"Empty V" Video Music Awards

Did you see or hear about the Video Music Awards sponsored by MTV Sunday night?

It was business as usual.

Controversy as to whether Britney Spears looked as good as she did before giving birth to her two babies. She did an uninspired, bikini-clad rendition of her new single Gimme More.

The gratuitous barbs from comic Sarah Silverman about Britney's "two mistakes" (her children).

It got me thinking.

Why is MTV still doing these music video awards?

They hardly ever play videos.

Justin Timberlake on several occasions during the telecast shouted out that MTV should play more videos and less Simpsons (the Ashlee and Jessica reality show kind).

Production on the VMA show was enough to make a person who didn't have attention deficit get it.

MTV once put fear into the hearts of radio operators. Remember the chutzpah of "Video Killed The Radio Star". MTV was the next big thing back in the 80's.

Well, all these years later video didn't kill radio.

Radio consolidators did.

With an assist from Steve Jobs and Al Gore (assuming you believe the right wingers who say Gore invented the Internet).

I felt sorry for MTV Sunday night.

I felt sorry for me watching such an uninspired program that didn't do the music justice.

I felt sorry for anyone who didn't own a TiVo.

Okay, I've had enough fun.

The fact is that MTV doesn't matter the way it used to.

Radio doesn't either.

And record labels sure don't matter. We live in a world where musical anarchy exists if you don't approve of the democracy that has spread through the Internet and the mobile space.

Apple is breaking new music and making the hits through its iTunes store.

Young people 18-24 are spreading music virally through their MySpace, Facebook and other social networking sites.

If every social networking site shut down tomorrow and all piracy was thwarted, the music industry would indeed die because the next generation would never trust the automatons on radio to be credible sources of what's good.

Lee Abrams, the XM satellite programmer and former radio guy, told one of my USC classes yesterday that back in the 60's radio used to make the hits. The students were wide-eyed in amazement. When the jocks said, "Herman's Hermits have a great new record", Abrams said, "the audience would go out and buy it" as incredible as it may seem today.

Even though young people are exposed to radio (although they rarely choose it over music sources) the last thing they'd do is trust a radio disc jockey when it comes to what's hot.

Therein lies the problem.

If Apple is cool because it knows what's hot, what is radio?

Dead in the water.

And, MTV is right next to it.

The iPod is popular not because it has video capability, but because it is an audio device. While some consumers like video, everyone likes to hear music.

So what's radio's excuse for dropping the ball?

And drop ball is what they're doing -- all these competitive disadvantages are self-inflicted.

Radio ignored rich and deep playlists because PDs know better than the public. Listeners want the same 30 songs over and over again. It's the magic formula. It's always worked.

Not now.

Radio knows better than the public that dumb djs are better than knowledgeable ones who have a passion for music. (Quick, name five knowledgeable djs. Bet you can name five dumb ones faster or at least what station they're on).

That listeners are so stupid they will sit through six or more commercials without tuning out (How do radio exec's know? They commissioned a study that said so).

Watching MTV's VMAs made me think of radio.


Empty on music power.

Empty on music knowledge and passion.

Empty on variety and choice.

That's why I call MTV "Empty V".

At least MTV has reality shows to fall back on. At least it can be a regular cable network with regular programs and sales reps who wear regular suits.

But all radio has is the music and while that should be enough to drive the medium, it's not enough now in the age of the Internet, iPods, downloading and social networking.

To borrow a phrase from Britney Gimme Me More.

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