FEATURE: Pressing the Mute Button: Is Music T.V. Truly Dead?




Pressing the Mute Button

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Is Music T.V. Truly Dead?


LIKE many other topics that appear on this blog...

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it is not the first time I have investigated them. I shall not rustle through my notes and history but, more than once, I have talked about music T.V. and the need to keep it burning. The title of this piece might be misdirection: I am actually looking to pitch an idea and get something started but, invariably, one has to look at the state of music T.V. to see why the possibility of such a reality is slender. When MTV launched back in 1981, many people were sceptical whether it would last and whether it would find an audience. Not only did it start to grow but it reached a real peak through the 1980s and 1990s. It was only really when the Internet and sites like YouTube started to become more influential that music T.V. sort of died out. MTV is still a thing but it is known more for its original programming and non-music video-related. I look at terrestrial channels and there is not really any option for those who want to keep the music T.V. idea going. We have the long-standing and popular Later… with Jools Holland but I think that is coming back soon – it has not been on the screens for a fair few weeks now! That show has been going for ages and, through the years, the format has not really changed much; it has not needed to change and has satisfied its audience from the start.

I do wonder whether, at a time when music is expanding wildly, we are relying too much on the Internet and streaming services. It is great that we have YouTube to see music videos on and there are great radio stations that promote music but why do we seem to have ignored music T.V. and traditional shows? Yesterday, when remembering Prince three years after his death, I was watching his great videos and smiling. He was a complete legend and I love the visual aspect of his work. I also spent some time on YouTube checking out classic album shows and videos and discovering some really great stuff. I am listening to a lot of great new artists and there are albums out at the moment which are definitely worth exploring. Consider all of these different things and I have to ask whether it is worth exploring T.V. and putting this all in one place. One can argue we have everything we need out there and the average consumer can do their own research. Do we really need a T.V. show that talks about older albums and new artists? With so much kit and choice at our fingertips, is T.V., in that sense, redundant? I think that there are countless artists coming through right now that warrant exposure and that T.V. platform. Even the biggest artists need to promote their work and, traditionally, T.V. was always the way to do that.

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Look at the T.V. options we have now and shows like Sunday Brunch, sadly, are taking the place of traditional music shows. I yearn for a show that has the feel of an Old Grey Whistle Test show – with a basic set and decent music – but incorporates so much more. There would be live performances but it would not solely be from the mainstream. Sure, about half of the show’s performances would be from bigger artists but you’d also have the upcoming and unsigned that would nestle alongside. It would be a bit of a first because you’d have these artists that have not appeared on T.V. with those who have been around for a long time. As venues close and artists have to look elsewhere for places to perform at, T.V. is as important now as it ever was. There is that argument that you will not please everyone and one camp says that music T.V. is pointless whereas another will want something like Top of the Pops. Others might fancy something a bit different but, with some research and compromise, you can actually come up with something that pleases the majority. I do not abide the fact that music T.V. is irrelevant and a thing of the past: we still consume videos online and there is more music now than there ever was. I think the T.V. platform would be invaluable for newer acts and I still love seeing sets from the established.

The fact Jools Holland’s show is so popular is people want to see these artists play and we all love live music. I do feel like a music T.V. show that ended up on the BBC would need to be more than just performances. I do love what Jools Holland has done but having another show that is just performances and interviews would seem a little pointless – even if newer acts were included. The show I envisage – I am not sure of a title yet; it is quite an important consideration! – would be a few hours long and there would be one every couple of weeks. Rather than having something weekly where we just saw a few acts perform, it would be a split between upcoming acts from around the world and the best of the established breed. There would be regular segments such as music news and a classic album each show – where we would see music videos and documentary-style clips regarding that record. Also, I like the idea of having a regular sort of playlist theme where videos would be played but there would be this theme; whether it was one-take videos, classic Hip-Hop or something else. In the studio, we would have a sort of roundtable discussion where guests would chat about a variety of things. Maybe it might mark the death of an iconic artist or sexism in music. It would be this interesting chat where we would get education and chat alongside the music.

