Culture and Recreation

Radio and Television

How has MTV affected the music industry?

MTV’s almost immediate impact was to launch the music careers of fledgling artists. Some critics believe that superstar Madonna, who showed up on the music scene at about the same time as MTV, would not have risen to the heights of fame that she has were it not for Music Television. Or at least her star might not have risen so quickly. But she and other media-savvy artists exploited the new format to reach the music-buying public—the world over, for soon MTV had a global presence. The video channel also gave established artists a boost by airing more than one single off a given album—resulting in several hits from any one recording. Such was the case for artists like Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, U2, and Peter Gabriel. Increasingly creative videos gave the works of album-oriented musicians longer lives and steady sales.

MTV quickly established itself—and the format—as an integral part of the music industry. Once the format was proven viable, other music television channels emerged—including VH-1 (which was begun by media mogul Ted Turner and was later bought by MTV and molded into an adult-oriented music station), The Nashville Network (TNN, which aired country music videos and programming in the 1980s and 1990s), and Country Music Television (CMT). Today, the music video remains an important tool for new and established artists alike.

Media analysts also believe MTV has had an impact on modern culture. Since the channel relies on interesting visuals to capture viewing audiences, MTV is constantly upping the creative ante for artists who freely experiment with bright colors, images, rapid-fire editing, motifs, dreamlike imagery, and other visual techniques, which began showing up on other television shows, in movies, and in advertising. Some observers believe the phenom has ushered in a new visual order.

Of course, MTV has its detractors: Critics argue that the MTV aesthetic is superficial and that it is accelerating the movement away from traditional forms of literacy. While MTV is praised and panned in the worldwide media, there’s no arguing that the music channel continues to be a window on what’s hip and hot to the American youth.


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