MTV and Recording Artists

MTV has been a part of the musical entertainment business for nearly 20 years now. I pose this question: Has MTV helped improve the quality of today’s music, or has it made the music scene focus more on looks and style than talent?

Back in the 80s, I could have made strong cases for AND against MTV’s impact on music. If you recall, in the late 70s and early 80s, the record business was in a HUGE slump, and record execs were in a panic. The resurgence in music sales (led by Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA”) was triggered, in large part by MTV.

The negatives are equally evident: because MTV was geared almost exclusively to young viewers, it often ignored quality work by older artists, and emphasized crap that they figured would appeal to teenyboppers.

Today, however, it’s hard to make ANY strong statement about MTV’s impact on music, because they’re hardly in the music business at all any more! I can easily picture a kid asking, earnestly, “What does the M stand for?” I mean, what with “The Real World,” “Road RUles,” that sex phone-in show, and everything else, MTV hardly seems to CARE about music any more, and no longer seems to have a huge impact on what kids (let alone adults) choose to listen to.

Astorian’s right, MTVs heyday was in the 80s and they pioneered the music video scene. Now, I hardly ever watch it except through some wild moments of channel surf. The self-indulgent, angst-filled shows like * Road Rules * and * Real World * don’t appeal to me. We did that shit in the 70s, road tripped and shared apartments, big deal. Then we grew up and got over it. I guess it was just * fun * to watch in the 80s when all it was about was just the music. I still like tuning to VH-1 and watching the Pop Up Videos, the closest we’ll ever get to that MTV experience of the 80s (except we have to put up with the bubble commentary). Quite a few of us metalheads who screamed and air-guitared through Quiet Riot and Twisted Sister are now happily two-steppin’ at the local honky-tonks. Somewhere along the line I kinda missed holding my girl, so I traded the bandanas and leather vests for a good pair of Tony Llama shit-kickers and an oversized belt buckle. I still crank up the heavy metal now and then when I get nostalgic and even pull out the Air Fender Stratocaster. Man, that shit was still fun!!

“…send lawyers, guns, and money…”

 Warren Zevon

MTV has definitely NOT improved the quality of today’s music (you’re kidding, right? How could it do such a thing even if it were so inclined, which it clearly is not). Though it has ratcheted the actual economics of the music industry upwards a hundredfold.
I do believe, however, that it has cheerfully contributed to the deterioration of society.
MTV is pretty much all hip-hop now anyway, from what I see. And all those dreadful, dreadful “reality” shows, ugh!! They have really painted themselves into a corner … I would have sold that stock a long time ago.

MTV is still “in” the music business, believe me, though its audience has shifted quite a bit since its incarnation.

As to its effect on the music industry in general, I would venture to say it has had mostly negative influence on the “quality”. I mean, seriously, how many people would have actually listened to Oingo Boingo were it not for MTV? For a time, the music didn’t matter at all, it was purely a visual medium. We saw a host of watered-down acts who were fun(ny) to watch, but who were also lacking in ability. They even had/have award shows for the best video.

On the other hand, MTV introduced me to new genres of music that I probably would not have listened to otherwise. I pretty much avoid the radio altogether, so I guess my palette would not be so full today, were it not for MTV.

Personally, I haven’t watched MTV in some time. I am fairly certain they don’t cater to my tastes any longer. I did enjoy “Unplugged” for a while, which seemed innovative at the time, but I think that has show has run its course.

Yes, a name change is in order for MTV, since there is rarely any music anymore.

But the reason is simple economics. MTV’s ratings slumped after several years of exclusively music programming. Then they found that the other programming they had was getting better ratings. Thus, they have less music and more talk, fashion, lifestyle shows and whatnot.

I do not like it, but as a 30 year old, they’re not there for me to like it.

