Death is society’s favourite topic. The minute something new comes along, we predict the death of the old because it must be so. No one ever asks if it can adapt or reinvent. Instead it simply must die. This reality has never been truer than in the ever-colliding world of media and television.
As the song goes, “video killed the radio star,” so the world now must accept that piracy and the internet killed the music video. At least, that’s according to former MTV executive, Peter Hoare. In a very interesting post on AskMen.com, Hoare simply articulates that MTV stopped playing music videos because viewers stopped watching them. His argument, which he states as fact, is that the incentive for record companies to make music videos was marketing and now, thanks to piracy, there is no point. As the audience, he says, we don’t care about watching the videos designed to make us purchase the album, because we already stole it.
“If video did in fact kill the radio star, then the internet came along and killed the video star,” writes Hoare. “It’s absolutely true. Much like how the record industry has all but crumbled, so has the business of the music video. Everyone who blindly makes the claim that MTV should go back to its roots isn’t really thinking — and also knows nothing about the television business.”
His explanation isn’t all wrong because our viewing habits and attention span as a society have indeed changed. However, calling the internet video’s death knell is rather naive considering the internet has given birth to so many video stars.
The music industry, along with print, has probably taken the biggest blow in the advent of technology and the internet. To assume however that because of this, the industry will crumble and that audiences are no longer interested is wrong. This assumption insinuates that the music industry, and this can always be said for print and its naysayers, does not know how to evolve.
The music industry has been finding ways to adapt its offering to the audience of the day for decades, from A-tracks to iTunes. The industry understands change more than anyone, and people have been pirating since before Pirate Bay. In fact one could say people began stealing music thanks to MTV in the first place when they recorded music videos straight from the channel.
First off, simply put, you’re asking for something you don’t truly want. Think about it. I mean really think about it. Imagine yourself lying on a couch in front of your TV. You flip onto MTV and catch an Arcade Fire video. You’re stoked! And then, three short minutes later, it’s gone. Next up – a new One Direction video!
Guess who’s most likely gonna change the channel instantaneously? You are, champ.
It must be said that the 11+ million subscribers on One Direction’s YouTube page will beg to differ on whether or not they would switch the channel if a music video from the band came up. True, MTV cannot play music videos all day because programming needs to cater for all its audiences, but Hoare cannot argue that there is no need for music videos.
MTV has tried. It genuinely has. And when it did, what it found out is that any rerun of a series like Rob Dyrdek’s Fantasy Factory does far better ratings-wise than a block of music videos. And ratings matter. Television is an advertising-driven industry. So while you may say the network should play music, it makes far more sense, and money, to air shows about condomless, humping hillbillies.
Fun fact here, people aren’t watching shows about condomless hillbillies because they find it riveting, they are watching because current television programming has told them that is what they need to be watching. Just as MTV over-played videos from Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber, while fans waited for that one day it might play the Foo Fighters. See what you did there Hoare? You created a society of idiots who can’t tell the difference between good music and popular music and now you complain that they are leaving.
Beyonce Knowles one of the biggest recording artists of the age, released her latest album on iTunes with accompanying video previews for 14 music videos as part of what she calls her visual album. Are we really still having a conversation about the death of music videos, when YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world and its most watched video is a music video? Perhaps it is MTV that has failed to innovate and engage its audience better.
Nobody killed anyone, television didn’t kill radio, the internet didn’t kill television or print. The media simply must evolve and adapt to a changing world.