- In 1894 the nearest thing to music video was illustrated song. This was first used by Edward B. Marks and Joe Stern (sheet music publishers), who used a magic lantern to promote sales of their song. This involved projecting a series of still images on a screen at the same time as live performances.
- In 1926, many short films we produced as a result of the arrival of "talkies". Vitaphone shorts were usually approximately six minutes long and featured Art Deco-style animations and backgrounds in addition to a footage of the performer singing.
- In 1930 Spooney Melodies was the first true music video series.
- Cartoons in the early 1930s featured popular musicians performing their hit songs on-camera in live-action segments during the cartoons. The early animated films by Walt Disney featured several interpretations of classical pieces and were built around the music.
- Live action musical shorts were also distributed to theaters.
- Another early form of music video were "promotional clips" which were one-song films. They were made in the 1940s for the Panoram visual jukebox. These generally consisted of short films of musical selections, normally just a band on a movie set bandstand, made for playing.
- Musical films were another important step towards the creation of music videos, and several well-known music videos have copied the style of classic Hollywood musicals from the 1930s-50s - eg. Material Girl by Madonna was closely modelled on "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend" from the film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
|Scene from Madonna's music video|
|Scene from 'Gentlemen Prefer Blondes|
- In the late 1950s the Scopitone, a visual jukebox, was invented in France and short films were produced by many French artists to accompany their songs. Its use spread to other countries and similar machines such as the Cinebox in Italy and Color-Sonic in the USA were patented.
- In the UK, British TV show Top of the Pops began playing music videos in the late 1970s where a good video would increase a song's sales as viewers hoped to see it again the following week.
- In 1981, the U.S. video channel MTV launched, airing "Video Killed the Radio Star" and beginning an era of 24-hour-a-day music on television. As a result of this, by the mid 1980s music video would play a very central role in the marketing of popular songs. Artists of this period such as Madonna owe the majority of their success to the skillful construction and seductive appeal of their videos.
- There are two key developments towards the making of modern music video: the creation of relatively inexpensive and easy-to-use video recording and editing equipment, and visual effects created with techniques such as image composition. In addition to this, the development of high-quality colour videotape recorders and portable video cameras enable many pop acts to produce promotional videos quickly and cheaply in comparison to the higher costs of using film.
- In 1983, the most successful and influential music video of all time was released — the nearly 14-minute-long video for Michael Jackson's song "Thriller". The video set new standards for production, having cost US$500,000 to film.
- In 1984, MTV also launched the MTV Video Music Awards (later to be known as the VMA's), an annual awards event that would come to underscore MTV's importance in the music industry.
- Another important development in music videos was the launch of The Chart Show on the UK's Channel 4 in 1986. This was a program which consisted entirely of music videos (the only outlet many videos had on British TV at the time), without presenters. Instead, the videos were linked by then state of the art computer graphics. The show moved to ITV in 1989.
- Artist continued to explore other ways of presenting their songs through music videos for example the 1985 Dire Straits song "Money for Nothing" which used computer animation and also in 1986 Peter Gabriel's song "Sledgehammer" used special effects and animation techniques developed by British studio Aardman Animation. Both then went onto be hugely successful songs and the latter won nine MTV VMAs.
|Scene from Peter Gabriel 'Sledgehammer'|
- In 1988 MTV then began showing hip hop music in their new show 'Yo! MTV Raps'
- With the creation of the Internet, music videos are now shared online with viewers. In the beginning, the people who put them on the net were part of IRC-based groups who recorded them as they appeared on TV then digitised them, exchanging the files via IRC channels.
- The website iFilm, which hosted short videos, including music videos, launched in 1997.
- Napster, a peer-to-peer file sharing service which ran between 1999 and 2001, enabled users to share video files, including those for music videos.
- By the mid-2000s, MTV and many of its sister channels had largely abandoned showing music videos
- In 2005 YouTube was launched making the viewing of online video faster and easier; Google Videos, Yahoo! Video, Facebook and MySpace's video functionality, which uses similar technology. Such websites had a profound effect on the viewing of music videos; some artists began to see success as a result of videos seen mostly or entirely online. Other artists such as Soulja Boy Tell 'Em also achieved some level of fame initially through videos only released online.
- In 2007, the RIAA issued cease-and-desist letters to YouTube users to prevent single users from sharing videos, which are the property of the music labels. After its merger with Google, YouTube assured the RIAA that they would find a way to pay royalties through a bulk agreement with the major record labels.
- MTV now provides streams of artists' music videos, while AOL's recently launched AOL Music features a vast collection of advertising supported streaming videos.
- The Internet has become the primary growth income market for record company-produced music videos. More recently the iTunes Store has begun selling music videos for use on Apple's iPod with video playback capability.
- VEVO is a music video website launched by several major music publishers in December 2009. The videos on VEVO are syndicated to YouTube, with Google and VEVO sharing the advertising revenue.