Brian O’Neill
CMC International Records

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But how much has MTV changed the musical landscape? I fondly remember the days of blasting my stereo with such great bands as Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Blue Oyster Cult, and Ted Nugent to name just a few. It seems to me that around the time that MTV hit the airwaves, these types of bands all but disappeared. Sure, the Thrash Metal and Hair Band years followed shortly afterwards, but were they not long on flashiness and style (not to mention an abundance of scantily clad women,) but short on strength of talent? And what about the likes of Madonna? Would she have enjoyed the success she has obtained if it were not for her looks, and for wearing so much lingerie in her videos? Could Aerosmith have made such a comeback without the aid of videos? Micheal Jackson certainly had a music career before MTV came along, but he was no where near as popular before then. It is true that MTV has moved away from 24 video rotation, but has it not had enough impact to be felt even today? besides, we still have MTV’s siblings in both VH-1 and M2. These channels may not be as strong as their bigger sister, but the legacy does live on.

Sounds like you already know that they did not improve the quality of music (as most interpret it).
As far as the Thrash and Hair bands go, I don’t think MTV had much to do with their success. They were mostly word-of-mouth, although a few (Motley Crue, Poison) did have the benefit of what you describe, their videos were rarely shown or restricted to late-night, once-a-week “rock” shows. But lots of those metal bands had plenty of talent of their own.

RTA (unreformed metalhead)

Answer this for me, RTA; Did the Metal and/or Hair bands succeed because of video airplay, or in spite of it?

Did someone here mention Blue Oyster Cult and Ted nugent in the same breath as led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd?!?!?!?


In the “It came from the '80’s” special on MTV, one of the dudes in Warrant were asked why their popularity died.

“Maybe it’s because MTV stopped playing our videos,” was his candid reply.

MTV helped make those bands, and as soon as the likes of Nirvana, Alice In Chains and Faith No More came along, the likes of Warrant, Slaughter and Poison were banished to the “uncool yesterday’s news” pile.

But during the early days of MTV, you couldn’t watch the chanel without seeing Cinderella, Ratt, Great White, and even the later hair heroes such as Steelheart, Winger, Tuff and other ones I am too lazt to check my CD collection for.

So as for if MTV helped or hurt the hair movement, I give you two words: Twisted Sister!

Oh, and as for you Stoidela, I’d rather listen to BOC than any of the many-times overplayed Zeppelin catalog any day of the week. And as for Pink Floyd, listen to the unheralded Syd Barrett stuff and we can talk about Pink Floyd.

But I’d rather talk about The Velvet Underground anyway…

Oh, and Korn is NOT metal, by the way…

What about VU - other than the fact that Lou Reed is God (begging your pardon, Satan!) and Cale is so good he can only be taken in small doses…

The reason gentlemen prefer blondes is that there are not enough redheads to go around.


You are a girl - a redhead I surmise from your signature file - who can get into the nuances of the Velvets?

Please tell me you’re not married…

I do not want this thread to become a "Band X rules, Band Y sucks !! discussion, but please feel free to speak at will. for the record, I am a hardcore Floyd fan, just in case nobody gleaned that from my nickname. But my musical tastes are very broad as well. But I must admit that today’s new bands are uninteresting at best, and annoying at worst. This is why I have raised this question. Has MTV been a powerful enough influence in the music business to dictate the new trends? Did Whitesnake go under because MTV pulled them out of rotation? Could a new band refuse to make videos and still hope to be as popular as Limp Bizkit or Brittney Spears? And what of the videos themselves? Has MTV cultivated an entire generation of music listeners that cannot enjoy what they are listening to without the visual aid? How many of you can listen to Great White play “Once Bitten…” On the radio without conjuring the visual image of the girl in the studded black leather top?

A qualified yes, Gilmour. Being primarily a country music fan now (you may all throw rocks me now) MTV has made an enormous impact on most styles of popular music. It’s very difficult to market any music and make it commercially viable (as in gold or platinum sales) without the accompanying video. In country, the days of it just “being the music” are over with the advent of CMT and TNN (though I pray we will never get the country equivalent of that MTV VJ Jesse). The ladies that perform country music nowadays are a far cry from Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, and Tammy Wynette. Martina McBride, Shania Twain, and Reba McIntyre, for example, are savvy performance artists with the ability to communicate that in video. Is this good? Hell, yes!! They’re easy on the eyes and they can hold a tune. You still get vocal arguments in the country community over the “good ol’ days” of George Jones as opposed to Hank Williams Jr. and his rock-country fusion. (Hell, I used to argue, growing up the 80s, with die-hard Beatles types about New Wave and heavy metal that MTV pioneered). The MTV influence played a big part in what helped country go more mainstream IMHO.

