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    5. Why Nobody Needs MTV: The Sad Decline of Music on ..


    Why Nobody Needs MTV: The Sad Decline of Music on Television

    Music television celebrated its 42nd birthday in 2023

    Recently, in the Sicilian city of Palermo, I became an involuntary extra in a music show. video. Without any warning that it was time for my close-up, my passage through one of the city's tightly packed street markets was obstructed by an approaching rapper lip-syncing to a song while being filmed by a “cameraman” walking backwards in while filming the procession on an iPhone. As far as I know, by now the young performer may well become the most successful international singer in Italy since Zucchero Fornaciari.

    If so, it's likely this guerrilla-made clip will resonate on TikTok first. In 2020 alone, more than 70 new artists new to the short-form video hosting service signed deals with record labels around the world. It's not just new musicians who are catching waves. Just a month after Fleetwood Mac's Dreams videos catapulted the four-decade-old song back onto the US charts in 2020, its creator Stevie Nicks has sold the publishing rights to most of her catalog for $100 million.

    As one music industry expert told the New Yorker, “There's never been anything that can get a song stuck in your head like TikTok does.” May be. But given that the platform is deliberately aimed at a younger audience (and I am emphatically not one), I feel only slight shame in reporting that my feelings about this action could hardly be more distant if it took place on a distant planet in a parallel galaxy. There's no doubt that I could and hopefully will put in some work to fix this, but until that happens, the music of, say, Katherine Lee is foreign to me in a way that's different from how my father felt, oh , I don't know, Beastie Boys.

    Because back then, of course, people I thought were truly old were handcuffed to the young via universal television. I must have been nine years old when, while visiting a friend's house, I witnessed The Teardrop Explodes playing a live version of their hit single Reward on a now long-forgotten evening program on Yorkshire Television. It didn't matter much that my friend's father, watching me from behind the newspaper, thought the song was a “damn racket” at the very moment I noticed its brilliance. The fact is that the experience was common to both generations.

    The Buggles' “Video Killed the Radio Star” was the first video to air on MTV in 1981.

    But no more. The abandonment of what we might loosely call “popular music” on television in the 21st century has left a hole in the schedules for people of a certain age – strikingly similar to mine, I would say – who would still like to discover new things without experiencing an epileptic seizure caused by TikTok's drastic changes.

    It's the same on BBC Four on Friday nights. Meanwhile on Sky Arts, loud rock fans have been left off guard by the channel's decision not to commission a Download Festival highlights show for the first time in years. The only real exception to the lack of coverage of summer events across all channels is the lavish coverage of Glastonbury.

    What's worse is that the music channel no longer broadcasts music. Despite the name “Music Television,” MTV's main channel is entirely dedicated to reality shows such as “Catfish,” “I Was Fat,” “16” and “Pregnant.” Funny, meanwhile, is repeated so frequently that Variety reported one week in which “encore presentations” of the smash hit comedy clip show (consisting entirely of footage submitted by viewers) accounted for 113 of its 168 hours of airtime. As cultural critic Corey Williams put it, “[it] feels like MTV just abandoned itself and its original content.”

    The comedy clip show “Funny” has now become MTV's biggest hit

    Others agree. Earlier this month, Guns N' Roses' Slash shared this sentiment in an Instagram post that read, “We just celebrated MTV's 42nd anniversary. But honestly, the MTV we grew up with died in the 1990s.” No doubt the guitarist would be surprised to learn that GNR's You Could Be Mine continues to air on at least one of Music Television's largely unwatched channels, albeit with minor changes. In 2023, the word “cocaine”, as it appears in the song's chorus, was corrupted by censors.

    One might also add that the 29th annual MTV Video Music Awards, held on September 12 at the massive Prudential Center hockey arena in Newark, New Jersey, provided further evidence that MTV has not completely abandoned its traditional role . But while the VMAs continue to attract more A-list pop stars (Taylor Swift, for example, used the event last year to announce the release of her album Midnights), questions still remain about the meaning of it all. If a video is shown on MTV, does anyone notice? And if he wins the award, does anyone care – or even know?

