MTV Turns 20
Listen to David Kestenbaum's report.
Listen as NPR's David Kestenbaum interviews Jim DeRogatis, Chicago Sun-Times music critic, who pans MTV's role in music.
Hear music industry veteran executive Danny Goldberg explain how MTV changed the record business.
Photo: Courtesy MTV
Aug. 1, 2001 — It was 20 years ago today that MTV was launched into the cultural consciousness. Kicked off with the words "ladies and gentlemen, rock 'n' roll," the first music video network made it clear that music, or at least the marketing of music, would become a visual medium.
The music industry hasn't been the same since.
The network brought us: Madonna rolling on the stage floor in a sheer white (wedding?) dress and purring Like a Virgin during the 1984 MTV Video Music Awards; 1985's Live Aid, a benefit concert watched by a global TV audience estimated at 1.5 billion; Nirvana "Unplugged"; Beavis and Butt-Head; The Real World; the violence-plagued Woodstock '99; and Celebrity Deathmatch.
MTV is now seen around the world, with versions aimed specifically at markets in Latin America, Asia and Europe.
Jim DeRogatis, a music critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, says MTV has destroyed the once intimate relationship between the music and its listeners. "In fact, MTV has never been about rock 'n' roll," he says. "Pop is what MTV's always been about," about appealing to the mainstream, about popular tastes -- and massive sales, DeRogatis says.
But record industry executive Danny Goldberg insists the music comes first. A music video is an enhancement of an artist's career, not a reason to have the career in the first place, he says.
On Morning Edition, NPR's David Kestenbaum reports on the legacy of MTV as it enters its third decade.
Madonna, circa 1984|
Photo: Courtesy MTV
• Visit the official MTV Web site and its international versions.
Watch the launch of MTV
Watch a clip of the first video to air on MTV, the Buggles' Video Killed the Radio Star
• Read a feature story on MTV's 20th anniversary by Chicago Sun-Times music critic Jim DeRogatis.
• Read a Smithsonian Institution interview with producer Hal Uplinger about the logistics of MTV's 1985 Live Aid Concert.
Listen to an NPR Weekly Edition report from June 2001 on MTV's foray into reality television.
Listen to an NPR Weekly Edition report from March 2001 on MTV's plans to combine its broadcast and Web content.
Listen to an NPR All Things Considered report from January 2000 on an MTV documentary about presidential candidates in their youth.
Listen to an NPR Weekend All Things Considered report from May 1999 about what it's like to try out for the job of MTV VJ.