What Killed The Video Star?

July 26, 2010

There’s been a lot of buzz recently about Justin Bieber becoming the king of YouTube, surpassing Lady Gaga for most viewed video ever. The music videos for Bieber’s “Baby” and Gaga’s “Bad Romance” have each hit 250 million views – an astounding number – and those aren’t the only music videos currently in YouTube’s all-time top 10. This begs a few questions. If there is a renewed interest in music videos, why doesn’t MTV go retro and start playing them more regularly again? Are reruns of shows like Teen Mom and My Super Sweet 16 really a better ratings alternative than videos from today’s most popular musicians?

Many people like me who grew up watching hours of music on MTV can name the first video the station ever played on Aug. 1, 1981 – “Video Killed The Radio Star” by the Buggles. I’m guessing many teens these days don’t even know MTV stands for Music Television. So what killed the video star?

I suspect the answer is the on-demand world we live in where people can watch anything they want online at anytime. But we may be seeing a revival … also thanks to the Internet. Technology is allowing musicians to create quality videos and other content much quicker and cheaper than ever before. And, while MTV continues its refusal to air anything but bad reality TV most of the day, YouTube is making a push to fill the void — refocusing its music page to bring music discovery and recommendation to the forefront.

The new music page will feature the most popular music videos, special curated playlists, unsigned acts and even a new live concert series called Unstaged, which  will include interactive elements, such as the ability to control camera angles and real-time voting on which encores the artist will play.

The thing that was previously missing when simply watching your favorite videos on YouTube was the ability to discover a variety of artists, so this is a big step in the right direction. The new platform also should provide opportunities for savvy musicians to pump out regular content beyond music videos. Here’s hoping a resurgence in fresh music content might even lead to more music on Music Television again someday.