Cable channel MTV turns the big 3-0 today. Maybe this would be a big deal to music fans if the station was actually dedicated to music, like it was back when it launched on August 1, 1981, but these days, MTV's demographic keeps getting younger and the programming keeps moving towards reality television.
Perhaps the most prominent musicians in the Valley to have had first-hand experience with MTV back when there were more music videos being played is Jimmy Eat World. Their video for "The Middle" scored lots of airplay on MTV's now-defunct TRL back in 2001 and helped propel the group to national fame. Plus, it was nominated for Best Rock Video at the MTV Video Music Awards. The band has seen about 10 of their clips played on the station, making these Arizona artists visible to viewers all across the country.
These days, though, frontman Jim Adkins is less impressed with what MTV has to offer. Regarding the upcoming MTV Video Music Awards, he says, "When the 'heavy rotation' spins of videos for the week are less than five, it does seem silly to think of it as a legitimate award program. On any level. It really doesn't matter. Honestly, who would turn on MTV because they expect to see a video?" He gave more of his thoughts on the state of the "music" channel today and where he sees the future of music media, after the jump.
Up on the Sun: What's your first memory of MTV?
Jim Adkins: The first memories I have of MTV are mainly of theatrical metal videos -- like Def Leppard's "Rock of Ages" where Joe Elliot was going around escaping menacing Inquisition/druid people with a light saber broadsword. Or the beyond Thunderdome look of the Scorpions video for "Rock You Like a Hurricane". That is what made me want to play guitar in the first place.
What was Jimmy Eat World's relationship like with MTV?
MTV was something I grew up with. I watched and taped 120 Minutes every Sunday religiously. It was a big deal to be invited to the VMA's (Video Music Awards). But at the same time I think we all felt like it was the peak. The videos-aired-to-reality-show programming was already moving quickly towards less music.
How would you say MTV has evolved in the past 30 years? What's your opinion on it now? Do you think MTV helps musicians today?
It seems they go through phases. Like when the music people give them backlash -- so they try to do a new 120 Minutes or Headbangers Ball or something. Or, they make MTV2. But none of it seems to work as well as trainwreck programming. So, that is where it sits. I don't think it helps musicians very much now. I mean, it can -- but only like if having your song in a catchy commercial helps.
What changes would you want to make to it if you were in charge? If MTV served a purpose in the past, which channel or media outlet would you say is more meaningful to musicians?
I don't know if there is anything MTV could do to change. Say tomorrow they went back and started programming exactly like 1992. It would bomb. The same way terrestrial radio is having a hard time. People are already trained to go other places to see videos on demand. When you want to see a music video now, you go to the artist's website or you go to YouTube. And if you aren't sure what you want to check out, you go to a blog that shares your aesthetic preferences and search their links to videos. No way would you go back to waiting around all day, sitting through commercials to see the video you want -- maybe.
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