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Streaming, TikTok, & the Demise of the Music Video

The rise of streaming platforms and short-form content has left the once-dominant music video in a state of uncertainty. Everyone's question is: Do they still hold the same sway, or are they destined to fade into obscurity?

Photo by Gordon Cowie / Unsplash

In the not-so-distant past, the release of a new music video was an event that had fans on the edge of their seats, excited to watch the next visual masterpiece from their favorite artists. Lady Gaga was reminiscing about those days even back in 2010. For instance, the release of her and Beyonce's music videos was truly seen as a "real, true pop event." However, as the music industry changes, the once-dominant music video seems to lose its luster. But what has led to this apparent decline in music video hype?

One major factor is the rise of streaming platforms. According to the IFPI's Global Music Report 2023, streaming revenues reached US$17.5 billion in 2022, with subscription streaming alone accounting for 48.3% of the global recorded music industry revenues. Recent stats by Statista show that the number of music streaming subscribers worldwide reached 713 million. With such a massive shift towards streaming, fans are more interested in instant access to music rather than waiting for the next big video release.

The numbers from the Internet Music Video Database (IMVDb) paint an even more telling picture of the decline in music video releases. In 2014, 10,158 music videos were released. In 2017—5,525. Fast-forward to 2022, and that number had plummeted to a mere 950. As of 2024, only 172 music videos have been released so far. This begs the question: Are fewer videos being made because there's less demand, or is there less demand because fewer videos are being made?

Arielle Harris, founder and talent manager at Relmore Entertainment, offers her perspective on the matter. "I don't think music videos are 100% necessary, especially given the age of social media and posting/sharing content all the time," she says. "That being said, I think they can be a huge differentiator for artists in a competitive market. They're still a means of creative expression and about allowing the artist to visually tell a narrative."

As Harris points out, YouTube remains one of the largest music streaming platforms, and long-form content like music videos can still contribute to an artist's success. So, while the days of the music video as the ultimate pop event may be numbered, it's unlikely they'll fade into complete obscurity.

Is viewership in decline?

Reddit experts add on to the uncertainty of music video prospects.  Some users argue that even popular artists struggle to achieve the view counts they once did, while others claim that "Music videos are a waste of time and money.”

“Old Town Road, a banger from yesteryear, hasn't even touched the billion-view mark," cries one digital oracle, voicing a sentiment echoed across countless threads. It starkly contrasts the days when Nicki Minaj and Katy Perry could effortlessly rake in millions of views with every visual release.

While we established that there are definitely fewer music videos being filmed, is the viewership decline one of the reasons for that?

Let's turn from the emotional abyss of online forums to the cold, hard data. To shed light on the current state of music video viewership, I’ve attempted to conduct an analysis of the most viewed videos of all time on YouTube. Using the Wayback Machine, I compared the view counts of these videos 30 days after their release, allowing for a more accurate comparison between older and newer releases. After all, you can compare the viewership of a video that was out there for 20 years with a clip that was released 1 or 2 years ago. Please note that I excluded lullabies and songs that weren’t properly snapshotted on the Wayback machine from the analysis.

Video Title


Release Date

Views (30 days)

Views (total)


Luis Fonsi




Shape of You

Ed Sheeran




See You Again

Wiz Khalifa




Uptown Funk

Mark Ronson




Gangnam Style






Maroon 5




Counting Stars






Katy Perry




Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)






Justin Bieber




Thinking Out Loud

Ed Sheeran





Ed Sheeran




Dark Horse

Katy Perry





Alan Walker




Girls Like You

Maroon 5




Lean On

Major Lazer Official




While total viewership is increasing over time, likely due to a growing audience and more widespread internet access, the initial growth rate of views varies significantly across videos.

For instance, Luis Fonsi's "Despacito," released in January 2017, amassed an astonishing 257 million views within its first month, equivalent to nearly 80% of the US population viewing the video at least once. Other notable examples include Ed Sheeran's "Shape of You" (158 million views in its first month), Wiz Khalifa's "See You Again" (192 million views), and Maroon 5's "Girls Like You" (240 million views).

