Monopoly Television: MTV's Quest to Control the Music

Monopoly Television: MTV's Quest to Control the Music

Monopoly Television: MTV's Quest to Control the Music

Monopoly Television: MTV's Quest to Control the Music

Synopsis

In August 1981, Music Television- now popularly known as MTV- was launched. Within a matter of years it revitalized a struggling record industry; made the careers of leading pop stars like Madonna, Boy George, Cyndi Lauper, and Duran Duran; infiltrated traditional network television and the movie industry; revolutionized the advertising industry; and stimulated purchases in several markets, most notably fashion apparel. The reach of MTV has proven long and profitable. In this book, Jack Banks examines the historical development of music video as a commodity and analyzes the existing structures within which music video is produced, distributed, and exhibited on its premier music channel, MTV. Who controls MTV? What part do record companies play in the financing and production of music video? How do the power brokers in the business affect the ideological content of music video? Given the tight sphere of influence within the music industry, what are the future trends for music video and for artistic freedom of expression? Banks tackles these questions in an intelligent, lively, and sophisticated investigation into one of the most influential media enterprises of our society.

Excerpt

After MTV had been operating for a few years, several other program services were launched, seeking to capitalize on. MTV's success. Such programming was especially attractive in early 1984 because of the low cost and high yield of video music. The initial popularity of video clips assured a satisfactory audience and hence advertising revenue, and the clips were provided by the labels in the early 1980s for use free of charge so expenses were minimal.

The emergence of alternative outlets for video music besides MTV Networks' offerings was heralded as an opportunity for a broader range of musical genres and styles to be presented on television. MTV was often charged with presenting a quite narrow segment of music largely confined to white rock acts, excluding all music falling outside the boundaries of its restrictive format, most notably music by black artists. Critics voiced concern that if MTV were to remain the primary source of exposure for video music, artists that did not meet the arbitrary standards of this one entity could be effectively excluded from television. Some record industry executives hoped that the development of other viable program services might encourage a pluralistic market where video music deemed unsuitable in one forum would be appropriate in others. The variety of outlets might conceivably break the monolithic style of music presented on MTV.

The most direct challenges to MTV were plans for full-fledged national music program services. Three parties announced their intention to launch twentyfour-hour daily video music programming in 1984 and 1985. Each of these potential competitors sought to distinguish its program service from MTV's offering in roughly similar respects. All claimed their services would eschew video clips with gratuitous sex and violence so prominent on MTV, instead featuring more "wholesome" videos suitable for family viewing. These competitors also rejected MTV's "narrowcasting" program strategy, claiming they would play a broader range of pop music, which would include music by black artists largely banned from MTV at that time. Although each service wanted to compete with MTV, all . . .

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