Lessons from Freddie Mercury: Why length isn’t always a turn-off for social video

Denis Crushell, MD international of social video intelligence company Tubular Labs, explains why creators need to be brave and steadfast in their convictions - just like Freddie

Creativity is undoubtedly subjective. Creators and their process are open to perception and critics who will take a swipe no matter the scale of your success.

Take Bohemian Rhapsody. Not the recent Rami Malek reimagining of Freddie Mercury and Queen, but the song from which the movie takes its name. Today it’s considered one of the greatest of all time. Yet music execs and fellow artists thought Queen and Mercury crazy for wanting it as the first single released from their A Night at the Opera album. Elton John, a friend, said: “You must be mad”.

Its structure was unusual. So many sections. So many key changes. But it was the length, that was considered the biggest barrier. Pop songs on the radio rarely ventured over four minutes in 1975, let alone approached six. There were exceptions, Hey Jude’s full length was over seven and Led Zeppelin’s 1971 Stairway to Heaven clocked in over eight, although it was never released as a single.

The norm was understood to be shorter. Freddie though was resolute. And he had a plan. From a marketing viewpoint, he played an absolute blinder by getting two jocks, either side of the Atlantic, to play snippets and steadily build interest before the record label had even agreed to release the song. Through Kenny Everett at Capital Radio and Paul Drew at RKO, the band had given their product an audience without yet having taken it to market. Genius.

With a video accompaniment to the song, Bohemian Rhapsody has been credited with helping pave the way for the modern day pop video.

Fast forward to 2018 and today videos have gone beyond the confines of the music industry. 18-24 years olds watch 22 hours of video content a month across devices. The channel is considered one of the most engaging. And predicted to account for 80% of internet traffic by 2021.

Instant gratification and shortening attention spans have been argued in the defence of short form content in online video. But our recent report found that in some verticals, videos over 20 minutes on Facebook are on the rise. For uploads of a news or political nature, there’s been a 22% increase to 4.51bn, marginally outdone by sports uploads which saw a 29% rise to 722m in the last quarter. Which may surprise some marketers.

But it’s not all World Cup and Royal Wedding viewing, as business videos across YouTube are up 23%. Look over to Facebook and that stat is even more impressive with an increase of 50% in the last three months alone. B2B is flourishing. Something to think about when you’re next told no one watches business videos.

Just as Freddie thought 40+ years ago. If you create great content people will stay engaged and love it, no matter its length. There are lessons too in building an audience to argue your point, in his approach to marketing the single.

It is also one of the most expensive songs recorded and took a month just to record the opera part, when that was the timing for most entire albums. The devil really can be in the detail.

But if you’re looking for inspiration of how to start your next video project, remember that there are people like Freddie, considered mad of his time, but later regarded as one of history’s best in their field. So trust your gut, be brave and to the man who created one of the only singles to reach Christmas number one twice, we thank you.

Denis Crushell is MD international of social video intelligence company Tubular Labs.


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