Why doesn't MTV play music videos anymore?


  1. Sort of a cute idea, but the content is so off to me. I used to assist with producing a music video back when MTV ruled the format. We aired on a cable access channel once a week. We were one of the ONLY outlets for alternative music videos in the country. The record labels used to kiss the ass of the guy who produced that show – like, they flew in front row tickets to the Rolling Stones show and hand delivered them to him. Why? Because at the time, NO ONE could get anything out that MTV was not promoting. There was no WWW, there was no “alternative” format music video shows. 

    I’m bringing that up to say that I do know a bit about the business end of video shows.It’s true the Interwebs are out there, but it is really tough to filter it even with all the algorithms that suggest similar music. Just like there is still a place for top 40 radio, there is still a place for MTV. Lady Gaga video? Bring it on! I love her. What’s the issue with playing the hits? That has worked for the music industry for a long time.Sure, MTV was playing promotional material for the record labels. The record labels are still producing music videos – they just aren’t airing them on TV anymore. So what’s the real reason they aren’t airing them on TV? MTV was a social experience, like the girl said.  Teens still watch TV. They still have a herd mentality. The material was free to MTV, so it can’t be cheaper for them to air reality shows they produce not for free. Is that they are no longer getting the payola from the record industry that they used to?

    1. I think you’re right, but the point I took from the video is not that MTV or the music biz sucks, but rather, that MTV is constantly re-formulating to catch the attention of teens – and they don’t give a damn about anyone over 25.  MTV simply doesn’t care if people like videos or reality shows.  Whatever gets the most eyeballs gets aired.

      It can certainly be argued that the record labels refused to capuitulate to current consumer demands in the way MTV does.  It was a bad decision – their revenues have shot through the floor, and they’ll never recover.

    2.  From what I’ve heard, the real reason MTV stopped playing music videos is that Nielsen ratings don’t apply to three-minute spots.  Without Nielsen ratings they couldn’t make a good case to advertisers that anyone was actually watching music videos.  I haven’t watched the video above yet but this explanation seemed pretty plausible to me.

          1. I asked her via Facebook and wanted to quote her exact answer, but I think she deleted the post – she’s new to Facebook so not sure if that was purposeful or accidental. Anyway, paraphrasing her, they have some device that starts with a P that they have been using since 1987 that measures each minute you watch. A little creepy, don’t you think?

      1. possibly – but I would guess this was in reference to the really old days when MTV would just air videos for hours on end, not the more recent old days when they would have hour-long “programs” consisting mostly of videos (Total request, Headbanger’s Ball, Yo MTV…)

  2. First I laughed. Then I realized the girl asking the question wasn’t even BLEEPING born when I BLEEPING graduated from BLEEPING high school.

    Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to go and weep quietly in the corner while I try to buoy my spirits by listening to “Love Shack” by the B-52’s, and try to forget that the first time I heard that song was when MTV played the video and asked viewers to call a 1-900 number and vote on whether it was “smash” or “trash”. And that I was a freshman in college at the time.

    1. “Then I realized the girl asking the question wasn’t even BLEEPING born when I BLEEPING graduated from BLEEPING high school.”Simple fact: MTV stopped playing music videos before she was even born.

      1. I was in a strip club today when I realized that one of the young ladies had chosen three songs for her on-stage dances and all of the songs had been written at least a decade before she was born.  I complimented her on a selection from Parallel Lines, told her I saw the tour live, and that my ears rang for 3 days after that one night spent screaming my appreciation for Ms. Harry (and the rest of the band, too, of course.)

        She didn’t have the foggiest notion what I was talking about and looked at me like I was a dinosaur.

        Now, if I serve up on a silver platter a straight line like that and you guys can’t do something useful with it…I truly will begin to lose faith in humanity.

        1. A couple of years ago, Hamburger Mary’s (which is now a depressing 60s-themed chain restaurant) opened in Palm Springs. When we entered, the greeter, a young lady of about 18 years, sauntered up in a fake hippie outfit and said, “I’m Hamburger Mary.” So I said, “I’d like a dozen hits of windowpane, please.” She had no idea what I was talking about.

  3. They stopped playing videos many years before Napster or any other sizable internet “music stealing” was occurring.

    So don’t try and put that Jersey Shore crap off on file copying, nothing could be further from the truth.

      1. I can’t find any reference to a writer’s strike in the 90’s.  I have 1988 and 2007-2008.

        But MTV was running Real World, Road Rules, and about 8 hours of MTV Beach Party daily back when I was swapping mp3s with FTP clients (the original P2P).

