Today In Madonna History: March 17, 1999

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On March 17 1999, Madonna won Best Dance Artist – Solo and Best Dance Video (Ray Of Light) at the 14th annual International Dance Music Awards at the Winter Music Conference in Miami, Florida.

Today in Madonna History: November 27, 1999

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On November 27 1999, Madonna: The Video Collection 1993-99 hit #3 on the Billboard Top Music Videos chart.

Heather Phares from Allmusic gave the release five out of five stars and said:

Madonna’s Video Collection: 1993-1999 adds to her status as one of the best represented artists on DVD. Though it doesn’t offer much in the way of DVD-specific features, the artistry of directors like Mark Romanek, Stephane Sednaoui, David Fincher, Jean-Baptiste Mondino, as well as Madonna herself, is on full display with videos like ‘Take a Bow’, ‘Bedtime Story’, ‘Human Nature’, ‘Frozen’, and ‘Ray of Light’. All in all, it’s a worthwhile collection of memorable videos from one of pop’s trendsetters.”  

Today in Madonna History: November 14, 1998

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On November 14 1998, Madonna was the subject of a press conference at the Grand Hotel in Stockholm, Sweden – her first visit to Sweden in 8 years.

Today in Madonna History: November 2, 1999

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On November 2 1999, the Madonna: The Video Collection 1993-99 was released on home video and DVD.

Madonna: The Video Collection 1993-99 was released as a collection of Madonna’s favourite videos from 1993-1999. The collection contains 14 videos: Bad Girl, Fever, Rain, Secret, Take A Bow, Bedtime Story, Human Nature, Love Don’t Live Here Anymore, Frozen, Ray Of Light, Drowned World, The Power of Goodbye, Nothing Really Matters, and Beautiful Stranger.

Today in Madonna History: September 10, 1998

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On September 10 1998, Madonna performed Shanti/Ashtangi and Ray Of Light at the 15th annual MTV Video Music Awards at the Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles, California.  Ray Of Light won Best Video, Best Female Video, Best Direction (Jonas Åkerlund), Best Choreography, Best Editing and Frozen won Best Special Effects.

Today in Madonna History: June 23, 1998

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On June 23 1998, the music video for Ray of Light was released by Warner Reprise Video as a limited edition video single of 40,000 VHS copies. It sold 7,381 copies within its first month of release, becoming one of the best-selling video singles of the Nielsen SoundScan era. Madonna’s previous video single release, Justify My Love, which predated SoundScan, was certified quadruple-Platinum by the RIAA (for shipment of over 200,000 copies).

The reason behind Ray of Light being issued as a video single were twofold. Madonna was very pleased with the outcome of her first collaboration with director Jonas Åkerlund and her record company felt that there would be enough interest to warrant its commercial release. Secondly, Warner’s marketing team correctly sensed that the song’s then-experimental sound would be a tough sell at radio, so the decision was made to pull out all the stops to ensure the release outperformed on the sales chart. Another prong in this strategy was the inclusion of album outtake Has To Be as the b-side to the two-track single, while excluding it from the maxi-single in an attempt to persuade fans to purchase the single in multiple formats. The strategy proved successful, with the song’s number-five debut and peak on the Billboard Hot 100 mainly due to its sales strength. According to Billboard, the music video single boosted its first-week sales by roughly 7%, helping it to secure its place in the top-five.

Shortly after Ray of Light‘s release as a video single, Billboard magazine published an article musing on whether renewed interest in the relatively obscure format could ever prove lucrative for the music industry. A video buyer for a major retail chained remarked:

“Madonna’s Ray of Light video single is a success because she has a fervent fan base. There are very few artists with videos that consistently get people’s attention, but Madonna is one of those artists. It’s too early to tell if there’s a true market for video singles. Right now, it seems like record companies are trying video singles to see what happens. I think we’re going to see the lines becoming more blurred in how audio and video singles are marketed.”

Indeed. Within the next five years (and two Madonna video singles later), the emergence of online file sharing would obliterate the physical singles market in North America, and video streaming sites would soon spell an end to the prospect of marketing music video singles as a physical format. In digital form, however, music video singles may be selling in larger numbers than ever due to increased availability through iTunes. Strangely, however, sales of music videos through iTunes are not reported to Billboard and no longer count towards a single’s chart position (reportedly due to iTunes’ monopoly on digital sales of the format), while streams of music videos through sites like YouTube and Vevo are used in Billboard’s chart methodology.

Today in Madonna History: June 20, 1998

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On June 20 1998, Madonna’s Ray of Light became the #1 dance single on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Songs chart. The hit single remained #1 for 4 weeks!

Ray of Light was written by Madonna, William Orbit, Clive Muldoon, Dave Curtiss, Christine Leach, and produced by Madonna and Orbit.  Ray of Light is based on Curtiss Maldoon’s Sepheryn.

“It took a long time to do the album, months. And it wasn’t like we were slacking. We actually did have to work fast, and there were many times when we had to move on. One of Madonna’s favorite phrases was: ‘Don’t gild the lily.’ In other words, keep it rough, and don’t perfect it too much. It’s a natural urge for computer buffs to perfect everything because they can, and we were very wary of that.”

—William Orbit on working with Madonna; Keyboard magazine
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