As head of MCA Records' in-house music video department, Liz Heller has her share of headaches overseeing the million-and-one details involved in transforming a pop song into a slick video that hopefully will pique the attention of both video programmers and pop fans. One of Heller's biggest frustrations, however, has nothing to do with temperamental artists, tight budgets, crazy shooting schedules or the challenge of persuading jaded programmers and club veejays to actually play the finished product.
When it burst onto the pop scene in the early 1980s, the merger of music with visual images was hailed by the recording industry as a potent marketing tool and embraced with enthusiasm by a pop audience hungry for new diversions. Now, four years after MTV launched its 24-hour cable music video channel and countless video shows sprang up in its wake, video is no longer the intriguing new kid on the block. MTV now reaches 28 million homes; video shows now number somewhere between 100 and 110. Music video is now the status quo, subject to all the perks and pitfalls that go with more-or-less "establishment" status. The initial question about video--"Will it be a fad?"--long ago was answered with a simple, resounding no. Now, as video moves from infancy to the toddler stage, the questions are more complex and the answers aren't always easy ones.
Still, there are times when video's ability to launch a new act is undeniable. "Look at A-Ha," says Celia Hirschman of Vis-Ability, a West Coast independent video promotion company that works with record companies and groups to get their videos played on TV video shows or included in reels of clips compiled by the 15 major video pools (each of which services anywhere from 50 to 400 clubs around the country.) The Norwegian band, which came out of nowhere and now has a big hit with "Take On Me," was introduced to the public via an imaginative video that combined live action with comic book- style animation--a video which was released to clubs and television a month before the record was available in the stores or heard on the radio.