    1. Wow, I remember Prodigy – they were like the predecessor to AOL, right?  With 1200baud modems and 24×40 text screens on your TV?

  4. Oh, and a few words from MY generation about why we don’t buy live concert tickets anymore, even though we have the disposable cash.  It’s because YOUR generation treats those venues like they’re listening to the music on one of their electronic devices, and the artists are just so much *background noise* to getting on with their *much* more important social lives, while getting falling down drunk, all the while talking or yelling or singing along off-key in a drunken slur over the top of the music, and ruining the experience for those of us who just wanted to see and hear their favorite artists live (an experience made sweeter by the delayed gratification)… AND NOTHING ELSE!   So, double fuck you for that.

      1. Has never been uttered at this house.  But we have been known to say out the window, ‘Would you mind picking up after your dog?!  Oh, no bag? – I’ll be right out with one!’

    1.  In the words of a dude who I confronted for being incredibly fucked up and screaming “whoooooooh” every 40 seconds during a rock show: “Dude, it’s a rock show.”

      1. It was the musicians and their music that rocked.  They were the show.  We were lucky enough to be along for the ride.

        1.  Yeah, and the guy was annoying the fuck out of me.  Then when he pointed out it was a rock show I realized I should have spent more time enjoying the show and less time being annoyed about people enjoying it in their own ways.

          If you can’t deal with that then you’ve found the right solution: don’t go to shows.

          1. There’s a fine line between “enjoying it in their own ways” and being a goddamned nuisance, of course.  I’m sure the girl sitting on her boyfriend’s shoulders two rows in front of me is enjoying the hell out of the show in her own way, and not really caring that those of us behind her have a better view of her sweaty ass-crack than of the act we actually paid good money to see.

            Limiting one’s drunken “woooo”s to every three or four minutes rather than every 40 seconds would go a long way toward repairing relations in one’s seating row.  Have fun, knock yourself out.  It’s not the opera, after all.  But do please remember that you’re not the only one in the audience, and you’re not the act we paid to see.

            You were right to be miffed at the dude, wys.  If someone thinks their concert experience isn’t complete if they haven’t felt up all the girls and explosively vomited over someone’s back, are we to shrug and say, “Hey, it’s a rock show.  Let that freak flag fly, my brother”?

            I do want to mention that when I started getting into AC/DC in the mid-80s, I started collecting all their old stuff as well.  It was kinda weird seeing Bon Scott era concert footage of them.  It’s not like the act or their energy ever changed very much, but the audience sure did.  This right here is an AC/DC show from 1977.  Look at the kids in the front few rows.  One might be tempted to think that their energy is low. Like maybe the act sucks.  Hell, maybe they’re all on Quaaludes.  But more likely, it’s a generational thing.  Rock shows hadn’t imported the “slam dancing” moshpit from the punk shows yet.  Who’d have thunk it?  Rock fans used to be more civil.

          2. You make some excellent points.  It’s a tricky issue.  A little bit like playing “Free Bird” at the temple burn I guess.

    2. As opposed to our generation who treated the musicians like background noise because we were dropping acid and fucking in the aisles?

      1. Is that what was going on at the concerts you attended?  Dammit, I’m always missing out!  Must have been totally engrossed in the music.

  5. I think there was also a lot more creativity and experimentation back in MTV’s video glory days.  Now most music videos are either the same “rapper in a car with grinding girls” or “woman in front of gyrating dancers”.  The occasional interesting video comes up but not very often.

    They’ve also lost much of the synergy between music videos and radio.  We’ve already lost most of the top music stations here in Boston and they’ve been replaced with generic dance or “classic” music formats.

    1. in exchange for the loss of those boston radio stations, you got internet radio. from my perspective, its way better than a fair trade.

      1. Finding them isn’t as easy as turning the dial though.  The internet is a haystack.  There is a lot to sift through.

        1. depends a lot on your musical taste and whether you use iTunes (ever). for me, somafm.com acts as a more or less never-ending source of 7 out of 10 of the genres i listen to most of all. the iTunes “Radio” list has hundreds to browse through semi-realistically organized by genre, and can be a good starting point. about three times a year, i come across another station that totally blows my mind (most recently fluid radio channel 1 from the UK). i’m listening to more, better, diverse music than i ever was able on traditional radio. and no pandora-esque attempt to guess what i want to hear. bliss!

