Remember When… MTV Was Known For its Relationship to Music?

MTV used to be known for its extensive play of music videos and music related content.  Any controversy that they had received in the past was always due to the airing and editing of certain music videos.  Today, however, the network is more infamous for its controversial airings of reality TV shows like “Jersey Shore,” “Teen Mom” and “16 and Pregnant.”

This week MTV announced that their long-running hit reality TV show “Jersey Shore” is ending after six seasons. The show premiered in 2009 and immediately garnered major controversy and buzz. Despite receiving heavy criticism from the general public, “Jersey Shore” has become one of the most successful reality shows in television history. From an IMC perspective, the producers of “Jersey Shore” have successfully made viewers believe that this reality show truly reflects the personality of the entire state in general. We hear the term “guido” and we immediately think Snooki, The Situation and, New Jersey, yet most of the population of the state might actually take offense to being so marginalized to the “Jersey Shore.” This past week, MTV has started to release promotional spots for the airing of its final season. The commercial opens with images of the deserted boardwalk in Seaside Heights. It then cuts to random people reciting the phrases that were made popular by the cast of the show. The tone of the video starts off rather somber and depressing, but then ends with inspirational music playing over the message, “It may be ending. But it will never be over.” It is obvious that MTV is trying to appeal to their audience’s feelings and to evoke an emotional response.

After viewing this commercial, it is apparent that “Jersey Shore” has made a lasting impact on audiences since its premiere in December 2009. Their popular and unique phrases such as “T-Shirt Time” and “GTL” have become widely used catch phrases among the masses.  Although most of the general public can agree overall that “Jersey Shore” is mindless entertainment, it hasn’t stopped people from watching it. The season four premiere brought in a whopping 8.8 million viewers making it the most successful show in network history. And yet, scripted shows are still struggling to bring in and maintain high viewership. “Jersey Shore” has maintained almost five times the amount of viewers as “Teen Wolf” and “Awkward,” the network’s only scripted shows on the air right now. Did I mention that on MTV’s website, of the twenty-seven titles listed on their drop down menu of shows, only two of them are music related?

It’s not hard to deduce that MTV has obviously had more ratings success with reality TV shows than with any other content they’ve aired to date. Instead of being synonymous with music, MTV is now, more recognized for the heedless “reality” TV programming they continue to air. It seems MTV has made the ultimate brand change, and they practically did it without the viewers even realizing it. They have made a complete content change and yet maintained the same brand of “MTV” and this is something to note.

Can MTV get back to its roots of music or is it destined to be a distant memory of fonder times? Only time will tell, but it looks like the “music” part of “music television” will be something we’ll have to explain to future generations when they ask why MTV is called “MTV.”

Nicole Betterbid, Rachel Betterbid, Sierra Scellato, Lucy Rojo, and Shauna Seaver

23 thoughts on “Remember When… MTV Was Known For its Relationship to Music?

  1. I can remember when like it was yesterday when MTV was nothing but music videos and shows like TRL. In today’s world all people want is reality t.v. that they can laugh at and be entertained with 5 days out of the week. The fact that music videos have migrated to the internet on sites such as YouTube and VEVO, there is no need for MTV to show videos in prime-time t.v. spots. MTV is more concerned about bringing in revenue more than anything right now. That is why shows like “Jersey Shore” are so popular because people enjoy watching them a lot more than just music videos. With more viewers means more money and that’s what MTV is set out to do.

  2. When I was born in 1990, MTV only showed music videos and displayed various artists rise to the top from the bottom. Shows like Jersey Shore and Sixteen and Pregnant have sparked controversy in the media. Recently, Kim Kardashian made a statement saying that young teen girls were only getting pregnant to become a member of the hit show Sixteen and Pregnant. Is this really true? The drama of these shows spark interest in the young adults in the world because they find the cast’s problems appealing to their own. Statements like “GTL” and “T-shirt time” have become a famous brand. People all over the world are now making these statements just because of t.v shows on MTV. Genre’s of music may be considered just as big of a brand as these television shows. Listening to Lil Wayne talk about getting women is exactly what Pauly D does every episode!

  3. The branding transition from music to reality TV is not only present on MTV, but also other networks that were once predominantly music such as BET and VH1. All of these started out showing music videos because once upon a time, music videos were extremely popular. Knowing the latest dance moves and seeing the latest videos could place you amongst the “cool” kids. However, there has been a shift in viewer interest from music videos to reality TV. Although, I am one who would much rather watch music videos than reality TV, reality TV is the current pop culture fad. MTV is simply appealing to it’s viewer’s new interests.

