The date was August 1 of 1981, the day which was known as the start of the death of radio music. A channel was launched which changed the way music was to be played from that time forward, and that channel’s name was MTV or Music Television. Interestingly enough, the very first video which was played was that hit of The Bugles, “Video Killed the Radio Star”. The message that was being sent was loud and clear – MTV has risen and would soon take over the entire music industry.
A Budding Star
The rise to stardom wasn’t easy and quick though, as music videos were in short supply during the beginning of the 1980s. In the beginning, despite being approached by network and music executives, many record companies in the U.S. didn’t believe in MTV and were not willing to create and bankroll music videos that have no guarantee of success or viewership. In order to pass this hurdle, MTV instead played videos that came from Europe. Record companies there usually made short promotional films for their artists’ songs which were intended to be played on video jukeboxes. MTV capitalized on this available media and used them as the startup music videos to play on their channel. All in all, only about 250 music videos were being played over MTV’s 24-hour broadcasting period. However, this small repertoire actually benefited many new artists as they got a lot of exposure due to the repetition of their videos being played. After a few rough weeks, word on the street finally had MTV as a catchphrase for a new generation of music lovers.
Rise of a New Champion
By October of that same year, record sales for artists that had their songs and videos played on MTV had risen considerably. Record stores reported up to a 20% increase in overall sales, and many new bands suddenly entered the mainstream pop culture and became renowned outside of their home countries. Examples of these include Judas Priest, Men at Work, and Bow Wow Wow which all suddenly enjoyed popularity in the U.S. MTV was able to bridge the gap between continents and brought music to anyone who had access to a television set. Prior to this, radio store customers had to drive hundreds of miles at times just to see touring acts in their city schedules. With the advent of music television, all they had to do was flick on their TV sets and change the channel! MTV began to transform the music industry in a very different way as now, the way an artist looked and performed mattered just as much as how good their songs were.
The Big Guns Join In
After a few years of playing European artists which were also mostly bands, the big names in pop began to adapt to MTV. The likes of Michael Jackson, Prince, and Madonna started to make their own music videos, and this led MTV to invade every type of demographic available, from the young ones up to the oldies. The music channel was no longer just considered a fad now, as it was seen in nearly every home in the U.S., and record companies were literally spending millions of dollars just to get the best music video aired at the same time their artists were releasing their records.