You may ask yourself, “Is that really a hard question?” And you may tell yourself, “The first was VIDEO KILLED THE RADIO STAR, everybody knows MTV played that when it went live right after the Civil War, because Abraham Lincoln sent a telegram requesting it.”
Except all of that is wrong.
Some say the first real music videos were made in this place called Oz, a mystical land where every animal is poisonous. And there is good evidence for this, with Australian TV news staffer Russell Mulcahy shooting videos for local bands like AC/DC back in the ’70s, years before MTV went live.
So here’s a good contender:
However, there’s another video released around the same time–1975–that is a far better song, a song that’s massively famous and universally beloved. We’re talking BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY by Queen, and I could die happy if we settle on this epic as the First Music Video Ever.
Queen also had the first music video banned by MTV, which gives them 150,000,000 rebellious rock points, so let’s go with Queen.
Except that’s not really the first music video, not even close, because Bob Dylan was doing black-and-white music videos while inventing memes long before neckbeard edgelords were spending all their time learning the Adobe Creative Suite to make it to the front page of reddit with their HQ gifs. How do you pronounce gifs, with a G like it’s spelled or J like we’re talking peanut butter? I know the answer. Come closer and I’ll whisper it to you: “Gif is officially pronounced HOWEVER THE HELL YOU LIKE, because this is the dumbest controversy ever and I do not care one itty bitty bit.”
Here’s Bob Dylan doing his thing ten years earlier than Queen.
Okay then, we have a winner. Right?
It all depends on what your definition of musical video is, and how far you want to (a) stretch it and (b) go back in time and technology. Wikipedia lists all sorts of musical short films in the 1920s, along with musical shorts / teasers that ran before the film you paid a full nickel to watch. There were Soundies in the WWII years with short dance sequences set to music and stuff happening with jazz and funky things going on in France with alien jukebox video technology (actually not really making that up, go check it out).
I mean, you could go crazy going down this rabbit hole, which I will not do, because who will pay for my therapy?
HOWEVER: What we all should agree on is that VIDEO KILLED THE RADIO STAR is not really the first music video. At all.
It’s just the first one that MTV played.