  4. MTV is a popular television channel that engages audience members through different tactics. I agree with the statement, “The network is more infamous for its controversial airings of reality TV shows.” MTV can stray away from its original airings of music videos for several reasons. For one, their word mark MTV is infamous throughout America. If one see’s the logo, I would argue that most people, especially in my generation know that the logo is a representation of the popular television channel. Also, MTV has an advantage, or should I say pioneer advantage, because it first aired in 1981. Although it is not as old as let’s say Harvard University, in the networking world this is a nice and long amount of time. MTV is powerful and can get away from not putting on as much music because it has been around for a long time. The third reason MTV can get away with not airing music is because of the 4 P’s [Product, Price, Place and Promotion]. The consumers are what is important when it comes to the product, which is MTV itself. Television viewers are engaged in reality because of the promotion of reality television being the best thing to watch now. MTV also has put a lot of money into things such as interviews, VMA’s and other things that engage audiences to watch. MTV not only promotes, but they communicate with their audiences through things such as the internet blogs, twitter and much more. Can MTV get back to its roots of music? Possibly. It just depends on their direction with their audiences in the future.

  5. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this blog post. I do believe that music is going to be ‘a distant memory of fonder times’; and that is really a bummer. I personally do not enjoy must reality shows but its crazy to think how Jersey Shore has taken the nation by storm over the past six seasons and made it so iconic to all different types of viewers.

  6. As someone who is proud to say I have only seen 2 full episodes of Jersey Shore, but used to watch TRL almost everyday afterschool, I am very saddened to see what MTV has come too. My friends often say they “hate to admit” to watching reality shows, such as Jersey Shore and I believe no one should voluntarily be doing anything they “hate to admit”. What makes it even scarier, is that I don’t remember a certain time that I saw a change in MTV’s brand, it was a gradual change, until all of a sudden everyone realized what had happened.

  7. Although I am a culprit in watching Jersey Shore, I found this post to be entertaining and sadly, true. Poor people in New Jersey get such a bad reputation for their state now. Being from Maryland my friends have family from all over Jersey and get bothered by the comments people do write. Even though I was young when MTV was known for the promident music station I do in fact miss the TRL with Carson Daly. The reality shows have hit MTV like crazy and now they continue to make unnecessary shows that people will watch and it will most likely brain wash them. They should have stopped with Jersey Shore and as much as people do not like it I think it is entertaining, not going to lie. This blog was excellent and I did enjoy reading it!

  8. I believe MTV should change their name to RTV because the station no longer has anything to do with music. The MTV brand is misleading because it’s brand narrative has changed. Instead of providing updates about artists and their albums the station now airs updates on dysfunctional 16 yr old parents and their messed up lives. The MTV brand shift has been anything but silent. I am 30 years old and can remember how the station started and how it predominantly was all about music videos and artist interviews. Now the station focuses on the common everyday individual, which may be enticing to some viewers. The station tries to advocate extreme dramatic behavior because it provides good ratings and involves the audience to fantasize about a more exciting life. The focus on extreme behavior seems to be working for the station and this behavior draws in many viewers. I believe the shift in content is now how MTV is known to the newer generation. Hopefully some day in the future the station will balance its programming to have a little bit of shows to cover happenings in the music world, but I believe this shift will not occur. Long live reality tv!

  9. I have been sucked into watching Jersey Shore, but i hate it! It makes me sick that those people are lucky enough to party every night of the week and get paid. On the other hand, I remember when MTV was nothing but music videos all day. I think that every thing needs diversity, but now the only thing on MTV is reality T.V. If you want to see music videos then you have to was MTV at 4 or 5 in the morning,and who’s is up that early? Everything is good in moderation. It seems that MTV is either one way or the other. What is MTV going to be like in the next 10 years? The cast of Jersey Shore have created their own soapbox and have their own followers so therefore I guess you can say that they earned it.

