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Music Landscape - MTV (Then and Now)

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Posted: Thursday, April 19, 2012 10:42 am | Updated: 11:05 am, Thu Apr 19, 2012.

Music Television (MTV) was launched on Aug. 1, 1981. Long before the evolution of internet or computers as we now see them today. MTV quickly emerged as the primary source to watch music videos. It was a channel that revolutionized television and changed the music industry forever. Before MTV, people had a much lesser idea about the visual aspects of the artists they listened to. The only way a listener could see an artist was to purchase tickets to a live show or stumble across their pictures on a cd cover booklet, magazine, or vinyl gatefold. This would soon change as MTV was able to utilize television to put the artists in broad daylight for the viewing public. "Video killed the radio star" was the phrase of the time, as the appearance of the artist quickly began to take a bigger role in the music industry. Popular music itself began to change, because people not only wanted good music, but also attractive people playing it. This has always been true, but MTV brought physical appearance to the forefront of the music industry.

When MTV was launched in the early 80's, it was a twenty-four hour channel for music videos. It was simple and straightforward. MTV stood for "Music Television" and that's exactly what it was. In between music videos, video jockeys would briefly discuss the artist before playing videos. Nina Blackwood, Mark Goodman and others were among the first of these video jockeys that started a trend that MTV would continue for years to come. As MTV began to grow in popularity they continued making slight modifications to their content while still retaining the original format. MTV news updates began to run for short segments in between videos keeping viewers informed about new developments in the music industry. Before long TV shows began to appear on MTV, Yo! MTV Raps, 120 Minutes, and Headbangers Ball sparked this change as MTV began experimenting with programs that would allow them to organize music videos into different genres. It wouldn't stop there however, as MTV would continue to find ways to push the boundaries of music television

In 1993 the cartoon Beavis and Butthead began to be featured on MTV. The cartoon featured two teenage typical teenage boys raised without parents. The 30 minute long cartoon documented two typical teenage boys and their daily lives interrupted by segments of the two doing commentary on music videos. The show caused much concern with many who disapproved and found the show more repulsive than humorous. Despite this, the show became a huge success before going off the air in 1992.

The transition from the 80's to the 90's sparked a rise in directors seeking to take music videos to a whole new level. Many of the music videos produced were quite simple, overt time quality improved with the technology and music videos became one of the largest ways to promote a band's material. By the early 1990's metal had died and alternative and grunge bands began to make up the mainstream music. Music from the likes of Alice in Chains, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and others began to bombard television screens across the states. But by the late 90's, MTV began to fuel the emergence of pop in mainstream culture. Graced by the presence of emerging pop sensations like Brittany Spears and Christina Aguilara.

As the early 2000's rolled around, MTV began experimenting with reality TV. A campaign that proved to be very successful. The Real World was among the first of these shows. The format consisted of pairs or teams that would compete against each other in challenges to win various prizes. The shows continued with Jersey Shore in 2009 which covered the party lifestyle of a group of people living in one house on the beach. With cameras located throughout many locations in the house, characters are filmed on supposed "hidden cameras" and then interviewed about the events creating a semi-fictional drama that hooks the viewer. MTV through the years began pumping out reality show after reality show as the credibility of the channel began to go down for music lovers like myself. Jersey Shore is now reported to be the most viewed MTV series in the channel's history following the airing of the third season.            

The network has seemed to isolate many of its initial fans to support the needs of the general populous. It is reported that only 4 hours a day of MTV is now music videos. The rest is reality TV shows that have strayed from the television networks original purpose. This is largely due to the internet, as MTV encourages its users to go on to the website to watch music videos rather than use TV time to promote them. MTV's website has quickly become one of the largest sources on the web for music videos, and this has cleared up airtime to promote other shows, shows that have seemingly little or nothing to do with music.

In conclusion, MTV has turned from an informative way to learn about and enjoy music, to a channel laced with reality TV shows that stray from the initial concept MTV was founded on. MTV has turned from "Music Television" to "Mindless Television in a matter of several decades, and its transformation represents and manifests itself in our society today. The good news is, people can still venture onto YouTube and find music readily available to them, or benefit from informative sites such as Wikipedia to find basic knowledge about bands. However in the realm of commercial television, "Music Television" would appear to be extinct.           

© 2014 The Explorer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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