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Sunk Costs and Karaoke Videos


—Okay, I like this idea of taking karaoke out of the nighttime snack bar and putting it into “boxes” all around the country. Like a franchise.
—Right. I think it’s going to be big.
—One little question though: what are we going to do about the visuals?
—I mean, the rooms are going to be all colorful and fancy and loud, and then you’ll look at the screen…
—The screen and…
—Yeah, and it will just be text on black.
—No, no. We are going to make videos for the songs.
—For each song? There must be like… 5,000 songs out there.
—No, no. Not for each song. Like we will make, I dunno, 100 videos. Maybe 200 over time, and they will be attached to the songs in a pattern so that you never really see repeats.
—But they won’t fit with the theme of the individual songs.
—Who cares?
—I dunno. If it’s a song about the sorrow of losing one’s love while fishing, you can’t have some guy playing guitar in Washington Square Park.
—Washington Square Park! I love it.
—No, you can’t do Washington Square Park.
—Not for that one. But we could probably use that for a lot of videos. No, no. We will have “sad” videos and “happy” videos.
—But we are going to have to replace these videos all the time. Like very few years or so when the styles get outmoded.
—Nah. No one will care.
—What do you mean no one will care? Stuff from five years ago looks ugly and old.
—Look. We live in the richest and therefore best period in Japanese history. No matter what happens, these videos are going to look great forever. And if they look terrible in a few years, we will be so rich that we’ll just make new videos.
—I just can’t imagine someone in 2007 singing some 2006 song with a video from 1989 in the background.
—I can. 1989 will look great by then!
—I’m sorry?
—That’s 18 years from now. Think about 18 years before now. 1971. That’s a classic year. I would happily sing songs to videos from 1971.
—I am not sure you could fit an Onyanko Club song to a video from 1971.
—Ha ha. You crack me up.
—No, seriously, these videos…
—They’ll be expensive. There is already a significant capital outlay for the real estate and construction…
—No they won’t be expensive. They’re a sunk cost. We make 200 of these things, shoot a bunch of random footage in New York and San Francisco on BetaCam, and we can use these forever.
—I can’t imagine you’ll be right, but…
—But what? We’re the industry, and if we are still saying in 2007 that videos from 1989 are what you should be singing to, we will be right! TV won’t even be 2-D anymore by then. I don’t see why you are worrying so much. There probably won’t even be a Washington Square Park. People will want to remember what it looks like.

Marxy wrote a lot of essays back on his old site Néomarxisme. This is one of them.

24 Responses

  1. Adamu Says:

    Am I the only one who hates the trend of using the *actual* PVs for videos of new hit songs? Those insane Washington Square Park/Streets of Paris/women longing for their loved ones in frizzy 80s hair videos make me feel warm and fuzzy inside.

  2. carolalotta Says:

    i also like singing 99 luftballons whilst looking at washington square park and someone walking their little dachshund, what a feeling of history. i wouldnt have it any other way.

    marxy, i m happy to see what some weekends can trigger off.

  3. marxy Says:

    Besides throat soreness and hangover, of course.

  4. Rory P. Wavekrest Says:

    I’m with you Adamu. The videos are there to be ignored or preferably ridiculed.
    The only actual PV that should be shown is when DJ Eaaassssydick sets shit off with:

  5. lauren Says:

    Yeah, I kind of like the videos. No, they aren’t *good*, but whatever, neither is my singing. Me and the video people – we are being cheezey amatures together! Dreaming of being pros – some day!

  6. Duffy Says:

    “The only actual PV that should be shown is when DJ Eaaassssydick…”

    I don’t know about *only*, Rormeister, because I am seriously digging Jan Terri’s slick production work here:

  7. Chris_B Says:

    marxy, you forgot the stock footage of London.

  8. r. Says:

    Bravo! Bravo!

  9. andrew Says:

    This is spot on. It’s like singing Velvet Underground’s “Sunday Morning” to a video of a man in the woods with a mushroom cut and a sword and a women blowing bubbles. That actually happened by the way.

