The other night we stumbled across the VMAs while flipping channels, and while we barely slowed before continuing to change channels, we got to talking about it for a while that night and the next day. The basic conversation went like this:
- I love the VMA’s.
- Like to see who won
- When was the last time you watched a video on MTV?
And that pretty much sums it up. The ‘Music Television: Video Music Awards’ are about music on television and about music videos in name only – the real reason people watch is to see their favorite music celebrity (lip-sync) on stage, and for some reason people want to see who wins awards they really don’t care about. For my kids, if Justin Beiber loses whatever award is given it is all for the best.
In 2011 there was big news that the VMAs had their best ratings EVER. The massive hype from wide marketing, the line-up of controversial characters (Chris Brown in particular), the promise of ‘events you cannot miss’ and so on merged with a pre-Labor Day airing and the fortune of little competition to allow for a great audience.
Of course, the show itself was terrible. Lady Gaga was so self-important and self-indulgent, and the announcers kept touting ‘historic moments in the making’ which were lame staged non-events.
So I wasn’t surprised that ratings were down this year. But I WAS surprised to hear that viewership was off by HALF! There is definitely the factor of the Democratic National Convention airing at the same time, but I think that the #1 issue MTV is facing is this:
NOBODY Cares About Music Videos on MTV
I mean, when was the last time YOU watched a video on MTV? In my fraternity house in the mid-80s we would have a TV that would always seem to be on MTV or VH1 playing music videos in the basement, so you could just head down, play pool, throw darts, chill out, or whatever, and have music and video playing in the background. But that was a LONG time ago – back when the exclusive focus of those stations was playing music videos.
But today if someone wants to watch a music video – or often just to hear a song – they will head to YouTube. If you look at the biggest music videos of the past couple of years, from ‘Chocolate Rain’ to ‘Friday’ to ‘Call Me Maybe’ or ‘Somebody that I used to know’ … you will find that they first became known through YouTube, before getting picked up elsewhere.
So … MTV no longer breaks new artists, isn’t a destination for kids in general, has become a joke due to the mismatch between name and purpose, and really hasn’t had any impact on the music video industry in ages.
Which begs the question – WHY would anyone watch the VMAs? Are we SO celebrity-obsessed that we will watch any show promising something ‘never before seen’ or ‘history in the making’, even when we KNOW it is all scripted? Or was 2011 the ‘last hurrah’ for the dinosaur that is MTV. I don’t know … what do YOU think?