On August 1, 1981, a new television channel called MTV launched in the United States. The first words spoken on the channel were “Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll,” followed by the airing of the first music video, “Video Killed The Radio Star” by The Buggles. This historic moment marked the beginning of a new era in music, television, and pop culture.
The Birth of MTV
MTV was the brainchild of Warner Communications executive Bob Pittman and American Express executive John Lack. They envisioned a channel that would combine music videos, live performances, and other music-related programming into a 24-hour network. At the time, music videos were a relatively new concept, and few outlets existed for them to be broadcast.
The idea for MTV was met with skepticism by many in the music industry, who saw it as a passing fad. However, Pittman and Lack persevered and eventually secured funding from a group of investors that included record labels such as CBS Records and EMI.
The First Music Video on MTV
The first music video ever played on MTV was “Video Killed The Radio Star” by The Buggles. The song, which was released in 1979, was already a hit in the UK and had gained a following in the US. The video, which was directed by Russell Mulcahy, featured the band performing the song in a futuristic studio setting.
The choice to play “Video Killed The Radio Star” as the first music video on MTV was intentional. The song’s title and lyrics were seen as a commentary on the changing landscape of the music industry, with video and television becoming increasingly important mediums for promoting and selling music.
The Impact of MTV
The launch of MTV and the popularity of music videos had a profound impact on the music industry and popular culture as a whole. Suddenly, artists had a new outlet to promote their music and connect with fans. Music videos became an essential part of an artist’s marketing strategy, and many artists began to use elaborate and visually stunning videos to stand out from the crowd.
MTV also helped to break down racial barriers in the music industry. Before MTV, black artists were often overlooked by mainstream radio and television. However, with the popularity of music videos, black artists such as Michael Jackson and Prince were able to reach a wider audience and become household names.
The Legacy of “Video Killed The Radio Star”
“Video Killed The Radio Star” may have been the first music video on MTV, but it also went on to become a cultural touchstone. The song has been covered by numerous artists and has been featured in movies, TV shows, and commercials. It is also considered a classic example of the synthpop genre that was popular in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Overall, “Video Killed The Radio Star” and the launch of MTV were significant milestones in the history of music and television. They changed the way we consume and interact with music, and paved the way for countless artists to achieve success and reach new audiences.