    However, in other countries the situation is so dire that these days the television is not even suitable for showing new music from artists closer in age to Dmitri Shostakovich than to Billie Eilish. You'll find me writing this article on the day that the Rolling Stones played an event at the Hackney Empire to promote their upcoming album, Hackney Diamonds. As my television plays quietly in the background, I see that this event was widely covered on local and national news programs. But other than short clips, no one is broadcasting the lavish video for title track Angry, a song this newspaper calls the band's best single in 40 years. I had to watch it on my iPhone.

    Sydney Sweeney in the video for the Rolling Stones single Angry Photo: YouTube

    Of course, it seems cruelly ironic that in 2023 one of the best movies on television will be a musical program about music programs that no longer exist. Now on to season four, Guy Garvey: From the Vaults is a compilation show on Sky Arts in which lead singer Elbow takes viewers through clips (selected by year) of artists, both legendary and obscure, performing at regional independent studios. television. countrywide.

    In each week's introduction, Garvey announces that “the ITV archive in Leeds contains over 250,000 hours of television history, collected by broadcasters from across the country. It includes one of the largest collections of music archives in the world, so extensive that incredible performances are still being discovered decades after they were broadcast.”

    You can say it again. Back in the 20th century, it seemed that every region of the UK had at least one music program. Each week, From The Vaults brings back gems such as Kirsty MacColl performing There's A Guy Works Down The Chip Shop Swears He's Elvis (on Check It Out, from Newcastle), Siouxsie and The Banshees performing debut single Hong Kong Garden every month. before its release (on Birmingham's Revolver, a program hosted by Peter Cook, no less) or a 1978 interview with Brian May on Yorkshire TV's music quiz show Pop Quest.

    Notably, many of these programs were aimed directly at children. I still remember the rush of delight when I turned on the TV as a child and saw the anarchy that was Tiswas bouncing off the screen on a Saturday morning. What I didn't realize, of course, was that amid the quiches and buckets of water was a program that treated its musical guests with a respect that is no longer shown on terrestrial television.

    So, yes, this is indeed Elvis Costello explaining to Sally James why he decided to produce The Specials' first album. And yes, it's Duran Duran telling the same presenter that the British music press doesn't like them because “we sell records.”

    It's especially moving when Garvey chooses a clip I've seen for the first time. I well remember rushing home from high school in the mid-1980s to be in position at half past four for Channel 4's 90-minute live music and magazine show, Trumpet. it seemed like every week I witnessed things that fried my little brain. I saw “Frankie Goes To Hollywood” by Relax before they signed a record deal. I watched ZZ Top perform Sharp Dressed Man. I watched in amazement as Tom Waits, sitting in a smoke-filled pool hall, told the story of a guy named Frank who set his own house on fire. I remember thinking about this too. What the hell is this?

    Frankie Goes to Hollywood performing Relax on the subway. Photo: YouTube

    So yes, while I am upset that young minds today are being denied such deceptive experiences, I am also angry that these old minds are being denied them too. Because for the life of me I don't understand what the problem is. Despite its imperfections, episode 61's evergreen “Later… with Jules” showed Holland not only that live music belongs on television, but also that audiences will accept—hell, welcome—artists as diverse as Donovan and Metallica performing in the same line. -up. And while it's possible that these days “Later…” is a middle-aged dinner party for The Tube's “The Police Are On The Way” New Year's party, in 2023 that's really all we have.

    However, at least our eyes won't be square. It was a big fear at the time. That's what my mom said would happen to me the night I was given special permission to watch the full Live Aid telecast from Philadelphia's JFK Stadium until it ended at 4 a.m. The next morning, bleary-eyed, I asked her if this was what Bob Dylan, Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood's version of Blowin' In The Wind, which I had recorded on Betamax VHS, should sound like. “Not really,” was her answer. It turned out that I had witnessed one of the most disgustingly terrible live performances in the history of television.

    Even this seems preferable to the pitfalls of TikTok, a platform that makes 50 percent of users uncomfortable while watching. videos that last longer than a minute. In fact, they are in such a rush to move on that many watch the clips at double speed. Obviously, the stakes are higher than in the television era. At the time, the worst thing that could happen was that you went to see Simple Minds at the Milton Keynes Bowl after seeing them play on The Tube. And, believe me, I speak as a person who did just that.

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