  10. Karla Says:

    When my friends and all did all night karaoke we ended up laughing at the videos more than anything. Kennedy’s eternal flame would show up at the oddest moments, and another video featured two claymation dinosaurs kissing (and more) before one devoured the other.

    For songs like Hirai Ken’s Pop Star though, sometimes the actual music video would win out.

  11. lauren Says:

    From Jan Terri’s wikipedia entry from right now:

    “Rumors have been going around since 2003 that Jan Terri has been having an intimate affair with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles expert, Edward Dahl. This is false, as she only likes him as a friend. When asked to comment on the affair, Terri explained that she “has nothing to do with Naruto fans.” Also, there are rumors of an affair with Ryan Roach, or “Kooga” of the band Naked Weapon. They met on the “Never Never Tour.” While Jan has publicly denied this affair several times, Kooga maintains that this is correct.”

    I should say that I had to look up both the videos that Rory and Duffy posted because I was unsure what the fuck was going on. And they are not fake/jokes??? If wikipedia says it it must be true!

  12. Joseph Says:

    My favorite is 2 Live Crew with white text on a blue screen (at the Pasela chain), as if no 80’s background of people sitting on a bench at the edge of the water could even do the song justice.

  13. Adamu Says:

    Man that Jan Terri thing is horrible. In a less technologically advanced world her work would have stayed under the radar and Terri could have her dignity at least. But now she’s on YouTube to be everyone’s laughing stock. I feel kind of ashamed.

    Still, that Losing You video actually does look a lot like those karaoke videos.

    Also I think the only karaoke machines that would have this song are in heaven.

  14. Duffy Says:

    It’s true that Jan Terri’s video does not represent the medium at its zenith, but there is something hypnotic and compelling about the whole affair, just as with bubble-era karaoke videos.

    It’s so heart-rendingly earnest that to mock it feels like a cheap shot. For example, I would never say that Jan looks like the bastard child of Elmer Fudd and Divine. Or that her lip-synching skills are nearly as bad as DJ Eaaassssydick’s.

    That just wouldn’t be cool.

  15. marxy Says:

    J. Terri is no D. Blaze.

  16. Duffy Says:

    “J. Terri is no D. Blaze.”

    (loyal reader scrambles to Wikipedia, reads a bit about this “Blaze” character, checks out a vid, tries to think of a clever, knowing comment for Neomarxisme, but can only manage…)

    The Blaze-man never opened for Marilyn Manson.

  17. Chris_B Says:

    I have no idea what y’all are talking about, but “Jan looks like the bastard child of Elmer Fudd and Divine” made me blow coffee through my nose with laughter.

  18. Rory P. Wavekrest Says:

    Ah, Jan Terri! That song is thoroughly burned into my brain from repeated playings of the TV CARNAGE discs.

    But it doesn’t come close to this sweet beauty… “Break it Up” by Carl Lewis (yes, that Carl Lewis).

    I *thought* it was Carl Lewis & The Electric Heat (No, the other Electric Heat), but can’t corroborate that band name now. If anyone has this 12″ let me know.

  19. Rory P. Wavekrest Says:

    Lauren, You know not of the G-Funk era.
    (…funked-out with a gangsta twist…)

  20. Duffy Says:

    I wonder if William Gibson still loves Marxy?

  21. marxy Says:

    Ask my Marketing Manager. I just write here.

  22. lauren Says:

    It’s true, Rory – I concede. For what it’s worth, I was born in ’85 with no older siblings.

    Besides, now with wikipedia I can just *read* about stuff without actually experiencing it and it’s the same thing, right, kids??

  23. Rackham Says:

    The London/Washington/Paris/San Francisco stock photage is only used for foreign songs though, didn’t you notice? The Japanese songs get pretty decent videos with actual humans looking sad or happy or whatever (and the videos are definately not 20 years old), and actual PV’s are really common, aren’t they? Or are you too much gaijin to sing the Japanese songs? :P

  24. Rory P. Wakekrest Says:

    Well, the name of me and Marxy’s rap duo is actually “2 Much Giajin.”