How MTV Killed the Radio Star, and Changed the World

In 1981, MTV: Music Television aired their first video and, with the help of the Buggles, made it clear to everyone that video had officially killed the radio star. Hearing your favorite artists on the radio was old news, and seeing them on TV became the newest attraction.

MTV Founder Bob Pittman
MTV Founder Bob Pittman, New York, New York, January 18, 1983. Photo by Allan Tannenbaum/Getty Images

The new channel was only available in New Jersey at first (and only in specific areas of the state), but it quickly spread to other parts of America, Europe, Asia, Latin America, and in other words – it took over the world.

Why Was MTV So Unique?

It’s not that the concept of music videos was completely foreign before MTV. It was well established in the ‘60s with clips done by The Beatles and The Doors. But those videos were shown sporadically on different talk shows and random channels.

Tabitha Soren and Kurt Loder at the 1991 MTV Video Music Awards in Los Angeles, California
Tabitha Soren and Kurt Loder at the 1991 MTV Video Music Awards in Los Angeles, California. Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

What MTV brought to the plate was a revolutionary concept. A channel whose sole purpose was to show nothing but music videos all day long. Teenagers were hooked on it because it combined two of their favorite past times – music and television.

Sadly, It Turned into a Ridiculous Channel

After a few years, MTV was not focusing on music anymore. They had reality shows about dating, cars, sweet sixteen celebrations, and even wrestling.

Keke Palmer attends the 2020 MTV Video Music Awards
Keke Palmer attends the 2020 MTV Video Music Awards, broadcast on Sunday, August 30, 2020, in New York City. Photo by Jeff Kravitz/MTV VMAs 2020/Getty Images for MTV

As part of their re-branding, MTV dropped the tagline “Music Television” from their logo in 2010. No one was really surprised about it. Because come on. What does Jackass have to do with music?

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