Thursday, September 16, 2010

MTV Responsibility: Florence & The Machine = One and Done.

Do you remember when MTV used to have their ear to the music scene?  You should, because it was actually not all that long ago.  Some might argue that MTV's purpose was to keep us (the listener) posted on the next best thing within all genres of music, after all, they are and still continue to be the industry's most popular source of music information.  No this isn't a rant regarding MTV's reluctance nowadays to play music videos, nor is it regarding the afternoon's packed full of reality television.  It is rather the argument that MTV has assisted largely in the recent development of fan reluctance toward new and "original" music.

Some might argue that MTV in their role has the responsibility to deliver new music to us (the now very fickle listener.)  Over the years MTV began to undermine their self-appointed role by continuing to ignore new music and artists as time continued to pass.  Essentially, MTV has become a Top 40 radio station only playing songs and genres that have already gained momentum with the active listening population.

See, the problem is that MTV used to thrive on the idea of spotting and delivering new music to their viewers.  As a young station, MTV was striving to become an opinion leader in music and be a part of the early forecast of a potentially great artist.  A great example of this was their willingness to promote the career of Michael Jackson long before he had the support of other leaders in the industry (on Television.)  As TV, music and radio changed into a digital age, CD sales declined, and the Internet revolutionized music consumption, MTV began to take a backseat to their self-appointed role.  Now, instead of trailblazing the path for great music, they are choosing to follow the fickle listener who doesn't have time to seek out new and original music in order to secure their viewership, thus thrusting the music listener population into what I might call a "cover song state of mind."  Sure some of this new music exposure has been shoved off to their branch stations such as MTVU and MTV2 but is this really an effective delivery of new music to a vast viewing population?

Over the past decade, as I watched MTV transform into what it is today, I have watched the station continue to attempt to re-capture their role yearly at the MTV music awards by bringing in and nominating one conspicuous artist a year in order to throw off their viewers and to seem "cutting edge."  This year that artist was "Florence & The Machine." 

Arguably as a group of active listeners, It would be fair to say most had not heard of "Florence & The Machine,"  And there is no denying the look on the confused attendees faces during both the performance and nomination especially including "Video of the Year."

The problem here is not MTV's attempt to recapture their role, but rather their selection of an artist to create a distinct effect at the awards still rests on the networks inability to get creative in their role in the last 15 years.  Some might remember MTV pulling this stunt in 2008 with a band called "Tokyo Hotel."  For the most part these are artists that have made waves in other countries over the past year.  MTV has not only not discovered or really offered this group an exposure opportunity but has rather reaffirmed their lackadaisical A&R skills by only selecting artists that have first made waves before giving them additional exposure.  In other words for them it is like taking "chance" without being too risky.  Not only have these artists been questionable in talent but also questionable in American appeal.

MTV must understand that they need not undermine their role as an opinion leader and their responsibility to the music community.  As a listener and industry enthusiast, I would love to see MTV prove that they can once again be a leader in this role in the realization that throwing a curve ball once a year, playing a video at 2am or playing 5 second clips from great unsigned musicians that are lyric applicable as background music in their television programming is unfortunately not the way to succeed.