One of the major developments in the presentation and marketing of pop music during the 1980s, the music video or 'videoclip' presents a visualization of a pop song or (more rarely) of an instrumental performance. Generally of the same length as the song itself, the clip can employ a variety of representational or interpretive approaches, singly or in combination, such as real or mock ('lip-synched') performance footage, complementary story-lines, freely-associated images, and/or animation. The format has several possible antecedents, including the production numbers in Hollywood musicals, the films of Walt Disney (eg, Fantasia) and, in Canada, the animation of Norman McLaren.

Music videos were used by record companies in the late 1970s for promotional purposes, specifically to augment the public exposure that was available to their artists through live appearances. In 1981 the US cable channel MTV (Music Television) was inaugurated expressly to broadcast music videos. MuchMusic followed in Canada in 1984, and its French-language counterpart MusiquePlus in 1986. CBC TV has broadcast national programs devoted to music videos - eg, 'Good Rockin' Tonight,' introduced in 1983; 'Video Hits,' established in 1984; and the French-language counterpart 'Vidéo Club,' also established in 1984. Rare by the end of the decade was the newly released pop song that did not have a corresponding video for telecast use, and MTV, MuchMusic, and MusiquePlus rivalled radio as the medium in which hits were made.

By 1991 more than 500 music videos had been made in Canada with the financial assistance of VideoFACT (established by MuchMusic in 1984) or FACTOR. Record companies have routinely included in their promotional costs for each new release a budget (as high as $60,000 per video) for this purpose. The emergence in the mid-to-late 1980s of several Canadian pop stars (Glass Tiger, Corey Hart, and Mitsou among them) was assisted immeasurably by the parallel rise of videos.

Categories for 'best video' were introduced by the Juno Awards in 1984 and by the Felix Awards in 1985. The Junos have honored Corey Hart's 'Sunglasses at Night' (1984, directed by Rob Quartly), Gowan's 'Criminal Mind' (1985, Rob Quartly), Luba's 'How Many Rivers to Cross' (1986, Greg Masuak), the Parachute Club's 'Love Is Fire' (1987, Ron Berti), Blue Rodeo's 'Try' (1988, Michael Buckley), Andrew Cash's 'Boomtown' (1989, Cosimo Cavallaro), and Maestro Fresh-Wes' 'Drop the Needle' (1990, Joel Goldberg).

Félix Awards have been given to Michel Rivard's 'Rumeurs sur la ville' (1985, directed by Louis Saia and André Gagnon), 'Rock et belles oreilles' 'Le feu sauvage de l'amour' (1986, Michel Poulette), the Box's 'Closer Together' (1987, Sean Mark), Nathalie and René Simard's 'Tourne la page' (1988, Marc-André Chicoine and Pierre Savard), Luc de Larochellière's 'Amère America' (1989, Gabriel Pelletier), Laurence Jalbert's 'Tomber, tomber' (1990, Claude Grégoire), and Marjo's 'Je sais, je sais' (1991, Lyne Charlebois). MuchMusic and MusiquePlus introduced their own video awards in 1990.

Other Canadian directors of note include Don Allen, Alain DesRochers, Dale Heslip, Philip Kates, Michael Rosen, and Deborah Samuel. Some musicians have directed music videos, among them Doug Bennett (of Doug and the Slugs), Jean-Marc Pisapia (The Box), and Lorraine Segato (Parachute Club). The longer 'home video' format has been used to market collections of music videos (eg, Bryan Adams' Reckless, Rush's Chronicles) and full-length concert performances (eg, Triumph's Triumph Live at the US Festival and several by Rush).