MTV killed the video star

Feb 022006

On August 1st, 1981, with the words "Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll," MTV (Music Television) launched. The introduction was followed by the music video "Video Killed The Radio Star" by the Buggles. After its initiation, MTV developed into a major presence in cable television and American pop culture.

The key to MTV's viability, at the time, was the availability of cheap programming in the form of music videos. Presently, however, the network's ideals are quite different than twenty years ago.

With the current line-up of shows on MTV totaling 59 different programs, the network is proving now more than ever that MTV is not really about the music at all. I will admit that I have watched at least 45 shows on the channel. For me, and I bet a large population of CSU students, my intentions of tuning into MTV are rarely related to music as they might have been in the '80s, which is unfortunate.

Quoting Billy Joel, "I think music in itself is healing. It's an explosive expression of humanity. It's something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we're from, everyone loves music."

The concept of a network completely focused on music and music videos, is obviously appealing to a very broad general audience. In fact, MTV is the top-rated network in its target market of 12- to 24-year-olds. However, airtime on MTV is no longer dominated by music, but by reality shows.

Even the most ardent MTV hater can admit that the network is remarkable at relating to the current interests of teenagers and college students. As I flip through the channels after arriving home from a long day of classes, I tend to stop on MTV for at least one half-hour show, and will end up watching an entire marathon of "Cribs," "Viva La Bam," or "The Real World."

Music is a quintessential aspect of my life, without it I would literally go crazy. I remember almost three years ago going to a small concert in Boulder with some friends to see a couple of bands of which we had never heard. There were no more than 25 people at the small bar/venue. The second band was the now popular Chicago soft-core punk band Fall Out Boy. I instantly fell in love with this band and have been a die-hard fan ever since. As Fall Out Boy gained popularity nationwide I, as well as the majority of the preexisting fans, stood behind them.

Fall Out Boy was recently nominated for the best new artist Grammy award, and also won the MTV2 award during the 2005 MTV Video Awards. Because of MTV, Fall Out Boy has sold more than 1 million copies of their latest album, "From Under the Cork Tree." You may have seen their debut video (more like the 30 seconds of the video they show on TRL) "Sugar We're Going Down" or the latest hit "Dance, Dance."

MTV undoubtedly can boost the careers of artists today. With that however, the music is compromised and the main focus becomes the visual or sexual appeal of the artists. Britney Spears would most like not have been as popular during the radio era, where talent determined your fame, not your sex appeal.

It is sad the industry has changed so dramatically, and the music business is no longer really about the music but about the business. In my opinion, MTV should not be considered music television, because the majority of the programming has little or nothing to do with music. Still, I am not saying that I don't fall victim to MTV's surprisingly addicting shows.

One can't deny the fact that MTV is an extremely successful and popular network. On the other hand, it is undeniable that the network is completely targeted toward youth and specific societal groups, which significantly narrows their audience.

Music never dies. If MTV were to refocus their programming solely on music of numerous genres, instead of the top 20 hits you always hear, they would more than likely gain a large audience that would never initially tune into MTV.

Erin Aggeler is a sophomore open-option seeking technical journalism major. She is a designer for the Collegian.


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