This post is an abstract from an essay I wrote for Media Sociology course at Ghent University (Belgium) as an Erasmus student on January 2013.
The essay is based primarly on the books:
MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution
(R. Tannenbaum; C. Marks. 2011, Dutton Penguin)
Media Making: mass media in a Popular Culture
(Grossberg, L.; Wartella, E.; Whitney, D. 1998, Thousand Oaks.)
WHERE DID THE MUSIC GO?
An analysis of MTV the replacement of music videos for reality TV-shows.
In contemporary societies, the media is not only considered an entertainment or a source of information, it is part of human life and how humans socialize. The media that people consume says a lot of who they are. For instance, political views are fairly reflected on the political views of the media outlets consumed. Media also influence interactions of humans on their daily activities. Think, for example, on how much of the topics on your daily conversations with friends or acquaintances are related to media or on how media influences current debates on social and political issues. As much as media seems inseparable from people’s life, it is closely related to contemporary history, which is fairly reflected in the media.
Mass media and mass popular culture is assumed to be commercially motivated and is difficult to determine whether it reflects audience interest or intentionally shapes and manipulates them, according to the interest of those who produce it.
Traditionally, aspects such as religion, family or work defined people’s identities, but this has gone in favour of different aspects such as leisure activities, consumer lifestyles and, specially, mass media. The media is partly responsible, furthermore, on how leisure or consumer lifestyles are defined. It is a big part of people’s identity, with several commonalities produced from shared experiences through mass media. It also defines collective imagery and memories: celebrities from the media are the myths of this time and many memories people has come from a song, a movie or even a TV channel, all different kinds of media.
As much as the economical system we live in (capitalism) needs people to identify themselves as consumers (“what we buy says a lot of what we are”), the economy needs people to be identified with the media outlets they consume to more accurately advertise their products on this specific media outlets. For this reason, marketing and advertising research were introduced during the early 20th century: both as ways to maximize and rationalize the consumer habits of the society. Audience is considered by the media both as a consumer (of the media itself) and as a commodity that is sold for profit to advertisers as their potential target.
On Media Making: mass media in a Popular Culture, there’s a little reference to MTV: Robert Pittman, businessman and one of the MTV founders, defined the original MTV (a 24-hour music video channel) as a “mood enhancer”, referring on how music affects people’s moods and also the power of the media, specially of TV, which for years have being shaping the time and space where societies develop the relations according to the schedule, for example, of their favourite TV-show. Nonetheless, this power is currently shifting from TV to electronic devices used to access Internet.
This paper aims to analyse how MTV started the so-called “music video revolution” to end up as we know it: a media outlet full of gossip and reality shows aiming to great controversy, where music videos nowadays constitute a little portion of the content. Was this a matter of business or a response to audience demand? Did MTV just follow the evolution of their audience and their (changing) interests?