Song Choice

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See also: vidding, songvid, Song Re-use
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Song Choice is a vidding term and usually refers to the pairing of the song and the fandom to create a transformative fan work called a songvid. Song choice can refer to either the music or lyrics or both. Most vidders spend considerable time searching for a song that expresses the narrative they are hoping to tell. However, some songs are chosen to evoke a mood or feeling.

Fannish Discussion of the Concept

In 2003 Vividcon hosted a panel about Song Choice. The panel description read: "You hear a song and instantly see a show or a character in your head -- but do they really fit together? Matching song tone and feel to fandom and vidstory, or finding the right fandom to go with that song you've been holding onto for three years, can take some doing. And will the rest of us, the viewers, agree with the vidder's decisions? What makes this song work for that fandom, or not?"

The panel was repeated in 2004: "What makes a song choice unexpected? What makes the unexpected choice work? and again in 2011: "Song Choice is considered by many to be the most important part of a vid. Of hugely popular music, why do some songs attract so many vids--in some cases over decades--where others rarely see a vidlet? Are all vids to the same song effectively the same vid or is there really an "ultimate vidsong" that can be made new with each new work? Join in as we explore these questions and more as we boldly go where many a vidder has gone before."

Perhaps the first panel on song choice took place in 1997 at Escapade 7. Sandy Herrold had this to say about the panel:
"I just heard from Megan Kent that Escapade is planning a panel on song choice for videos. Great idea! And got me thinking about songs for vids in general.

My problem is more, "I have time to vid, I have a show (or more) that I feel passionate about, I'm listening to my CD's and the radio non-stop, and yet, I can't find a song that works for my pairing."

In fact, I'll go out on a limb here and say, I think the harder it is to find a song for a specific pairing, the closer to unique (i.e., further from classic/stereotypical) their relationship is. (That doesn't mean that Classic 'paired heroes' is a bad thing for a show to have, of course.)

I have, for example, been having a hell of a time finding good Benny/Ray songs. In the more than a year since I fell *hard* for these guys, I've only done two songs, and I didn't really like either of them-I just couldn't think of anything better.

And the corollary is, the closer a character or pairing is to classic, the easier it should be to find songs for them. According to this theory, the character of Roger of Wiseguy must be a pretty darn classic fallen hero, considering the fact that though he's only in 10 or 11 episodes, 3 of the best 6 or 7 WG songvids (imo, of course) were done for him alone."[1]

Who 'Owns' A Song?

Historically, song choice was a proprietary and unique part of a vid, with vidders claiming a song which then could not be reused without permission or without putting a new and creative spin on the song. This worked while vidding remained a small and tightly knit community, but was abandoned when new technology and the Internet exponentially expanded the vidding world into infinity and beyond.

However, in a 1996 post to the Virgule-L mailing list titled "Unwritten rules, and the evolution of a consensus", Sandy Herrold explains how pre-Internet vidders approached song choice:
"Many years back in the age of songvids (after Kendra invented them, but before most fans had good equipment), a friend made a Pros vid. Another, better known vidder saw it, liked virtually all of it but thought the original vidder had "done some things wrong". So she made her own version of it. She used better equipment, but with the exception of 5-6 clips, made the *same* version. Consensus was just beginning to develop about such things as re-using other vidders songs (even in different fandoms), and there was certainly no 'rule' about such remaking. But in the uproar after that, most people decided that if you were going to reuse someone's song in the same fandom, you should put your own spin on it (use a different character's POV, something...), rather than just remake someone's work *while changing it to make it closer to your liking."

Examples of Usage

  • "I have to say that I was outta whack with the comedy show, and a lot of things the crowd thought funny just didn't work for me. I think it was song choice, in general, that was the main culprit..."[2]
  • "Certain elements of the vidmaking process have been elucidated more than others. Inspiration, for example, has been much discussed, as has song choice.[3]
  • "I thought this was a great song choice for telling that particular story, and seemed really appropriate for the spiritual elements of the show and the isolation of the main characters."[4]
  • "Song Choice: Beyond the obvious parity between the song's title and the show's time-twisty plot, it's an angry, intense song, with deeply meaningful, emotional lyrics that punch you right in the face. That... sounds exactly like the character of Derek Reese, to me."[5]
  • "Przed and I chatted about this vid before we got to Escapade. To quote Melina, when I think of LOTR I think epic music. And modern music has to work hard to create that epic feeling in me. So that made it almost impossible for me to overcome the song choice. But I found myself moved at the second half of the vid, when the focus narrows to the Faramir and Boromir relationship - always looking at the other brother, wondering why you feel inadequate. This made the POV shift at the very end very poignant."[6]


  1. posted to the Virgule-L mailing list in Jan 1997, quoted with permission.
  2. Vividcon 2002 Comedy Show (Rache review).
  3. ~tishaturk, Vids and composing processes, February 5, 2009.
  4. Killabeez's review of God Says Nothing Back.
  5. Killabeez's review of History of My Future.
  6. Morgan Dawn's Escapade 2004 vid show review posted to the Vidder mailing list in 2004.
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