Three Types of Music Video

Blog, Education, Music, Videos/Film

This is an article I first wrote in 2010, but as it was so popular, I decided to update it with more examples and some better explanations. I used to teach students music video production and as part of an introduction lesson I got them to learn and identify the three main types of music video. I thought I’d share this with with those of you who are teaching a similar topic or you are interested in creating music videos for yourself.

Performance Based Video

These are music videos that feature the artist/band/group performing the song through most if not all of the video. It’s probably the easiest to do on a budget provided you can get a suitable location for filming. A good example of this is would be ‘Best of You’ by the Foo Fighters. The video for this is mostly performance based with random video footage presumably licensed from elsewhere.

From a marketing point of view, this is one of the most popular types of music video as arguably it has the most entertainment value and allows maximum exposure of the artist. It’s also worth noting that performance videos are quite often merged with another type of music video to create a ‘hybrid’ (see below).

Other performance music videos worth watching:
Vanessa Carlton – A Thousand Miles
InMe – Underdose
Lil Wayne – Mirror
Narrative Based Video

A narrative based music video contains mostly footage that attempts to tell a story through the moving image. Usually involving actors, the story is sometimes linked to the lyrical content of the song, but this isn’t always the case. This type of music video tends to be popular for a song that’s featured in a movie and you will often see scenes cut into the music video. A good example of this is ‘C U When U Get There’ by Coolio. A good narrative based video to check out would be ‘Always’ by Bon Jovi.

Narrative based videos are more often than not, combined with a performance element. As you can see from the Bon Jovi video above, there are performance elements in it. Finding a purely narrative can be quite tricky, but there are some. Hoppípolla by Sigur Rós (below) is purely narrative. In fact, a lot of Sigur Rós videos are.

Other narrative music videos worth watching:
The Shins – Simple Song
Metallica – All Nightmare Long
Concept Based Video

This is a style of music video that is based around a single concept or idea. These types of videos tend to be fairly unusual or utilize a particular editing or filming technique. It’s not often you get a purely conceptual music video as the commercial world demands things to be a bit more accessible but a great example is ‘Monkey Drummer’ by Aphex Twin. Check it out below.

Other concept music videos worth watching:
The Chemical Brothers – Star Guitar
Portishead – Only You
Hybrid Video

Most videos however, aren’t so clear cut as to have one set type. Usually videos will incorporate a mixture of these elements such as a performance by the artist alongside some narrative footage. To demonstrate this I usually think of ‘Black or White’ by Michael Jackson. The first part of the video is a narrative, followed by a performance segment then a conceptual section where the faces of different people change from one to another.

A really good example of a performance/concept hybrid would be Knives Out by Radiohead.

The song Wide Awake by Katy Perry is a mixture of performance and narrative.

And finally, People Help the People by Cherry Ghost is a mixture of narrative and concept.

The following resources may be helpful to you if you are studying music videos:

4 thoughts on “Three Types of Music Video

  1. i just want to say that the monkey drummer video is one of the finest artistic masterpieces i have ever had the pleasure to witness


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s