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There is scope for other features too and I like the idea of transplanting a busy and quality radio show to the screen. The music variety would be there but it would be closer in tone to Jools Holland’s show and what is played on BBC Radio 6 Music. That is not a personal bias but I am keen to step away from the commercial and mass-produced when it comes to guests. Interviews would be important and, each show, a huge guest would be under the spotlight. They would chat but also get to select some of their favourite music too. It would be a packed and wide-ranging show but we would not forget about the live performances and how important that is. There are articles out there, such as this that ask whether T.V. is dead and whether its reach is what it once was. With streaming services and big players like Netflix in the market, there is definitely a home and a chance for a music T.V. show. The reason I became so fascinated by music from a young age was the likes of MTV and being able to see these great videos and artists all the time. I do feel there is something rather sterile, impersonal and detached about the Internet and, whilst we all have endless choice, it is hard to cover all ground. So many approaching artists love the idea of a music T.V. show and it is invaluable experience from them.

I have pitched the idea of a music T.V. show before and, on one occasion, someone said BBC Four were planning something. I have not seen anything come to fruition and I do wonder whether there would be anything as broad and exciting as my idea. I think the Internet and the way we consume music now is removing some of the joy and sense of community and, if we had a great music show on the box, there would be plenty of people interested. I understand those who say they used to watch music shows but there is no need now. Many do prefer to listen online and feel that we cannot reclaim the past. I feel there has not really been a viable and interesting option put forward through the years. The fact that Later… with Jools Holland is the only real music show on mainstream T.V. suggests people still want this kind of thing but we could go so much further. It is all very well saying that YouTube covers our needs but how many younger people are discovering classic albums and getting a full education? Of course, there are countless artists out there we all miss out on and it is naïve to say that there is no role for T.V. I would like to see a music T.V. show that had some depth and range but also recounts the glory days of MTV and Top of the Pops. So many people, whether it is nostalgia or something else, love those days and how we all used to watch these shows.


You felt excited and giddy watching and, whilst we cannot recapture all of that spirit, that is not to say music T.V. is dead. I do think commissioners and broadcasters need to be a bit more open-minded regarding the formats and potential. I understand there is risk and great expense putting a series together but that could be said of any drama or comedy series. Assuming something would fail because there is nothing like it around is not a good argument. A great format can spark the imagination and prove very popular. Others might say that having so many artists play would cost too much and it would be a nightmare but the show would be bi-monthly (twice a month) and not weekly; it would not be a massive budget and, like all great shows, the investment needs to be made. I do not like the fact that the Internet dictates the way we consume music and research and I feel we are all missing out on a world of music. A music T.V. can introduce people to albums they forgot about and new artists that they would not have otherwise of considered. I do like streaming sites and the likes of YouTube but there is a place for T.V. and a show that can bring live music to the masses. So many are unable to get tot gigs or suffer anxiety so this might be the only way to see artists play live.

I am sad MTV has declined and, as TheStreet say in this article, the station has moved away from music:

But nowadays, MTV is just one of many cable-TV and online channels competing for the eyes and ears of young people. Viacom's flagship network is no longer a cutting-edge source for music or entertainment. Viewership, especially among the 20-and-30-year-old Millennials that marketers covet, has been on a steep and steady decline.

"MTV seems to have lost its allure," said Jaleesa Jones, 21, a communication studies major at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, N.C. "TV is less popular now because we have so many other outlets to choose from, like Netflix (NFLX, Hulu and HBO Go."

MTV's audience has been shrinking just as mobile viewing by Millennials has accelerated the move by marketers to spread more of their money on an assortment of Internet-based video channels. In 2013, an average of 542,000 persons ages 18-49 tuned in to MTV during prime-time hours, according to Nielsen. In 2014, that number dropped to 497,000 persons, and so far in 2015, it sits at 361,000 -- a 34% decline rom just two years ago, Nielsen data shows”.

I think we can break against the desire for reality shows and actually bring music back into the fore. It would not be the same as the height of MTV and Top of the Pops but, with some time and patience there can be this revival and new interest. I can understand why networks would be sceptical but talk to people out there and, with the right format, there is definite interest and potential. I would love to see a great music T.V. show that covered the bases and balanced the older with the new. If we can get that to the screen and kicking, it would, I believe, prove to be…

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MASSIVELY popular.