My artists and filmmakers lose sleep over small budgets and the problems having limited funds entail. How many wild visions had to be drastically cut down after coming head to head with austere production realities! Often enough, however, it’s not money that’s the problem, but a lack of an interesting idea. Efforts underpinned by an original idea demonstrate considerably greater staying power—and the notion holds particularly true for music videos. Many have made quite the splash despite their limited budgets. Let’s take a look at some of them below.
Gotye - Somebody That I Used to Know
We’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t know the video in question. The international chart breaker, which grew so popular in 2011 that you could easily expect it to play when you opened your fridge, was accompanied by a music video that pulled in over a billion views on YouTube, its original visuals long outlasting the single’s overnight popularity. In the video, a naked couple is singing the lyrics, “clad” only in the colors of the backdrop behind them—a visual metaphor for the complicated relationship between them. Notably, Gotye himself financed the production and, in an interesting twist, never allowed YouTube to place ads on the video, thus depriving himself of at least a couple of millions of dollars in ad revenue.
Keaton Henson - You Don't Know How Lucky You Are
Keaton Henson is kind of famous for making videos for pennies. The small budgets, however, in no way temper his ability to infuse the videos with rich symbolism and his distinctive sensibility. One example can be found in his music video for You Don’t Know How Lucky You Are—which tells the story of a woman, hurt and vulnerable, who exposes her emotions to give us the opportunity to experience them alongside her. Bolstered by incredible acting and augmented by Henson’s music, the video is quite the experience.
OK Go - Here It Goes Again
Music videos do not necessarily have to have multiple layers of meaning. Sometimes it’s enough for them to be amusing—at least that’s what the musicians OK Go decided to go with when they set out to record one of its music videos at the gym. Doing choreography on an electric treadmill? Why not. The video itself took the online world by storm and won a Grammy for the best music video in 2006 and an award from YouTube for the most creative use of the video medium.
Bob Dylan - Subterranean Homesick Blues
Well, it seems that Bob Dylan was the one who came up with the lyric video genre. In the music video for Subterranean Homesick Blues, Dylan himself is standing in front of the camera and flipping through cue cards covered with the song’s lyrics. Many of the cards have spelling errors or misplaced lyrics—a deliberate move on the part of Donovan, Allen Ginsberg, Bob Neuwirth (the latter two can be seen in the background), and Dylan himself. The groundbreaking music video even found its way into the top ten of Rolling Stone’s 100 Top Music Videos List.
The Black Keys - Lonely Boy
Who would spend three minutes of their lives looking at a middle-aged man dancing? Nearly 100 million people, as the video for The Black Keys’ Lonely Boy made plain enough. Interestingly, the band shot an entirely different video for the song (featuring over 40 people), but were ultimately dissatisfied with the end result. Derrick T. Tuggle, the sole actor in the new version of the video, met the group somewhat by accident—but his dance performance was seen over 400,000 times within twenty-four hours of the music video’s release.