Happy birthday to MTV! The music TV channel made its debut in August 1981, launching with The Buggles’ ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’ which is ironic, as it appears that Youtube is slowly killing TV. The channel, history now records, would go on to alter the course of popular music in the 20th and 21st centuries pioneering reality TV, VJs, the Unplugged series of acoustic concerts and making the careers of many artists.
Perhaps most poignantly it delivered Nirvana’s elegant swansong MTV Unplugged. The original concept for the channel’s American launch began – oddly enough – across the Tasman in New Zealand, where major record companies would send over tapes of bands performing to TVNZ because it wasn’t worthwhile for bands to travel over there to tour.
The popularity of the clips on TV in New Zealand led to the launch of MTV and initially only a few thousand Pay TV subscribers in northern New Jersey could receive it. However, it changed the music industry because as the network grew record stores in the new areas it started broadcasting in found customers asking for the records they saw videos for on MTV which immediately gave it immense power in the music industry.
The channel went on to launch the careers of TV presenters such as Carson Daly and Alexa Chung, while also producing TV shows such as Jersey Shore, Beavis & Butthead and spawning award ceremonies such as the MTV Video Awards.