MTV started as a way for record companies to show the promo videos they had already been making for several years. (Not to mention awards shows and live concert events.) It was great in the pre-Internet era. So, thanks to MTV, it looked like video would kill off the idea of bands becoming stars through radio airplay... Or, would they? Eventually, the novelty started wearing off. Concerts, award shows and videos were no longer enough so, MTV branched out. Some worked out great like their many great cartoon shows. (Beavis and Butt-Head anyone?) Many others just didn't as far as us music lovers are concerned. Would a guy who loved Headbanger's Ball really give a shit about The Real World or House of Style? I doubt it...
Unfortunately, most of their programming nowadays has turned into crappy reality shows that no one above the age of 17 will watch. Even worse, the videos had an unintended side-effect. The emphasis shifted from the music itself to the image of the musician. While image has always been part of a Rock Star's appeal, it should NEVER be the primary focus. MTV became their own worst enemy.
As a result, their ratings suffered. I no longer have any faith in the idea that the channel will start playing mostly music programming again. I was holding out hope but, I don't need to anymore. The Internet has made it obsolete.
The record companies and artists no longer need a TV channel like MTV or TV shows like American Bandstand to have their videos/live performances played. The internet (particularly YouTube and Vimeo) has made them all irrelevant. And that is how it should be too. Technological progress continues to march onward, without losing a step.
Oddly enough, the next logical step takes us full circle back to a purely auditory medium: internet radio. I have to admit that I thought internet radio was ridiculous at first. Why pay for something that you can get over the airwaves for free? Of course, time and lame business entities like Clear Channel Communications (now known as iHeartMedia) answered that question.
Traditional AM & FM radio has been made uniform across the country by these massive corporations buying them all out. This started after the previous restrictions against owning multiple media outlets in one market were rescinded in the quite terrible 1996 Telecommunications Act. That's how Clear Channel bought every station in just about every town and made them all the exact same sub-par and hopefully inoffensive garbage that AM/FM has become.
They must have realized their mistake when people started complaining and revenues went south. Plus, they also owned iHeartRadio. So, they now had the ability to give people a choice among any station they owned anywhere through the internet. That's nice. You turn every station in my town to utter rubbish and your solution is to give me more choices that may sound just as generic and lame. Yeah...
Fortunately, the market and the internet offered another solution to that problem: streaming services that let you create your own channels/playlists like Spotify and Pandora. I haven't used Spotify yet but, I have used Pandora heavily when I was still in the Army and living at Fort Detrick. Thanks to all the Signal units on post with their large radar dishes, there was no signal for broadcast radio or television. EVERYTHING came through the internet, unless I was watching/listening to/playing a video game that I already had. Despite my earlier misinformed belief, I don't have to pay for it, either. I have the option of paying Pandora so that I don't have to hear radio ads. That's not a bad business model.
I haven't been using Pandora much as of late but, that will change now that I have regular internet access in my new apartment. My current job has me living far from home (again) and I could only take with me what I could pack into my truck. Therefore, virtually every single last CD & all of my cassettes and vinyl were left behind in my storage space in New Orleans. This is one of those situations where Pandora will be very useful. I hope my next new car has Pandora streaming into the stereo.
Thanks to Pandora, I don't really have to miss MTV or even terrestrial radio anymore. Plus, I now don't have to listen to whatever they decide to play. I can make my own stations playing whatever I want. Technology and personal choice, for the WIN. (That being said, I am wondering why it won't let me create a special station for KISS when it did let me create one for Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Pantera and Iron Maiden. WTF, Pandora? Couldn't get the licensing rights?)
So, my final question is this: Will streaming services like Pandora and Spotify make YouTube and MTV obsolete, like MTV tried to do to traditional radio stations? The possibility is there with smart phones and stereos in new cars being outfitted with broadband internet access and Bluetooth wi-fi technology. The irony in that would be hilarious to me. Radio ends up winning in the end by using a new transmission medium, the internet, instead of the airwaves. So much for Video killing the Radio Star...
- Lord Publius