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I Want My MTV?

24th April 2007 @ 7:30 pm - 10:00 pm

Venue: Private Room, Bertorelli Bar & Restaurant

The old world of music TV lies in tatters, its role in the music marketing machine up for debate.

“Not that long ago, a band fought its way to a major label contract, benefited from commercial radio play and then, finally, a video on MTV. But this system has been disrupted by entertainment’s new iterations, and now most bands no longer ride a vertical axis to the top.”

David Carr, New York Post.

With practically the sum of all music content ever committed to tape now freely accessible at the click of a mouse, consumer is king. As a result the traditional mainstream music media look tired at best, unacceptably prescriptive at worst. Top of the Pops is gone, ITV are struggling to find a sponsor for their mooted CD:UK replacement and MTV recently announced further job cuts across its international operation, together with plans to build thousands of new web sites.

“The internet has opened up a vast catalogue catering to all tastes and every age group. This encourages a highly personal soundtrack model of consumption, where you can load your iPod with everything you already like and never have to listen to anything you don’t want to ever again. It is the enemy of universality.” 

Neil McCormick, Daily Telegraph, 22/02/07

Whereas every bedroom Bowie used to think “I wanna be on Top of the Pops” does the next Lily Allen now think “I want 14 million hits on YouTube”, spurred on by viral music video successes such as OK Go? Will this increase in future, with new models helping music video seek us out individually in favour of the blanket approach?

Meanwhile, Channel 4 commission ever more live music shows such as The Album Chart Show and Live From Abbey Road and the BBC’s Later recently completed its 22nd successful series. These shows find niche success by targeting a late-night, post-pub crowd of music lovers. Where is the mass market for music programming?

Coverage of this year’s Brit Awards reached 15% more viewers than in 2006, perhaps proving that mainstream music programming can still hold aspirational appeal for artists and a taste-making function for the general public. Are we simply experiencing a period of transition?

The inventors of Skype and Kazaa are banking on it – their new venture, Joost, (“the best of TV on the internet”) is already in beta testing, and has signed deals to offer streamed content from MTV parent company Viacom as well as Warner Music, Beggars and XL Recordings. But if they are to create the next big music video phenomenon it will surely depend on finding the right mix of content (live/promo video/reality show), the right platform (mobile/broadcast/online), and the right method of delivery (streaming/download).

Will this be enough to launch the next Top of the Pops or do we have to accept that those days are over? If the mass market for music has now diversified into a mass of niche markets, do the traditional giants of music broadcasting still have a role?

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