MTV’s Revolution in the Music Industry Essay


The music industry has undergone several changes in the last five decades owing to the development of various television channels and production houses. An example of a revolutionary TV channel is MTV. MTV is an American satellite and cable television channel that was founded in 1981 by John Sykes, Les Garland, Tom Freston, and Robert Pittman (Blackwood et al., 23). The initial objective of the channel was to play music videos especially for songs that were ignored by radio stations.

MTV had great impact in the music industry shortly after its launch. It introduced a new era that heralded the viewing and purchase of music from artists who were little known in the United States (Burgess 41). Over the years, the channel has brought numerous changes that have revolutionalized the music industry.

Since its launch in 1981, MTV has made a huge impact on the music industry by breaking the color barrier, introducing new artists, promoting the dance culture, and increasing the acceptance of videos as an integral part of music. In this research paper, I will explore the role played by MTV in changing the music industry since its founding. Research resources will include academic books that cover the history and growth of MTV as well as the evolution of music production.

Launch of MTV

As mentioned earlier, MTV was launched in 1981 and shortly after that, initiated significant changes in the music industry (Burgess 43). The channel utilized technology that was available at the time which had many glitches. For instance, they used a VCR to play music videos which presented certain challenges especially to viewers. The influence of the channel was evident especially in regions where it was available.

Records stores began selling music that was regularly played on MTV but ignored by radio stations (Blackwood et al., 29). Bands such as Human League and Men at Work rose to prominence because of the launch of MTV. Radio stations were vey particular on the type of music they play. Therefore, many artists and bands were sidelined. It was during this period that the Second British Invasion occurred in the United States (Prato 54).

MTV made British musicians a priority and played their music so much that they became instant hits in the United States during the early years of the 1980s. The launch of MTV was challenging because of the presence of numerous TV channels that existed at the time. Many of them focused on movies and a few music videos in between their shows. MTV adopted a different approach in order to quell the competition by playing music videos only.

The main objective of launching MTV was to revolutionalize the music industry by changing people’s appreciation of music videos (Burgess 44). The channel hired video jockeys to run their programs. However, this structure changed as the channel expanded and created several other spin-off channels. Today, MTV embraces other forms of entertainment in order to appeal to a wider audience. It owns affiliates such as MTV Hits and MTV Jams that are channels dedicated to playing music only. These channels have preserved the original objective of its founders.

Contributions to the music industry

MTV changed the music industry in several ways. First, it introduced an array of artists and musical bands that were not known in the United States. This approach introduced music lovers to different genres of music from the United States and around the world (Blackwood et al., 36). It introduced a new era in music because it increased variety. During music programs, the VJs would record introduction and conclusion segments, do interviews with musicians, music reviews, inform viewers regarding various music concerts (Tannenbaum and Marks Craig 43).

The music segments were pre-recorded because of the lack of proper technology to support live recording and transmission. The channel mainly aired promotional music videos. Rock bands and classical rock music became a phenomenon in the U.S. because of MTV (Prato 56). Musicians were also given an opportunity to host music programs and play their most favorite music videos.

Second, it led to a surge in the embracement of videos as an integral part of the music industry. Prior to the launch of MTV, many artists never produced videos because they received limited airplay in the TV channels that were operational. As a result of MTV’s launch and growing popularity, record companies and musicians embraced videos as a way of increasing their exposure (Tannenbaum and Marks Craig 45). The embracement of music videos could be attributed to the launch of MTV.

On the other hand, the channel played an important role in enhancing the dance culture through the music of artists such as Michael Jackson. MTV made it possible for viewers to learn the lyrics to various songs as well as their choreography so that they could dance along while the videos played on the channel (Prato 58). The channel is responsible for reintroducing dance to the music industry and supporting its various evolutionary stages. The dance culture has been growing strong till the 1980s.

Third, MTV broke the color barrier by playing music from both black and white artists (Starr and Waterman 62). Many television channels and radio stations were biased towards music produced by white artists. Other artists had limited exposure because their music was shinned these stations. The introduction of music by African American artists was very difficult. For instance, Michael Jackson struggled hard to have is music played by the channel in the 1980s.

His music played a key role in helping MTV break the color barrier and incorporate music from all artists in its programs (Tannenbaum and Marks Craig 48). The channel declined to play certain music because its launch presented the channel as a rock only station. Rock music was done by white artists and that prevented African American artists from getting airplay. This changed when Michael Jackson started playing at the station.

Fourth, MTV has over the past few decades awarded artists for their exemplary contributions to the music industry through its MTV Video Music Awards program. The first award show was conducted in 1984 and runs till today as an annual event (Tannenbaum and Marks Craig 53).

The channel also covers live concert events in various countries around the world. Today, the company has reinvented itself to include other forms of entertainment such as reality programs, animated shows, and scripted programs. Over the years, the channel has censored music videos in order to eradicate certain aspects that reference drugs, sex, violence, racism, and other thorny social issues that affect today’ society (Starr and Waterman 68). MTV has over the years increased its global presence by launching in various continents.


MTV has changed the music industry tremendously since its launch in 1981. The channel was originally a rock only outfit but later expanded to incorporate other genres. Its contributions include breaking the color barrier, increasing the acceptance of videos as an important aspect of music, promoting the dance culture, and introducing new artists to the world. MTV has made a huge impact on the music industry since its founding. Many artists can attribute their success and rise to prominence to this channel. It changed the music industry in the 1980s by introducing new artists and playing music from different artists in different music genres. MTV will always be considered as one of the most influential TV channels in the evolution of the music industry.

Works Cited

Blackwood, Nina, Goodman Mark, Hunter Alan, and Quinn Martha. VJ: The Unplugged Adventures of MTV’s First Wave. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2013. Print.

Burgess, Richard. The History of Music Production. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014. Print.

Prato, Greg. MTV Ruled the World: The Early Years of music Video. New York: Greg Prato, 2010. Print.

Starr, Larry, and Waterman, Christopher. American popular Music: from Minstrelsy to MTV. London: Oxford University Press, 2003. Print.

Tannenbaum, R, and Marks Craig. I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution. New York: Plume, 2012. Print.

MTV’s Revolution in the Music Industry

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