MTV Turns 20

audio Listen to David Kestenbaum's report.

audio Listen as NPR's David Kestenbaum interviews Jim DeRogatis, Chicago Sun-Times music critic, who pans MTV's role in music.

audio Hear music industry veteran executive Danny Goldberg explain how MTV changed the record business.

MTV logo
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.

Other Resources

Madonna performs on MTV in 1984
Madonna, circa 1984
Photo: Courtesy MTV

Visit the official MTV Web site and its international versions.

video Watch the launch of MTV

video 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.

audio Listen to an NPR Weekly Edition report from June 2001 on MTV's foray into reality television.

audio Listen to an NPR Weekly Edition report from March 2001 on MTV's plans to combine its broadcast and Web content.

audio Listen to an NPR All Things Considered report from January 2000 on an MTV documentary about presidential candidates in their youth.

audio 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.