One challenge of releasing a posthumous album is deciding how to create music videos; after all, the person who should be appearing in them is no longer available. This month marks the second anniversary of Michael Jackson’s death, but there was enough of his back catalog left unheard to release a second posthumous album.
So for the release of the “new” Michael Jackson single, “Behind the Mask,” Sony Music and the creative team at Radical Media decided to make it about the fans — literally, by constructing a video from 1,600 pieces of amateur footage, submitted by Jackson devotees.
This is far from the first crowdsourced music video: The collaborative elements of YouTube and other platforms have enabled these sorts of experiments since at least 2007. One of my favorite examples from that year is the video for Terra Naomi’s “Say It’s Possible,” edited together with contributed footage of people holding up cards, upon which they’d written their dreams.
But what’s innovative about “Behind the Mask” is that the challenge put to those who contributed was both far more structured and far more elaborate. At the official site, fans wanting to pay tribute to Jackson were given forty different suggestions for their video submissions. Options included singing the entire song from a specific camera angle, faking a saxophone solo, performing a signature Michael Jackson dance move or putting a fedora and sunglasses on a cat or dog.
These options were grouped into five categories — singers, audience, musicians, dancers and extras — ranked in terms of difficulty and accompanied by bare-bones animation demonstrations, filmmaking tips and technical specifications. Submissions are now closed, but you can still check out all the options here.
The video goes live on Facebook and elsewhere on Tuesday, June 14th, and while its effect on record sales might be hard to gauge, it makes for a fitting tribute to one specific part of Jackson’s legacy — the passion he inspired in his fans. People from over 100 countries contributed to the “Behind the Mask” video; he has 35 million Facebook fans. Two years out, Jackson still lives on.