  10. Unfortunately I have to agree with the idea that our generation will have to explain the ancient history of “MTV” to our children/grandchildren. When I was younger, I recall seeing “wake up” music videos in the mornings before school, or “making the video” documentaries, where artists were compelled to make unique music videos to be shown prominently through television. Since those times, advanced technology has brought more axcess to these videos: Youtube, “DVR”, tumblr. The “MTV” network has now realized in order to recieve high viewership, in hopes of holding on to advertisers and sponsors, they must consistently appeal to, what we would call it, the hype. I agree that the producers have succeeded in capitalizing on the binge-drinking/sex-hungry and extremely tan jersey shore cast. Although I wish to say “old school” MTV could return, it is highly unlikely. YouTube, for example, has made the concept of television being watched solely for music nearly impossible. If a new music video, mixtape, or album is released, one can reach in to their pocket and watch the latest through their smart phone. It is easy for those who appreciate the classic MTV to be displeased with it’s content today, however… isn’t it our generation’s fault?

  11. MTV has certainly changed over time. I would be ecstatic to see the network get back to their old roots. However, sadly enough, I don’t think it will. I think it has re-established its brand based on its success. I used to love the old shows, TRL, Say What?, Making the Video, and Direct Effect. I even remember some of the competitive shows like, Date My Mom and Next. MTV has completely warped into a network that is the basis for successful reality television. Jersey Shore definitely profiles their success of reality television. Even before Jersey Shore, shows like Laguna Beach and The Hills were beginning to take the place of music. I have fond memories of the old MTV, and it’s unfortunate that it’s changed so much.

    I’m not going to lie, I am guilty of watching those guidos and guidettes get into their weekly shenanigans. I agree with what you post- it is mindless entertainment. But it’s absolutely ridiculous how they are advertising the last season in this trailer. Why weren’t there trailers like this showcasing the end of fonder shows like Total Request Live? Is this preview trying to convey a nostalgic message? This doesn’t make me nostalgic. Thinking about the old programming does. I can’t even remember the exact point in time when the old MTV was beginning to move out and reality television was planning their takeover. Great blog!

  12. I liked this blog because made me remember how MTV used to be ‘cool.’ I remember when I was younger watching music videos on MTV from when I woke up till I left the house, it was a nice background noise. Now all I ever see on it is Teen Mom and Jersey Shore re-runs. Although this summer they had ‘Retro MTV’ in the mornings, which included Laguna Beach and The Hills. I had fun watching re-runs of those shows, but it’s weird thinking of them as ‘retro.’
    I understand that MTV is trying to broaden there network and keep up with today’s world, but they forgot what they were fundamentally made up of; music videos, behind the scenes, and countdowns. They should try to meet somewhere in the middle.

  13. Thanks for the comments and interesting insights everyone! I have to say in response to what some of you have said, I agree that MTV has changed their programming and brand to keep up with today’s interests. However, since their roots are in music, do all of you think MTV should at least have SOME music related content airing? I’m not saying they should only air music videos for large chunks of time, but they should air something that is music related. Agree or disagree?

  14. It is actually funny to read this article because a couple of weeks ago i actually thought to myself “MTV doesn’t play music anymore.” This made me realize that they really had changed brands with hardly anyone noticing. It is amazing that they are still allowed to call themselves MTV but at the same time CMT (country music television) are doing the exact same thing. I would say before we know it MTV should change their name to RTV (reality TV) but it seems like that is already the case with 24 of the shows on the drop down menu on their website are reality shows while two are scripted shows and just the one is a music video show. I would like to see MTV get back to the music side of tv and not focus on the reality shows.

  15. I was born in 1983, two years after MTV was born. Back in those dark, internet-free days, if you wanted to see your favorite band, you had to keep MTV on and loud enough to hear from another room. This is not the case anymore. If I want to see the video for “When I Come Around” by Green Day, I can look on my phone or someone else’s almost anywhere, and if I have a computer, chances are 98% of the area I’m in has wifi, so I can just pull it up without dealing with MTV at all. I don’t think anyone who was loyal to MTV at its creation is still loyal to it now, I mean I haven’t tuned into it since I was an early teen, back when “The Real World” and 500 other shows exactly like it started replacing “Headbanger’s Ball” and “Beavis and Butt-head” (which I would classify as music-related enough to be on music television). But why change the name? MTV created an awesome image for itself as a no-nonsense channel for people to check out all the latest music on. I didn’t know that anyone actually still watched MTV, or that it exists, but if it does, that whole edgy, rebellious “brand” they earned 18 years ago still works. Why? Well…
    Television isn’t very much of anything besides entertaining. For whatever reason, people like to veg out and stare at whatever is happening, no matter how good or bad it is. MTV has just folded into that mix, and no one is going to call them on it. The brand they created still survives in some diluted minds, I guess. I don’t think my generation worries too much about it anymore. It came, it was good, then it changed, and we moved on, now it has hooked a whole new host of people who like staring at a bunch of nonsense.
    But while they stare at it, every time they log into Facebook or Myspace, or bring up the homepage on their phone, all the hippest music is going to be flying at them from every direction. The music we like is pretty much guided by who is shoving it down our throats these days, and there is an endless amount doing that shoving. Music television isn’t necessary anymore, now that we have this all-reaching internet.
    They don’t even have CD stores in malls now. That’s a good sign for the irrelevance of a “Music Television” network these days.
    Sad state of affairs, come to think of it. Everyone running around listening to whatever has been packaged and thrust at them the most.
    Is VH1 still around?

