Friday, July 28, 2006

The Internet Killed the Video Star:
The Rise and Fall of "Music Television"

OXFORD, Ohio (ZP) -- Often, for no apparent reason, I get the urge to watch the remnants of the so-called "music television" channels.

You know...MTV, VH1, CMT...

The ones all owned by huge-ass media conglomerate Viacom, the same company that owns and operates, under the flag some puppet subsidiary called the "MTV Networks," the likes of Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, Spike TV, and Noggin, designed to market a particular cultural interpretation to the masses as nothing more than oversexed, downright ig'nant Tweens and a few cans of something called Crunk Juice...

I don't know where, exactly, I get this urge. Maybe it's simply nostalgia.

I remember the first subscription-based television programs I watched, when my grandmother decided to invest in a satellite dish for the farm, included the now-defunct TNN's Nashville Now (1983-1993), MTV's legendary Headbanger's Ball (1987-1995) and its alternative partner in crime, 120 Minutes (1986-2003).

As a kid growing up in the early 1990s, the ability to see musicians, live and in living color via some satellite in the sky, was still something fascinating, an adventure of sorts. There was a time when the concept of "music television programming" meant one had an opportunity to be exposed to rising new talent and old favorites alike, for kids in rural Virginia to have the same access to the hottest sounds as kids in New York and Los Angeles.

Holy hell, how things have changed...

MTV no longer plays groundbreaking music, just overhyped artists, bad reality television, and programming designed to play to something below the lowest common denominator.

And then there's MTV2 and something called Fuse.

Wow. Just love the "we're cutting edge because our marketing guys say so" spin on packaged rebellion.

VH1? They gave Flava Flav a reality show. And if I see one more "I Love the [INSERT DECADE HERE]" special, I think I may be forced to commit hara-kiri, tossing myself onto a spork to keep from hearing any more of this scripted nostalgia.

And that's just pop music. I've tried watching CMT a few times recently, hoping to catch a glimpse of something other than what the Nashville Establishment calls "country music." Sadly, the Establishment has done just about everything in its power to keep the "redneck dance party" stereotype a viable commodity.

You know why Hank, Waylon, Buck Owens, Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, Ralph Stanley, Bill Monroe, and Merle Haggard are legendary country musicians? Well, they didn't really have time to worry about marketing to "country" fans. They were just fine being their own wonderfully chaotic, sometimes tragic selves to worry about building an image.

Hell, there are punk bands and rappers that sound more authentically "country" than most acts on country music TV.

As I said, often, I get the urge to watch the remnants of music television, watch as it slips closer and closer into informercial oblivion, watch as artistry becomes minstrelsy, watch and wonder why the hell anyone watches this shit anymore.

And then I get on the computer, check out the record label web sites, big and small, cruise the artist mySpace pages for my own "next big thing," subscribe to the mailing lists of bands who will never make a music video.

There's a lot of great music out there. And so little of it is made-for-music-television.

7 comments:

Cowgirl said...

Don't have to leave for work for 15 more minutes, so *gasp* thought I would read this thing.

I still think spork is a odd word.

I want a list of all the punk bands and rappers that sound more country, BTW. ;)

I agree with you...but am not as harsh or critical because it is not the artists but the producers etc that want them to change their sound, allowing flexibility for cross-over and larger viewing market potential. It all boils down to money.

Some of the best musicians will never be seen on music television...I know a few around here if anyone is interested.

Angel, librarian and educator said...

Please, don't do the hara-kiri with the spork no matter how tempting. You can't give them the satisfaction. I have lost the urge to watch the remnants of music television. Where they get off calling it "music television" is beyong me. I remember when they actually played music. Have not watched CMT much, maybe because it does seem "too pop." Oh well, there is always the Internet. Best, and keep on blogging.

P.S. thanks for adding me to the blogroll. I have gone right away and placed you on my Bloglines. I may hang around a while longer reading.

EsotericWombat said...

The proper word is seppuku, not hara-kiri.

Aside from that I agree with you on every point.

on the other hand, this decade has seen some good pop music. Franz Ferdinand, to put forth a shining example.

The way I see it, those who are willing to look for good music will always be able to find it. Of course, we can't find it all. So it still sort of sucks...

The ZenFo Pro said...

Cowgirl:
Hmmm...I wonder what's been taking up all of your time these days??? ;)

Lol...I can tell you're overworked just by reading the comments...

Yeah, I guess I am a little bit harsh, but, well, I used to work in the media. I LOATHED how entertainment programming usurped just about every network's news content in the late 90s, how music became less of an artform and more of a product. While it's always been about making money, it's who makes the money - and how - that's really destroying pop music.

It is the Establishment across the board, definitely, that has brought down the quality, not the artists. For example, I'd LOVE to get Shayna in tiny studio somewhere in the mountains, put together a group of old time session musicians, and put an album together, a la JC's American Recordings series... strip the sound down, let Shayna be a mom and a musician first, and let the folks just show up...

I was listening to a song she sang on one of her posts a while back, and the only thing I could think was how awesome it would be to hear her do a cover of someone like Tom Waits...maybe "I Don't Wanna Grow Up"...or Son House's John the Revelator?

Angel:
Lol...I had you linked a while back, but somehow you got lost in the shuffle when I migrated link management from hand-coding to blogroll. A while back, I found out through a librarian that...lmao on this one...somehow I ended up floating in Technorati's Top Five for Information Science (Silly tags), so I figured I'd better add a few more lib folks' blogs into the mix.

As for reading...lol...I'm long winded, so it may take awhile if you choose to hang around ;)

Wombat:
Lol, how did I know you'd be the one to point that out, man? Yeah, I used the more vulgar term. ;)

FF's not bad; definitely a start in terms of bringing rock back into the mix. But I guess anything sounds better after the Boy Band era...

Lol...I'm starting to feel like David Fricke here...

LibraryTavern Liz said...

I confess to sometimes watching multiple back to back episodes of I love the 80s ... ah, nostalgia!

--spared-- said...

Watching I love the 80s would just bring back bad memories of bad hair-do's and poor fashion choices. At this point, the decade is a blur for me. I'd like to keep it that way...

The ZenFo Pro said...

Liz:
In small doses, it's not too much of a problem. But I'm leery of nostalgia based on mass-marketing.

Spared:
I feel the same way about the 1990s.

All I think about is this wierd haze...lost somewhere inside Ben Stiller flicks and slacker-inspired television ;)