In the past couple of days, a video called 'Why Doesn't MTV Play Music Videos Anymore?' has been doing the rounds on social networking sites. The spoof "Ask A Network Head" documentary made by bfirenzi has only been online for three days, but has already racked up close to a million views. The video is basically three minutes of a woman being blasted by a ruthless network exec for having the gall to ask "why does MTV now play reality shows and not music videos?" His ultimate conclusion is "you're not our f--king demographic anymore."
It's a funny video, and an astute caricature of what post-2000 MTV has become. From the cancellation of Total Request Live back in 2008 to the news earlier this year that 80's metal TV hallmark Headbanger's Ball was being axed, it has become apparent that music based content is no longer what the channel is about. In fact, they've even dropped the "Music" from the Music Television subtitle. In the first clip ever aired on MTV, The Buggles announced that Video Killed The Radio Star. If bfrienzi's clip is to be believed, though, the internet has asserted its dominance by straight up murdering video.
And in many respects, that's a real shame, because MTV was one of the most important platforms for hearing new music throughout the 1980s and 1990s. From the opening mantra of "you'll never hear music in the same way again" on the channel's first broadcast back in 1981, MTV did push the boundaries. It helped cement black music into the mainstream through airing videos by artists such as Michael Jackson, Prince and Run DMC. It gave heavy metal a place on the tube with Metal Mania (later to become Headbanger's Ball) in 1986, not to mention airing the first Metallica video in 1989.
Instances such as Nirvana's anarchic performance at the 1992 VMAs were not only water cooler television, but also benchmark events in modern day popular culture, while shows such as MTV Unplugged exposed audiences to new renditions of classic songs that have in themselves become iconic.
Now, the closest that you're likely to get to music programming on MTV is seeing Lil Wayne auto tune his way through whatever his latest hit is on an award show that seems to have lost any sense of spontaneity or controversy.
It is ironic that the "I want my MTV" refrain from Dire Straits' Money For Nothing, a song that, back in the day, was a satire of the channel and everything it stood for, has become a genuine cry from those who are nostalgic for days when music was on their television. But, is it just nostalgia that keeps those of us who remember it pining for MTV? Or are we, as bfrienzi's video suggests, so scared of getting older and "being totally irrelevant to pop-culture" that we're holding onto something that is, in itself, totally irrelevant?
Do I want my MTV? I mean really want it? Honestly, I don't know anymore.
By Alec Plowman