Welcome to the fourth week of History of Rock, Part Two. On August the 1st, 1981, MTV launched its all-music, 24-hour cable TV network. Nobody had ever done anything quite like this before. It's an important moment. In the history of Rock music, because as MTV develops, it changes the landscape of, of the business of music, and the ways in which people are able to get to music, in a way that we have seen in recent years, the Internet and file sharing has changed the music business in a significant way. MTV was that kind of a Situation and so this week we're going to [UNKNOWN] talk about the music around MTV and the MTV revolution, tell the story of the cable channel and some of the groups that rode to fame on the strength of MTV and its rise and, and groups that that benefited tremendously from the MTV phenomenon, and remember that in the last few weeks we have talked about the 70's and how the second half of the 70's in many ways. We had the rise of disco, we had the rise of punk and then into new wave And then we had the continuation of bands that had been doing pretty much the same thing in main stream rock as they had been doing in the early 70's. So, some, you know, a refining and bringing together Of styles towards the end of the decade. Some people call that rock at the end of the decade, corporate rock and don't think its very good but in fact, a lot of that music is the classic rock, stuff that has stayed the staple of FM rock group radio. So we pick up from that story by moving into the 1980s and we'll want to keep an eye on what happens to new wave. What happens to disco and dance music and what happens to some of that mainstream rock as we, as we go along. And we'll talk about all of that this week. So, let's start with the origins of MTV. Interestingly enough, the origins of MTV are not in the music business at all. The origins of MTV are in the cable TV business. So in order to understand how MTV came into existence, we need to know a little bit about the history of cable tv. Now I will be the first to admit I am not a historian who specializes in the history of cable TV so what you'll get from me is going to be a pretty rough and ready summary but from the sources I've consulted, I think it's relatively accurate and at least accurate enough for our purposes in terms of establishing a context around MTV. So the rise of cable television In the United States cable television mostly arose in places where regular television broadcasts via antenna were obstructed somehow. So if you live in a town like Pittsburgh or south of Pittsburgh where there are lots of mountains mountainous regions and that kind of thing, it's tough to bounce a television signal around in the right way so that you can pick it up With an antenna or a couple of rabbit ears on top of the TV. and so, it is a valuable service to be able to run a cable, just like you'd run an electrical cable or or you'd run a telephone cable to your television so you could get that signal unimpeded by the mountains and the atmosphere and the various kinds of things like that. So those are real economic benefit and a pragmatic benefit to have cable TV. Cable TV's also valuable in city regents regents where there are lots of tall buildings that make it tough to receive a signal, especially inside of a, of a high rise apartment building or something like that. So cable can be valuable in those kinds of places and also turned out that out in the midwest. cable became a pretty going concern because of the ways in which cable was able to provide premium entertainment to people. And so it's to the premium entertainment part that we'll turn to begin our story. the cable TV, in many ways, starts as a way of providing premium entertainment that is movies, sometimes special sporting events, like fights, or things like that. Boxing matches, I mean when I say fights. to an audience that normally normally wouldn't be able to get them on broadcast television. If you pay me you know, a couple of bucks to watch this movie you can have it delivered directly to your home. Now we take that for granted these days. I mean, we can see all kinds of things on YouTube, there are various kinds of movie services, Netflix is one of them. anybody can get cable TV anywhere pay on demand movies, this kind of thing, especially in the United States. We take that kind of thing for granted, but do remember We're talking about the mid-1970s, late 1970s, early 1980s. Before people even had VCRs so that you could go and put a video into a machine and watch it in your television. The idea of being able to see a movie in your own home if it wasn't on broadcast television, interrupted by commercials. The idea of being able to see a movie from beginning to end without interruption in your home and to be able to choose to see it at that time. That was something that was entirely new, and a service worth paying for. So, one of the first companies into this business was HBO, Home Box Office. And they were in the game already in 1972, thinking of ways to deliver not only movie content But as I say, special sporting events, boxing events this kind of thing. all-movie channel, or all-movies-and-events channel at first. By 1979 we had ESPN in the game. All sports. Of course you can see the entertainment value of being able to get movies that you wouldn't normally be able to see in your home, or games that wouldn't normally be broadcast over the air by the regular network channels. Baseball games, football games, that kind of thing, college games and on. So if you were living somewhere in the Midwest, and you followed sports, and your movie actions were somewhat limited in the days before video casettes. These would be services that even if you could get the television over the year. You would pay to have cable in your home because it would provide a lot more free to be able to watch. By 1980, CNN was giving us 24-hour, cable news. And so, when we think about MTV launching in August