MTV Never Had a Clue About Anything Important

The idea that MTV had an understanding of American musical culture or the arts in general is laughable. You only had to live through the 1980s to know this:

With the benefit of hindsight, 1991 was a watershed year for rock music. That was the year of Pearl Jam’s Ten and Nirvana’s Nevermind. A documentary released in 1992 even referred to it as The Year Punk Broke. The alternative revolution was just entering its golden age, as evidenced by the popularity of the inaugural Lollapalooza. But MTV’s Kurt Loder and Tabitha Soren did not have the benefit of hindsight when they made a recap special called The Year In Rock: 1991, a long-forgotten program that has resurfaced, thanks to Reddit. What did Loder and Soren see when they looked back over the previous 12 months? “A pretty bad year” of slumping album sales and half-empty concert tours. Pearl Jam is not mentioned in the special, and Nirvana is relegated to a spotlight on new artists, alongside Color Me Badd and Marky Mark. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is briefly used to accompany a segment about the Persian Gulf War.

Because MTV was situated in the Northeast of the United States, everything that it did was based on pressure from record companies. American music has always had a regional flavor, and that was ignored by the cultural elites based in New York City. If a certain label wanted an artist to break, they would put heavy pressure on MTV to play their video and on New York based publications to provide positive coverage. This could also mean gaining favorable coverage through what was loosely termed "MTV News" by making the artist available for exclusive material. If you deliver content, you can demand that it gets airtime. And if you were in the business of keeping these people happy, why wouldn't you look up the sales information and run with that? There was no alternative back then--you took what the labels handed you and you dealt with it. Now, you can tell them to fuck off. 

Remember when Pidlar made a video with Nick Offerman? That's a video you would never have seen on MTV in the 1990s. Good God, they were so prudish it was a wonder anything made it onto the air.

I am so glad I ignored MTV for all of those years. It's always a shock for me to go and find the "official" video for songs from the 1980s and 1990s that I liked; I never had a chance to see any of that stuff because I couldn't be bothered to engage "music television" at all. And, yes, MTV's 120 Minutes was a joke then and it's a joke now.