“…send lawyers, guns, and money…”

 Warren Zevon

MTV can’t help but have an impact, but to say if it was good or bad depends on your taste in music. MTV is, to me, just like a top-40 radio station, they only play the hit of the moment, and rarely, if ever, play innovative, disturbing, or provocative music. I mean MTV had to be coerced into playing Michael Jackson! Before him, it was pretty much all white. It also confines songs into the 3 minute mode at most. I don’t expect to see 8-10 minute videos getting much play time. It reduces the time available for commercials. Also, you have to come up with an idea large enough to spread through 8 minutes.
M2 does better, more diverse in style and age; I’ve seen old clips from Zep or The Beatles, as well as new stuff, but it will never come close to the diversity of a college radio station that is not forced to play certain types of music based on station managers and sponsers.

MTV has always aimed at the younger crowd. The older you get the more you notice it. In a few years you’ll be screaming at your kids “TURN IT DOWN” and “Back in my days we had good bands like…”

MTV is a cable channel that offers programming geared towards music consumers, with frequent commercials for consumable music (we used to call them ‘music videos’). Yes, I am a recovering musician and music video autuer. No, MTV has not degraded the quality of music; most of us don’t remember just how much most music sucked Before.

My first problem with MTV is that I don’t think that merely attractive people like Aretha Franklin would ever have made it in an MTV oriented world. I mean, these days you have to be super-model hot even to get through the door–how many more record contract would Brandy get if she put on 50 lbs?

I also think MTV is responsible in a large way (although top 40 stations do thier part to) for severly limiting the scope of music that future musicians are listening to today. For example, by BF’s younger brother moved in with us and goes to the local university. He is a music major and music mad the way 18 year olds often are, but his exposure to anything except for the MTV playlist was practically non-existant. He knew nothing of blues, of gospel, of bluegrass, of classic rock, of folk, etc. We have done our best to educate him, and I think he is coming along quite nicely. Please understand–I wasn’t appaled that the boy liked what I consider to be horrible modern shit–that’s up to him. It’s that he had never even heard of anything else.

I, myself, loathe MTV. I try not to preach about it in real life, but the rampant comercial approach of the whole network turns my stomach. All of it–the videos, the commercials, the VJs, the shows, all of it seems to work together seamlessly to convince the youth watching it that everyone else in the world lives a life of extrodinarily exciting partying broken up occasionally by mind blowing orgasms w/ cool trendy, moderatly athletic playmates, and the viewer too can have that life style if only they run out and buy the appropriate album/clothes/perfum/political party.

This is probably a bit off-topic. Please don’t beat me.

MTV introduced me to the Indigo Girls, Nine Inch Nails, Rage Against the Machine, and Tribe. (These are some musicians I like, so I consider this a positive things.)

My father introduced me to SImon & Garfunkel, Loreena Mac Kennit, the Highwaymen, Bob Dylan and Jesus Christ Superstar (not, technically, a band, but hold on. . .)

Various friends and acquaintances brought me to XTC, the Fugees, the Dead Milkmen, House of Pain, Dead Can Dance, and the Grateful Dead.

Frankly, I’m just not old enough to have had much of a musical consciousness BME (before MTV era), but I’ve encountered a broad range of musical styles nonetheless.

I guess all I can really add to this is that while it’s obvious MTV hasn’t completely killed off musical diversity, the best source for new and different music is always to turn off the box and go over to someone’s house to play records. . .

“There is nothing you ought to do, for the simple reason that you know nothing, nothing whatever- make a mental note of that, if you please.”
-V. Nabokov