Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The End of Music on MTV

This piece will be published in an issue of the American University student-run-bi-weekly magazine AmWord. Stayed tuned for more details about this publication.


When you think of Times Square in New York, a few staples come to mind – the Naked Cowboy, the ball dropping on New Years Eve, bright lights and big ads – those are the pictures etched into your memory. But the one thing teenagers have all come to love for the past decade is nearing an end. Total Request Live has been canceled.

Tourists and teenagers started flocking to the sidewalks outside MTV’s Manhattan studios in the fall of 1998. Those sidewalks, once crammed daily with screaming teenagers will be empty soon.

When MTV debuted in 1981, it was a music station. It launched at 12:01 A.M. on August 1 with the words said by John Lack, "Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll.” And then, the first video aired.

“Video Killed the Radio Star” by British New Wave group, [the] Buggles, was aired that summer night in 1981. From then on, music videos became “it” thing and tool for future musicians to promote their music.

The show peaked in popularity in 1999 with 757,000 viewers tuning in daily, according to Nielsen Media Research. The artists who found the greatest success during the 1990s capitalized that on that. Pop music superstars Britney Spears, ‘N SYNC, and rapper Eminem were great at it.

Eminem, was asked how he felt about the station’s decision to cancel the show. He said, “I’m going to miss TRL. Where else will I be able to start feuds, defend my honor vigorously and act like an angry teenager on national TV?”

MTV has come a long way since its conception. A long, long time ago – if you can believe it – the station played music. But, those days are also coming to a close. There has been shift to reality based programming, leaving the television jukebox that once existed to be put on pause. The show’s cancellation just proves that the stop button has been pressed. The music has ceased.

Recent years have shown views that if you want music, you watch TRL. Once the final episode airs on November 8, it will be an end of an era. If teenagers aren’t being granted their daily dosage of their top ten favorite pop songs on an after school television, where are they going to get it?

The shows Executive Producer Dave Sirulnick told the Associated Press that MTV made the final decision because they, “…want to close this era of TRL in a big celebratory way, and 10 is a great number. This feels like the right time and let’s celebrate it and let’s reward it.”

So, is this the right time to celebrate and reward a show that’s brought the most popular songs to life through video for the past decade? If the reward is a lack of music on a station that was named “music television”, maybe it’s a blessing in disguise.

The future of music on MTV is up in the air now. Ex-MTV Video Jockey Dave Holmes still doesn’t see the point in the stations choice to cut the show from its programming. “I don't understand how it doesn't make sense to at least keep it on,” he said in an exclusive interview with Defamer.com. “I mean, it's MTV's last music show, it's like their little clubhouse.”

If MTV knows what’s good for them, they’ll put music back in the programming rotation. They got it right in 1981, so they can do it again. This is just one of those cases where people realize they miss what they have once they don’t have it anymore.

But for now, we have to face it – the MTV generation is over. The music is gone. They might as well just take away the “M”. It doesn’t stand for anything anymore.

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