When Katy Perry's Roar video pops up on a mobile device, the lyrics are literally eye-popping as emoticons and vibrant neon colors flank the words dancing across the screen.
Roar has amassed more than 31 million views in three weeks and is an example of the trend of lyric videos that incorporate punchy graphics and fonts to present fans with the words to favorite songs.
Record labels are joining in: They're releasing elaborate lyric videos to hit songs from Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Selena Gomez and other artists weeks before launching "official" music videos.
Looking at the numbers, it's easy to see why.
This year alone, people have watched lyric videos more than 665 million times on YouTube and uploaded twice as many hours of content tagged "lyric video" as they did last year, says the site's head of culture and trends, Kevin Allocca. And while Roar's numbers continue to climb, Perry still has a way to go before catching up with Maroon 5, whose Payphone lyric video holds a genre record with more than 109 million views (trailing the single's live-action clip, which sits at 116 million).
"They've become so popular that it's not even a question if we're going to make one or not," says Trevor Kelley, head of global digital marketing at Disney Music Group. "It's something that the kids in these fan bases are making on their own or seeking out fairly regularly, so if you don't make them, a fan is going to."
Not only do official lyric videos build buzz for a single by generating conversation among fans (as John Mayer's prancercise-themed Paper Doll did this summer), they also help establish an artist's brand and generate revenue for record labels, says Billboard deputy editor Yinka Adegoke. But with the growing popularity comes higher expectations, larger production values and heftier price tags.
"We've had lyric videos shot that might as well have been a small music video," Kelley says. "There's a cast there, (food) service, multi-cameras, and it's a lyric video! It's gotten competitive."
In a sense, lyric videos are becoming the "new" music video: Families no longer sit around TVs to watch the most buzzed-about clips on MTV as they might have done 20 years ago, Werde says. Instead, lyric videos are designed for the new platforms on which audiences view content.
"Realistically, you put hundreds of thousands of dollars into creating a music video and largely, the majority of viewers are going to be watching it on 7-inch screens on their iPhones and Android devices, their iPads and PCs," Adegoke says. "Music videos then move away from being this kind of big event and are more about listening to the music on YouTube."
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