30 Years of MTV And How it Changed Our Lives


It was August 1st, 1981 and at 12:01 AM MTV music television started broadcasting. In the opening moments of the first broadcast, we saw the Apollo launch, followed by the symbolic MTV flag. Then the first music video played. A very fitting selection for the occasion, “Video Killed the Radio Star” by The Buggles.

MTV’s Opening Monologue

In the opening moments of MTV’s first historic broadcast, an announcer read the following monologue:
In the beginning was the music, but there was no one was around to hear it. As the population grew in numbers, music grew in popularity. Man invented the radio and the phonograph. Hi-Fidelity made quite a splash but it was full stereo sound that made the explosion. Soon, television came along and gave us the gift of sight, but it was cable that gave us the freedom of choice. For a while it seemed there was nothing new on the horizon. Announcing the latest achievement in home entertainment. The power of sight, video and the power of sound. MTV music television.

The First 10 Music Videos Played On MTV

In its first hour of broadcast, MTV set the tone for the decades of music videos that would follow. Here are the first 10 music videos that were played on MTV.

  1. Video Killed the Radio Star – The Buggles
  2. You Better Run – Pat Benatar
  3. She Won’t Dance – Rod Stewart
  4. You Better You Bet – The Who
  5. Little Susie’s on the Up – Ph.D.
  6. We Don’t Talk Anymore – Cliff Richard
  7. Brass in Pocket – The Pretenders
  8. Time Heals – Todd Rundgren
  9. Take It on the Run – REO Speedwagon
  10. Rockin’ the Paradise – Styx

MTV’s First Commercial Advertisers

In between music videos, MTV played commercials from advertisers looking to reach the youth demographic. Atari, Mountain Dew, and others were part of the first day of programming.

The First “Video Jockeys”

Instead of disc jockeys, like what we had on the radio, MTV had video jockeys. MTV’s first VJ’s were Alan Hunter, J.J. Jackson, Nina Blackwood, Martha Quinn and Mark Goodman.

“This is IT. Welcome to MTV – music television.” Says Mark Goodman. “The world’s first 24 hour stereo video music channel. Just moments ago all of the VJ’s and crew here at MTV collectively hit our executive producer – Sue Steinberg – over the head with a bottle of champagne and behold – a new concept is born. The best of TV combined with the best of radio. Your favorite tunes are never too far away anytime you tune in. “

The above video is the Buggles with “Video killed the radio star” in 2004. It was the only other time it was played live since 1981 and even had the full cast.
BTW – Viacom pulled the first hour of programming off YouTube, which is why I cannot play that clip.

MTV Without Music Videos

Programmers at MTV quickly realized that they could increase the time spent watching the channel by not playing music videos. As soon as a song played that you didn’t like, people would change the channel.
To help hold on to their audience as it aged, MTV acquired Cable Music Channel from Turner – changing it to VH1. Played a mix of older music video hits as well as lifestyle programming. The channel had much criticism for ditching videos for shows like the Real Life and Jersey Shore. However, MTV-2 was created for the music videos.
Of course, people remember the show “Beavis and Butthead“. But when I polled people, a lot of them mentioned they haven’t watched the channel for years. Those that do had one favorite program but didn’t watch the channel religiously.

MTV Wasn’t The First Music TV Station

MTV wasn’t the first music TV station. Several years before MTV’s debut in 1981, another station called “Sight on Sound” launched in 1977. on the QUBE in 1977, the station was building for the historic day in 1981.

Did You Like MTV?

So how has MTV changed your life? Let me know @geekazine or on my Google Plus Profile.