Here’s one of those spoof videos that’s so on the money as to be eerie. From YouTube duo Brian Firenzi and Maria Del Carmen. Taking the form of a fake Ask A Network Exec Q&A, the clip delights in skewering an often-heard complaint against MTV, that it doesn’t play music videos anymore, just “reality shows with vapid annoying people.”
To be fair to MTV, it’s only ‘MTV MTV’ that are hell-bent on filling the schedules with Geordie Shore and The Pauly D Project. Like every sector of the music biz, they’ve found a case of adapt or die, and adapted. Plus, in the dedicated genre channels like MTV Rocks and MTV Base, they have a whole raft of outlets for nothing but your actual promo clips. Although as ‘MTV boss’ Michael Destiny says to the hapless 20-something female, “Puff Daddy used to be able to drive a speedboat through an explosion. At least that looked cool.”
Brian and Maria's real target seem to be the generation – our generation – who went nuts in the toyshop when it turned out you could get music for free, yet expected nothing to change from the smash and grab. As a disciple of the 90s, I look back wistfully on that MTV golden age, even though they’re false memories, since I was too young for the height of the grunge boom and didn’t have MTV for most of the 90s anyway. But it’s natural to rhapsodise for an imagined past. One of the things about the web revolution is people work out the shape to rebuild things after the bulldozers have already been in.
Still, it’s worth considering what place music TV has in 2012. Is there really a role for MTV in the age you YouTube and Vevo? And much as we all love to crow about the lack of music on network television, the unfortunate fact is that it doesn’t rate in sufficient numbers to be interesting, so we just get boring old Jools, production-line pop on E4, or label-sponsored puff profiles. BBC Four, at least, do a decent job for the monthly-mag crowd, and Hollyoaks of all places have been coming up with innovative ways to get new artists on screen lately. But what needs to happen is for web TV to develop into a place where we can get shows as smart and engaging as old favourites like The Tube, The Word and even Popworld.
And people like Brian and Maria are, at least, a step in the right direction.