However, when comparing these figures to more recent releases, some might argue that the initial growth rate for newer videos is generally lower than the peak performances from earlier years. But it's essential to keep in mind that these comparisons are based on linear extrapolations and may not fully capture the growth dynamics of the latest releases.

Take, for example, Miley Cyrus' "Flowers," which premiered in January 2023. In just one month, the video racked up an impressive 201 million views, securing its spot as the fourth most-viewed video in a 30-day window, behind only "Girls Like You," "Despacito," and Ed Sheeran's "Perfect." This clearly demonstrates that music videos can still rake on a huge view count. It just depends on the song.

Among some fresher examples 2024 releases, such as V's "FRI(END)S" (20 million views in 10 days at the moment of writing this article) or Natanael Cano X Oscar Maydon's "Madonna" (15 million views in two weeks), further support the notion that music videos remain a powerful tool for artists and the viewership is still strong. Or at least there is no clear trend proving its decline.

The cost of creativity

It's time to take a closer look at the economics behind the music video. If not viewership decline, maybe the cost can explain why there are few music videos being made?

The price for creating a music video can vary drastically, ranging from the bare-bones budget of an indie artist to the exorbitant expenses of a major label production. According to this Reddit thread a "very cheap" production can still run around $20,000, which is considered low-budget in the big leagues. This estimation includes expenses for pre-production (concept creation, storyboarding, casting, and location scouting), production crew (director, DOP, grip, gaffer, hair/makeup, set design, and production assistants), gear (camera, lighting, and grip equipment), and post-production (editing and VFX).

On the other end of the spectrum, some of the most expensive music videos have price tags that would make even the most extravagant artists blush. Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson's "Scream," released in 1995, holds the record with a staggering $7 million budget, equivalent to $14.25 million in 2024. The video currently has 158 million views on YouTube which raises the question: is the investment worth the return?

Another notable example is Britney Spears' "Work Bi**h," which was released in 2013 and cost $6.5 million at the time, equivalent to $8.66 million in 2024. The video has 385 million views to date, a significant number, but still far from the billions of views that some less expensive videos have achieved.

On the flip side, there are instances where artists have created impactful music videos on a shoestring budget. Hozier's "Take Me to Church," released in 2014, cost just over $1,700 (equivalent to $2,233 in 2024) and has garnered 818 million views.

Similarly, Fatboy Slim's "Praise You," released in 2010, reportedly cost a mere $800 (equivalent to $1,141 in 2024) and has accumulated 25 million views.

Overall, extravagant budgets can secure a spot in the annals of music video history, but the soul of a video—the story it weaves and the emotions it evokes—remains priceless.

So, what's the secret to creating a great music video without breaking the bank? According to The Knocks, an NYC-based electronic duo, it's all about working with people you love and trust. "We have found that throughout our career, working with people we love and trust has always been the best way to make anything, whether that's music, videos, artwork, etc.," they shared.

One of my favorite music videos of all time is The Knocks’ “Trouble.” And it was made on a shoestring budget.

“We love that video as well, and we made it with one of our long-time director friends Kevin Eis and his brilliant actor friends. "Classic" was made with our day one homies in NYC, "Ride or Die" was made through a mutual friend connection, "Slow Song" was made with Martina, who we met on one of our first-ever tours, and the music video was shot with our close friends Austin Peters and Erin Kennedy,” shared Ben and James from the Knocks.

According to Caley Rose, Billboard-charting singer & songwriter, expensive music videos do not feel like a good investment these days, especially for an independent artist.

