A couple of weeks ago I read an article on PRNewser (via @mediabistro) about MTV and how it relates to music and entertainment today. The original article, titled “Is MTV still relevant?” can be found here. Ever since then – I felt like it would be the perfect topic for my first blog post on Project Quinn! Now for brief history refresher about MTV (i.e Music Television) read further…..
The first MTV broadcast was 8/1/81 – it was a musical revolution. A time where music was no longer just what was heard on the radio…..it was now seen! Musical artists were now forever judged on how they looked instead of just how they sounded. In fact, the first video EVER shown on MTV on 8/1/81 was appropriately The Buggles “Video Killed The Radio Star.” MTV became the first cable television channel to broadcast music videos 24/7 – all day/every day. A fun fact of trivia – the second music video on rotation after The Buggles “Video Killed The Radio Star” was Pat Benatar “You Better Run”
MTV ruled the 1980′s with catchy campaigns like “I Want My MTV!” featuring popular artists like David Bowie, Hall & Oates, Cyndia Lauper and Billy Idol as seen here from 1984. MTV was also responsible for breaking new artists such as a girl from Detroit known as Madonna – and breaking the racial barrier by airing music videos by Michael Jackson, Tina Turner, Donna Summer and Prince (“When Doves Cry” anyone?) Hip Hop artists like Run DMC and Beastie Boys were also in rotation – bringing Hip Hop into pop culture and the living rooms of middle America. As MTV entered into the 1990′s – it found great success breaking new artists with music videos and interviews on such MTV shows as Yo! MTV Raps, 120 Minutes, Headbangers Ball and Beavis Butthead – a few examples: Nirvana on Headbangers Ball in 1991 – feat. Kurt Cobain & Krist Novoselic and Soundgarden “Black Hole Sun” on Beavis & Butthead.
MTV also started the reality TV revolution with The Real World – a documentary TV series featuring seven strangers of different racial, cultural and life backgrounds. Most notably, a clip from season 3 (San Francisco) feat. Pedro Zamora: One of the first openly gay and HIV positive individuals in the media. Pedro, an AIDS educator, died in Nov. 1994 after the final episode of The Real World in San Franciso aired – he was 22. President Bill Clinton said, ["His legacy] was important … because not everyone had known somebody who died of AIDS, as Hillary and I had known. Not everyone was comfortable even talking about it, and he changed everything, at least for younger people.” While The Real World posed importance on culture issues, it also became the beginning of the end of MTV as Music Television. While the 90′s had TRL (Total Request Live) and pop-cultured shows as Celebrity Death Match, music videos were getting pushed out to only late night rotations Midnight, 1, 2, 3am and day time programming consisted of bad dating shows like “Next” and “Date My Mom.”
Where does that leave us? MTV in the 21st century now consists of reality TV with “Jersey Shore” “Teen Mom” and “16 and Pregnant” just to name a few. Scripted TV dramas have found success, like “Teen Wolf” and “Awkward” However, where is the music? Yes, music is still featured on these hit TV shows, but the programming is no longer dedicated to JUST music and breaking new artists. So much so, that MTV shouldn’t even be called MTV anymore (they actually changed the logo because of that – read here.) The fact MTV still has “Video Music Awards” seems a little dated. MTV is no longer the sole provider of music video watching and breaking new artists. The internet can showcase music videos everywhere + anywhere. In an interview in Forbes – EVP of Music & Talent Amanda Doyle said, “[MTV plans to] work collaboratively with platforms like these [Spotify, Pandora] to more effectively utilize technologies that have made the present day “the best time ever to be a music fan.” Examples of new projects and products include Artists.MTV, where fans can go to discover new music and buy tickets and merchandise.”
It’s important to note that Yes – MTV has branched out into sister channels like MTV2 and MTV3 (Tres – Latin artists) a slight shadow of what the original MTV used to be all about…..With all of that, I understand that MTV has to evolve as a brand. I think they’ve done an excellent job with sister channels and such. However, the original MTV is no more. There is so much competition on the internet and so many platforms to break new artists it’s really easy to question MTV’s place in the world – Is MTV really still relevant today?