Exactly 41 years ago today (Aug 1, 1981), MTV went on the air and began playing music videos 24 hours a day. The first video played was “Video Killed the Radio Star.”

The number of videos began to decline less than a decade later, so that by the year 2000, Mtv played videos for only 8 hours a day.

By 2008, Mtv was playing music videos only 3 hours each day.

Now, Mtv has several channels, each with different content. MTV Classic is the only one that shows music videos, with different shows airing different blocks of music videos from different eras.

For example, one show called ‘90s Nation plays music videos from the 1990s for an hour. There is an 80’s show that lasts for an hour a day.

It seems that Video may have killed the Radio Star, but the Internet killed Mtv.

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Ygolonac · August 1, 2022 at 11:46 am

The slide really kicked in as far back as ’83, with THRILLER. “Hey, let’s play this every fifteen minutes (full version at the top of the hour IIRC), 24/7!” Repeat this for every chartbreaker (or anything they wanted to be one) ad infinitum. (Mostly went to hourly or half-hourly plays, after a while; for a while, they’d figured out that viewers really didn’t want The New Hotness stuffed down their troat on a constant loop.) Followed by cartoons, game shows, “reality TV” and chasing the stoner demographic in general.

Big Ruckus D · August 1, 2022 at 11:51 am

MTV was dying before the Internet ever reached critical mass. What killed them is the same thing that afflicts all mass media, it was a product of corporate whores who wanted to squeeze out more money and – more importantly – push an agenda. Once Viacom bought them (and Nickelodeon, which was bleeding out money under the form it took during it’s early ownership by Warner Amex) the die was cast, and their inexorable decline into a cultural cess pool was a given.

Now, the Internet would’ve stolen away it’s viewership eventually regardless, since it is the underlying basis of smartphone use. Can you imagine kids (teens) sitting around watching a block of music videos they don’t even control the selection of in 2022, rather than being entranced by their phones? As a linear format programmed by others, MTV just couldn’t hold their attention now.

Besides all that, music videos as an indicator of cultural zeitgeist and short format art form are no longer a thing, really. As low-budget as the video for “Video Killed the Radio Star” looked, it had a theme to it, and even a bit of a story. A couple of years later we got “Thriller” which, arguably, was the high water mark and has never been surpassed in terms of budget, length or production quality. Hell, it had credits at the end.

Even videos like the one done for Der Kommisar (After the Fire, not the original Falco version) and Illegal Alien by Genesis, were mini-movies done with the intent of telling a story as a visual analog to the song lyrics. Eventually, staging elaborate visuals with an underlying script devolved into just using shots of the performer or band performing the song on a stage or a street; the creativity and drive to do something unique and eye catching largely fell off. I’m sure the record companies didn’t want to continue funding elaborate productions, either.

I don’t even know what is on MTV anymore, but then I haven’t been a tv watcher in years now. Last time I saw anything on MTV (~5 years ago) they were showing a thing where a couple of people sat on a stage and (along with the skater dude host) critiqued and laughed at online (YouTube style) video shorts of people acting stupid and getting injured. I could see that being marginally entertaining, but they really have no business calling themselves MTV. You’ll note they officially dropped the long form name “Music Television” many years ago. Only the initials remain, vaguely hinting at what it once was.

it's just Boris · August 1, 2022 at 12:00 pm

Not only the internet … but the satellite TV services (and perhaps cable now; I can only speak to DirecTV) have many 24/7 music channels that can be pretty fine-grained in terms of era and/or style. That comes as part of the standard package.

    Big Ruckus D · August 1, 2022 at 2:10 pm

    True enough, but those are audio only, no videos. Most will show album art or trvia about the song or artist presently playing. My one brother uses this a lot for music at his place, rather than online streaming serivces. It’s usable, but I’m not paying for subscription TV to get it.

    I remember the first iteration of this back in the late 90’s. It was called DMX, digital music express. Came over the cable connection but required a seperate converter to access, and was an added charge every month. I seem to recall commercials with David Foster (the composer) pimping the service. Don’t believe it ever caught critical mass, amd was likely abandoned within a year or two. Really kind of a precursor to Sirius/XM via cable, instead of satellite. I’m still surprised so many people are willing to pay for that.

D · August 1, 2022 at 2:11 pm

If you ever miss Adam Curry, he started a Podcast called “No Agenda” that’s pretty interesting…

GenXr · August 1, 2022 at 4:21 pm

SiriusXM satellite radio’s channel # 8 is “80s on 8” and its DJs are Mark Goodman, Alan Hunter and Nina Blackwood, who are of course 3 of the original 5 MTV “VJs” who launched the namesake channel. Hearing anyone of the 3 of them introduce a song with bit of trivia about the artist or some anecdotal tale of how the song came to be is pure nostalgia for a kid my age. I’m 49.

joe · August 1, 2022 at 7:06 pm

most of us here probably grew up on mtv when it was 98% music videos and some music industry news…i cut the cord about a year ago and don’t miss any of that crap…if you want to see an old music video you can watch most of them on youtube…if you just want to listen to music, https://www.1.fm/stations has a ton of different stations…stream it all the time on the weekends…has maybe 15 secs of commercials every hour…

Hillbilly Slim · August 1, 2022 at 7:48 pm

Van Halen, AC/DC, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Ozzy, Def Leppard, all of those were played on MTV before it became scripted reality shows and rock the vote.
Thomas Dolby, Psychedelic Furs, Simple Minds, Duran Duran, got US exposure via MTV.
The boxers or briefs question was from an MTV debate with Slick Willie.
Grampaw warned us that cable would turn to crap with high prices and commercials and it didn’t take long.

Angus McThag · August 2, 2022 at 9:47 am

You missed an important date for MTV.

The day it was doomed was the day they ran their first commercial.

TV Commercials demand schedules so that the buyer knows when the eyes are on their ad. Radio gets around this because their listeners are, for the most part, in a vehicle and can’t just walk off and do something else while the commercials are running.

Skyler the Weird · August 2, 2022 at 10:20 am

MTV 2022 is more Moron than Music

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