did not work, and what else they would like to see. We kept note of feedback on our blogs and then edited and reworked our video to fit the criteria of the feedback received, making the changes clear with each new version of the video we posted. An example of something we changed based on audience feedback at the halfway stage, is we included more camera interaction in the second half of the video, as the audience felt it added personality.

Another important element to think about is how the audience will interpret and react to what our video portrays. In our video we used shots of the artist underage drinking as we believe that teenagers will relate to this, and others will find it humorous. However this was a risk as if viewers have an oppositional reading they will see this as a message which encourages and condones underage drinking. To try and restrict the extent that the message could be interpreted in this way we limited the number of shots featuring this behaviour and tried to make them more humorous than serious and realistic. This humour is also a key gratification of our video, as it adds to the repeatability of the video, with our audience being more likely to watch it again in order to see the one or two specific humorous moments again, rather than if there were not any funny scenes included, or if the video was a strict narrative. These aforementioned more humorous and light-hearted scenes include the ones of our artist interacting with the camera, and the ones of him appearing drunk in the house while drinking beer.

It would be fair to say in hindsight that our video was built around our audience, and they were therefore an active audience, as their stereotypes and needs were catered for by our media, rather than us creating messages and feeding them to a specific audience.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Curation Video

1. According to this video, what was the music industry like in the 90s and how has it changed more recently?

In the 90's companies such as MTV and radio stations were extremely influential. Range of music was increasing and the industry was very competitive. The industry now allows more small independent labels to be successful and more acts to be found; mainly through the internet. The web allows musicians to take their careers into their own destiny.

2. What are curators (such as Pitchfork and Hypemachine)? What is their role? Why are they important?
Curators review music and their aim is to sort through the vast quantities of music and differentiate the good from the bad. Curators are important to guide consumers and let them know what is good and what is real.
3. How can you link what this video says about creativity (in video-making, in particular) to David Gauntlett's ideas and to the theory of the long tail?
Young amateurs have more creative freedom creating their videos as the ideas are their own and not influenced by others. The fact that they work in small groups help this as there are less range of ideas to incorporate, making the video more radical and less mainstream. This relates to the idea of the long tail as there are more radical individual acts appealing to niche audiences, rather than acts which are designed to appeal to a mass audience. There is now more room on the shelf with the new forms of distribution and creation; and more choice as a result.