  16. It is interesting that this blog points out that “Music Television” changed their brand without the audience even realizing it. It really isn’t something people think about, they are just watching T.V. It is insane to see the impact that 8 people from Jersey can make on the world. My roommate mentioned to me last night that the cast from Jersey Shore is actually on the COVER of her sociology textbook. The terms “guido” and “guidette” can be found in the glossary. I just blows my mind to think that such mindless entertainment has made that much of an impact on society. I wish that MTV would return to actually playing music but times have changed, and they have to roll with the punches in order to remain one of the most successful T.V networks.

  17. Evidently, after reading the comments, alot of people still seem to know what their programming schedule is, even though you’re saying “Too bad all I see on it is this and that nowadays.” That’s why it continues. Quit watching music television, and reality television will fade away. And no, I don’t think they should play any music related content. Because with the reality of music here in 2012, it would be the same stuff as all the other music related content we’re exposed to. Nothing fresh, nothing new, just the same moldy, crusty new faces and their catchy tunes.
    Sorry if I’ve abused my Soapbox.

    • You bring up a VERY good point Chad! With the state of music and the music industry, IF MTV were to revert back to more music centered programming, people may not watch or care because it is so readily available everywhere else. Ergo, the reality TV boom on their network. And yes, VH1 still does exist on air, however, it’s more like the current MTV these days.

  18. The end of this article does raise an interesting question regarding whether or not MTV will ever attempt to, and be successful at, reintegrating music centered shows into their programming. To me, the decline of the music video and shows such as TRL was inevitable. Music videos came into culture in the 80s, and though the quality and content of the videos were able to evolve, I believe the concept of watching a music video simply lost its appeal. Seeing the popularity of other networks, MTV hopped on the bandwagon and created their own reality TV shows to garner ratings. Though I cannot deny having seen a few episodes of MTV’s reality shows such as Teen Mom and Jersey Shore, the shows are not something I look to watch. It puzzles me as to why MTV has never made any attempts (to my knowledge) to provide other music centered programs aside from music videos.

    • Well you know they used to have lots of shows pertaining to music such as “TRL,” “Making the Video,” and several other concert type programs like “MTV: Unplugged” or “Return of the Rock.” I believe they still do “MTV: Unplugged” occasionally, but their music content is nowhere near what it used to be.

  19. I used to wake up in the morning for school and it was all music videos. Now I can barely find videos on T.V or online, and they’re never “new” or “popular” videos. MTV recently brought back “Pop Up Video” which I think is a great addition to the mix, but I think I speak for a lot of people when I say focus on more music. I think MTV should play more up and coming artists, indie artists, YouTube sensations, and different genres of music and focus more on the MUSIC and less on drama. I cant watch Bravo or Oxygen for things like that.

  20. I personally criticize MTV for how it has changed over the years. The fact that the acronym stands for Music Television but rarely plays music is astonishing to me. The reality shows like “Jersey Shore,” “Teen Mom,” and “16 & Pregnant,” are all irrelevant to the classic theme of the network. Stating that “Jersey Shore” has become one of the most popular reality shows is disgraceful seeing the messages conveyed in that show because they are extremely negative. There would be nothing better than for MTV to go back to the classic ways and to show music videos and to have programs relating to music. Hopefully with the voice of the audience, MTV will run less trashy programs and play the music we all know and love.

  21. I remember when TRL was on a MTV played music videos, now the only time you see those is at 3 in the morning. Although I do love music, I love Jersey Shore. I have for the past three years of a traditon with friends with that show. On thursdays we get ready and watch the show while pregamming then go out on the town. I am going to miss those days and am still kind of sad it’s going to be over. I do hope MTV can do more then just music awards and bring back to life playing videos and lose to some reality shows.

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