“The great thing about this day and age of Tiktok and short-form videos, is that the nature of Tiktok videos is so much more casual and authentic in tone and production style, that highly stylized and polished music videos do not get nearly as much engagement as authentic content. Listeners and fans don't seem to want highly polished content. They want authentic content. They'd rather see the BTS, the sometimes messy reality, and artists singing in their PJs at home! It relieves a lot of the pressure of content creation as artists. I have firsthand experience spending thousands of dollars on a music video, only to watch it fall flat when chopped up into shorter content for social media.

On the flip side, there is a layer of credibility and professionalism that comes from having official music videos on YouTube and on social media. I had a radio station (Hits 96 in Chattanooga) reach out to invite me to perform at their summer kickoff show in 2022, and they specifically mentioned having watched and enjoyed the creativity of my "That Chick" music video, one that my co-creator and I professionally shot with an awesome team in LA. If I didn't have the credibility of that music video, who knows if the radio station would have taken me seriously.”

The future of music videos

As the music industry continues to evolve, artists are finding new ways to adapt to the changing landscape, particularly when it comes to the role of music videos. That’s why we see less “official videos” and more “visualizers” and “official audios.”

According to The Knocks, the shift from full narrative music videos to visualizers has largely been driven by economics. "The growing costs of materials, labor, set location, editing, coloring, stylist, hmu... essentially everything that goes into making a music video has increased substantially," they shared.

Simultaneously, there has been an undeniable shift from long-form visual content to short-form, with the type of content that "reacts" being a key factor in how artists allocate their marketing budgets. The Knocks noted that while a $40,000 music video might yield a handful of additional content pieces, an iPhone video of a band member lip-syncing to a song in the back of an Uber can consistently garner ten times the views across platforms.

“Now, we could argue that music videos outperform visualizers on YouTube, and that's why we shouldn't abandon the music video altogether, but that's just a singular platform with a fairly low monetization payout. The economics started to become undeniable, and we have seen our marketing budgets (and many of our artist friends' budgets) move from music videos to content creation, digital advertising, and influencer spending. We can't sit here and claim that's a bad strategy, but there's art that's lost in all of this. We aren't saying that short-form, bite-sized, in-your-face content can't be art, too, but as the landscape continues to shift at a head-spinning rate, perhaps the window will once again open and allow us to express our creativity the way we envision... because nobody wants to see The Knocks twerking on top of a garbage truck asking you to listen to a song called "Love Me Alive," told me the musicians.

One new strategy artists employ to maximize their music videos' impact is strategic timing. Arielle Harris, founder, and talent manager at Relmore Entertainment, explained that releasing a music video a few weeks after the initial single release can serve as an additional version of the new release, boosting streams and awareness of the song. "For example, my client Mistine released her single “IDEK” on March 1st, 2024. On March 15th, we released her music video for it. That 2-week window between the single and the music video allows for people to enjoy the audio, but then gain another way to “listen” two weeks later.  It usually boosts streams and awareness of the song again to fans and listeners.  Almost like a reminder that “hey I dropped this two weeks ago - you should listen to it again!" she said.

This approach can be seen in the recent releases of several high-profile artists. Ariana Grande's "We can't be friends" official music video got 37 million views in just a couple of weeks, while her lyric visualizer for the same song, released a few days later, got 1.5 million views. Similarly, Sia and Kylie Minogue's "Dance Alone" lyric video accumulated 1.8 million views in a month, while the official video, released a couple of weeks later, has already reached 1.5 million views at the moment of writing this article.

As Mark Allen, Co-Founder of Blossom Agency and talent manager at VITALIC NOISE, observed, "As short-form content continues its dominance in the social media sphere, musicians are increasingly allocating their content creation and marketing efforts towards that medium. However, music videos are still very much a piece of the equation for those artists who have a unique creative vision. Long-form video still remains an opportunity for artists to build incredible worlds and narratives that communicate that vision."

In the end, while the landscape of music videos may be changing, it's clear that they still have a role to play in the industry. By adapting to the new normal, whether through strategic timing, alternative video formats, or a focus on unique creative visions, artists can continue to use music videos as a powerful tool for connecting with their audience and expressing their ideas.

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