How U2 turns WHERE THE STREETS HAVE NO NAME into an event and PR stunt

It’s a beautiful, timeless song–one of my all-time favorites–by a beautiful, timeless band.

And they way they released this video helped make them breakout stars.

So what’s unique about this music video?

There are three main forms in this genre: (1) backup dancers galore, (2) mini-movies and (3) “the band plays while cameras roll.” Filming a band as they play, in a studio or a concert, is the most basic type of music video.

What U2 did that made this video go viral was simple and elegant: make it real while making people curious.

With a dance video, you know what will happen: singing and dancing.

With a mini-movie, there’s a little story, but it won’t last more than 3 to 5 minutes, and you know that nothing in the short bit of film will actually affect the real life of the singer and band members. There’s an extra layer of make-believe that creates distance. And there’s also the fact that few rock and pop stars are also great actors.

With “the band plays while cameras roll,” there’s a serious lack of surprise. They’re going to play a song you’ve heard on the radio. Maybe it’ll be in concert, maybe it’ll be lip-syncing on a Hollywood studio. That’s about it.

U2 created a public event–a free concert in a big city–and made you wonder: will the cops shut it down?

And you do wonder. It truly looks like the cops will shut this down.

This makes you root for the band. They’re trying to give fans something for free. People are coming from all over to listen while the police close in.

The structure of this lets this be a longer video, with more setup before the song, building up suspense before releasing it.

That’s what makes this so effective. There are heroes and villains, with the audience rooting for the band their fans against the authorities.

And nothing says rock-and-roll more than rebelling against the System with the amplifiers turned up to 11.

Verdict: I still listen to this song and have never gotten sick of it. Great band. Great song. Great video.

Housekeeping note: Redesigned the blog and went through just about every old post (400-some) to edit, improve or archive them. Shout if you have suggestions or ideas, and thanks for reading.

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