      2. Personally, I have a tough time listening to knac.com in my car.  Yeah, I could kick in the cash for satellite radio, but I miss the days in the early 90s when Los Angeles had four distinct rock stations on the FM dial: KLOS for your basic Album-Oriented Rock, KLSX for the relatively-newly-coined Classic Rock (Stones, Zeppelin, and Hendrix rather than Elvis, Buddy Holly, and Bill Haley, and certainly no Nirvana or even AC/DC could be found on Classic Rock those days), 100.3 Pirate Radio for your Sunset Strip metal, and KNAC for the heaviest stuff.  And then there was KROQ for your Modern Rock cutting-edge proto-alt stuff.  Those were the days.  Gee, my old LaSalle ran great.

        Anyway, KNAC turned to Spanish-language programming around 1995, 100.3 Pirate Radio (KQLZ) bailed in 1993, KLOS became “Classic Rock” and by 1997 was playing nothing but REM and the first album by The Pretenders, and KLSX became talk radio.  I gave up completely on commercial radio in L.A. when I got my first iPod.  I certainly don’t miss the 26 minutes of commercials they’d play every hour, but I do kinda miss being exposed to new and unfamiliar songs every week without any effort on my part.  Kinda.  Now I gotta go looking for it.  And I drive a lot.

  6. MTV pioneered the model of a successful cable channel that then gets lost in search of eyeballs.   It goes like this:

    1) Someone gets an idea for a channel that plays all music, sci fi, movies, etc.

    2) Channel gets some traction and becomes successful.

    3) In search of new eyeballs the try out a different type of programming (like The Real World).

    4) New programming is a hit, which spawns more original programming.

    5) Pretty soon the original reason for the channel is gone. The new programming has taken over.

    The simple fact is more people watch Jersey Shore than music videos. MTV wants the eyeballs, so they are going to keep making more shows like Jersey Shore and kick music videos to the curb. Kinda sad, I remember when it WAS about music.

        1.  Meanwhile the science channel is now playing more and more science fiction, with the occasional nod to their roots by having a physicist pop on for a few minutes explain how maybe it could be science some day.  Since  SkyFy is just showing wrestling at the same time slot, I’m glad the science fiction has somewhere to land, but it’s still pretty annoying that none of the niche channels actually fit their niche.

  7. My humor sensors must be off today, half the time I think the clip is slamming MTV, the other half I think they’re defending MTV and slamming 20-somethings.

  8. I stopped watching MTV back when the minute of of VeeJay time first exceeded the minutes of music.  Who needs that crap? BTW, I was about 22 at the time.

  9. So MTV has gone from airing terribly vapid music videos from terribly vapid people to leaving the music away and concentrating full time on vapid people? I always thought that MTV was better with the sound off, so I see this as an actual improvement. Not that I have any idea what MTV looks like, I don’t have a TV, and if I had, I wouldn’t watch MTV. But I imagine it’s like before, without being interrupted by terribly vapid moderators.

  10. But MTV does air music videos. Constantly. In Asia. They are almost all of Korean girl bands recycling  stock dance moves in a variety of costumes and exotic venues, from what I’ve seen.  No idea what they’re doing in other markets, but I guess whatever brings in the most return on investment. I’m sure they would be showing them in the U.S. if there was a real demand for them. For that matter, if there is a real demand for music videos in the U.S., why wouldn’t another of these cable brands that are always desperately flailing around trying new formats and content try it?

  11. This is an old argument, like he says in the video: “It’s literally old enough to drive”. 

    Back in 1998 I was working for a start-up music company founded by Chris Blackwell, Les Garland and Ted Waitt (Discovered Marley, MTV’s 1st music programmer and founder of Gateway computers) who’s goal it was to create website to kill MTV because they didn’t show music videos anymore. That was 14 years ago and it was a valiant attempt to capitalise on the new-fandangled technology called he World Wide Web. We were too early, the technology wasn’t quite ready, even by the time we folded and the site’s now a porn only url (Seriously, from Webby Award winning cutting edge video streaming website to pornography host – Cory Doctorow, won’t you please write that story?), but the complaint was the same back then as it is now.

    It seems to me that the desire to watch music videos is still alive and well, but finding them has become a fractured quest. I find myself buying videos in iTunes just to be able to watch a nice clear version. 

  12. Na realidade eu acho simplesmente um esculacho  porque ninguém pensam neles mesmos e o público fica a ver navios.

    Simplesmente desrespeito.

  13. Sorry to hijack, but could someone please explain to me why cable channels need to be subject to Nielsen ratings? With all the channels out there focusing on specific genres (or supposed to) why are ratings even necessary? Whoever thought this was a brilliant idea needs their fucking throat ripped out. I’m so sick of cable channels steering away from their original focus because of the RATINGS.


Comments are closed.