Music videos became famous in the early 80’s on MTV. Nowadays, music videos are more likely to be viewed on the Web. Seven of the top ten YouTube videos of all time are music videos – from the likes of Lady Gaga, Shakira and Justin Bieber. The increasing popularity of music videos online led the AP to proclaim that “watching music videos has become [a] central aspect of Internet usage.”

AP points to an experimental Web video by Arcade Fire, created using advanced browser technology HTML5, as evidence that the music industry is adapting to videos on the Web. In related news, according to online analytics firm comScore, MTV is now the number 1 music destination on the Web. So it too is evolving fast.

The Arcade Fire online video, developed in association with Google, was directed by Chris Milk. He’s an experienced director who has done traditional music videos for Gnarls Barkley, Kanye West and others. Milk told the AP that making music videos is changing: “really the Web is a totally different canvas from broadcast. It allows for a whole different set of rules.”

The video features real-time graphics rendering and real-world imagery from Google Maps satellite and Street View. It includes multiple windows, 3D birds and an invitation to write a note to your younger self at the end of the video.

MTV #1 With a Bullet, Online

Meanwhile, MTV is showing that it can translate its music television dominance to the Web. FastCompany reports the latest figures from comScore, showing that MTV has moved above Vevo and MySpace Music to take the number 1 spot in the online music category.

MTV’s traffic has increased 165% year-over-year, according to comScore. More than 53 million unique visitors went to MTV properties in August.

Vevo isn’t far behind, with over 49 million unique visitors. Vevo is a Hulu-like alliance between Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group and Abu Dhabi Media Company – with the videos hosted by YouTube. It’s worth noting that, unlike MTV, Vevo is 100% devoted to music. Just as it does on television, MTV’s online sites include reality shows and other non-music content.

However, MTV also includes more than just music videos in its music-related content. And that may be a key part of its online success. Van Toffler, president of MTV Networks’ music group, told Fast Company that “MTV is much more than just music videos: It’s performances, live streams, B-rolls, interviews, behind-the-scenes stuff.”

Your Current Favorite Online Music Video?

So the lessons in adapting music videos to the Web include offering different and interactive experiences (a la Arcade Fire), plus extras on the Web (a la MTV).

Let us know in the comments whether you’re an MTV, Vero or MySpace watcher online – and which you prefer. Also, what online music videos have you seen lately that have impressed you?

richard macmanus