Despite entry of new channels, music fans still want their MTV
Music streaming, Internet radio and mobile devices have not yet killed the video star, but they did force her to change her traditional ways.
Thus while MTV, born in New York City in 1981, remains a popular television station among those who need their music fix, it has also moved in new directions to stay relevant with new and younger audiences.
These include the so-called millennials who are more likely to consume their music through popular streaming services such as Spotify and Pandora, using their mobile phones, whenever and wherever they are, instead of staying in front of a television set, waiting for the video of their favorite song to come on.
One of the new directions that MTV is pursuing is the mounting of live shows all over the world to bring the music—and the MTV brand—closer to the audience.
MTV believes strongly that music is best enjoyed as part of a “shared experience.” Think Woodstock of 1969 and the various music festivals that draw thousands of music fans from around the world.
It is this philosophy that pushed MTV, a unit of Viacom International Media Networks, to hold its first MTV Music Evolution in the Philippines on May 17.
The free-entry, live-music event sought to bring to life the evolution of a music genre so that the youth audience can see and experience how music styles and sounds evolved over the years.
For the inaugural event held in the Philippines, at the Luneta Grandstand in Manila, the chosen genre was hip-hop, which appeals greatly to the coveted youth audience.
The May 17 event that drew more than 22,000 fans—more than double the expected 10,000—was headlined by Grammy award-winner Naughty by Nature and Filipino-American Apl.de.ap of the Black Eyed Peas, and included some of the country’s own hip hop giants—Gloc 9 and Abra.
The MTV Music Evolution 2015 was presented by the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) of the Philippine Department of Tourism (DOT) and supported by the National Parks Development Committee (NPDC).
It is part of the Visit the Philippines Year 2015 campaign of the DOT-TPB.
MTV’s faith in the branding and marketing potency of live events is bolstered by the findings of research firm Nielsen, which said in its recent Music 360 report that while the sales of downloads and physical music formats such as compact discs fell in 2014, attendance of live music events continued to climb, perhaps because it offers an experience that a downloaded or streamed song simply cannot provide.
For MTV, the Philippines, given its young, growing and music-loving population that currently stands at over 100 million, will become more of a fixture in its calendar of live events.
“The Philippines is known the world over for being great lovers of great music, and we see that today with so many international names making their way to the country. We recognize the Philippines as an upcoming popular entertainment destination,” said Mark Whitehead, Viacom executive vice president and managing director, in a statement. Bruce Gillmer, Viacom executive vice president for talent and music programming and events, told the Inquirer separately in an interview that times have indeed changed dramatically since MTV changed television and pop culture in the 1980s when videos of Michael Jackson were on permanent play.
“At that time, from the 1980s to the 1990s, we sat in front of a TV and consumed content. We did not move for hours as options were limited. Then the entertainment space evolved, the world became smaller with the digital age,” said Gillmer.
Technology thus meant that powerful and influential stations such as MTV suddenly had to compete for a share of the audience’s limited attention span.
MTV had no choice but to adapt and not just rely on past success.
“We have to be bolder and louder and crazier. We have to produce great content,” said Gillmer. MTV Evolution, deemed one of MTV’s marquee events, is one such “content” that can be pushed not just on television, but also to social media networks and, more importantly, on one stage with direct contact with the audience.
“It is a way for us to connect in a shared physical space with our thousands of fans. It is about living in all the platforms as well as the physical space, and MTV is quite unique because we are known for having a different level of production. When people come, they are wowed,” said Gillmer.
But as MTV expands to other platforms, it will not leave by the wayside its core product, which is television.
While there has been undeniable growth in other channels, its research shows that television remains a primary medium for the global audience, especially since access to the Internet is uneven.
Gillmer added that MTV’s legion of fans are multi-screen people, meaning they are confident and comfortable about using different screens at different times, from their mobile phones while on the go to the television set when they get home and want to relax before turning in.
What allows MTV to effectively evolve, Gillmer said, is its brand, which is why the company jealously guards its attributes, one of which is its being a recognized authority when it comes to music, both old and new. MTV also positions itself as the trusted conduit between the audience and the artist.
These are enviable brand attributes that MTV zealously protects, Gillmer said, so that even with the entry of a new generation that is almost entirely on the digital space, they—and the generations before them—will still want their MTV.
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