the 1st of 1981 it was not that the very first you know, series of shows and videos. You could have found something like this on television that would play videos, you know by video DJ kind of thing. But the first channel devoted exclusively to music 24/7. I can remember back in the early 1980s watching Saturday Night Live. And on Saturday Night Live, you may know that they have commercials that spoof various kinds of things that are going on. In the culture. And I remember one of the channels, one of these ads was for a cable tv outfit. And it was talking about all the different channels you could get on this cable TV. And it said We have you know, an all movie channel. Okay, that's not very funny people knew that was happening. An all sports channel. Okay that's not so funny. An all music channel. Then they wanted to say, an all weather channel, as if who would want to watch the weather all 24-seven. An all golf channel. And all shopping channel, and people laughed uproariously. Who could imagine all these different channels, all of them devoted to this little sort of niche interest. But that's exactly what happened at MTV really was at the front end of that. Now you could say, well that's great, so MTV launches and everybody's watching these music videos. Well It depends on whether or not you've got cable. And cable was initially only in very limited parts of the country, only in very limited communities. It was prett-, really pretty much hit, hit or miss at the beginning. It wasn't until people began to realize that if you got cable you could get this music, you get the sports, you get the news, you get the movies and the other kinds of things that were being developed on cable that, that, that cities, municipalities were convinced to lay the cable in that would allow people to be able to get cable. I guess, to remember, as long as fifteen years ago, moving into a neighborhood and asking the question whether or not they had cable. because not everybody had gone, not every city had gone the expense of actually having cable hooked up and all different communities. I'm sure across this country, there may be communities that, that still don't have cable and depend for example on satellite TV or the internet. So, the, one of the stories is not just about the launching of MTV, but the way in which MTV starts with a relatively limited audience and begins to grow as the, as cable grows across the first half of the 1980s. When MTV was first developed, there were really sort of two schools of thought on what that channel should be. The first school of thought was led by former Monkees' guitarist Michael Nesmith, who argued that MTV should be a channel that should play videos that would have real artistic content. It would give artists the opportunity to do things with video that would be, that would push the boundaries and do new kinds of things. So he was opting for a kind of artsy approach others were arguing for the approach that no, no, no, MTV should be just like radio with pictures. Well, we'll use these videos that to promote records and we'll sell advertising and we'll do it just like the FM stations do and if people are happy to listen to rock and roll. with a, with just the sound only, they'll be even happier if they can hear the music and the picture. It's the same argument that David Sarnoff made when he was developing television back after the Second World War era. If they're, if they'll be happy to hear music over the air programming over the year. Imagine if we could get some pictures. Well, the same thing is, is the same argument is being used now. Michael Nesmith quite obviously did not win that dispute and the MTV decided to go with the commercial broadcasting route. It wasn't clear that MTV or MTV would ever be much of a rival to FM radio. but it turned out that it did as it developed its influence over the course of the 80s. Now one of the first problems with MTV was the availability of promo videos. In the U.K. A lot of bands made promo videos because UK countries are very far flung, so if you were in the UK and you wanted to promote a band in Australia or New Zealand or Canada or places like that And there wasn't a ton of you know, money for travel. It was tough to get that group around to all those different places because they're so far from each other. And so you make a video and you send the video out and it plays on television in these other countries. United States you know the contiguous 48 states, the basic approach was not to make a video but to send the band on tour. And so, a lot of the big American bands didn't have many promo videos but a lot of the European groups The English groups, even ones that, that weren't going to be, ever going to be big in the US, did have videos. So when MTV launched, they launched with a video, the very first video they played was Video Killed the Radio Star by The Buggles who were a group that had a video, but never would have made, had much notice in this country had it not been for that video and for the fact that MTV was desperate for videos at the very beginning of it. and so the, the videos that we get at the beginning of the MTV rise the first couple years are videos that are the ones that are available. It was difficult for bands and for MTV to convince labels to invest money in making videos, because nobody in the music business thought these videos were going to do them any good. Why should they invest money in promoting it? They'll put the band on the road, they'll get the records played on FM radio What is this MTV, who's even got cable, this kind of idea. So it was an uphill row for them just to be, uphill struggle for them, just to be able to get the record companies to invest in the videos. Well in the next video, let's talk a little bit about the audience for MTV, and how they audience for MTV in many ways defined what MTV Was at the beginning what it was going to become as it developed. And further affect the future of MTV.