This packet is 4th in a series about music as media.
This packet presents some background information on MTV and explores the notion that media defines "cool." Students will watch the first music video shown on MTV and then watch Chapter 3, "The MTV Machine" by Frontline. To help define several terms, students will then read excerpts from three articles and answer the discussion questions that follow.
Over seventy percent of American teenagers watch MTV each week. On average, American teenagers watch MTV over six hours each week. MTV first began broadcasting on August 1, 1981. Its first video was, appropriately, “Video Killed the Radio Star” by a group called the Buggles. MTV is is now owned by Viacom, which also owns CBS, UPN, BET, Paramount Pictures, Showtime, and Blockbuster Video. MTV wants teenagers to watch its programming so that advertisers will buy advertising time on MTV—advertisers who are trying to sell things to teenagers. This includes recording companies, clothing and shoe companies, snack food makers, and so on.
Some people say that most of MTV’s programs are basically advertisements. They argue that music videos are really advertisements for recordings, and shows like “TRL” largely promote musical acts and their recordings. Nonmusic shows such as “Cribs” also promote musical acts, and they encourage viewers to want many of the things that money can buy. Shows that feature fashion are, of course, providing advertising for the companies that make the clothes that are featured.
To find out what teenagers want to watch, MTV does lots of research on trends among teenagers and contracts with other companies who do this type of research. Some people call this trend research “cool hunting,” because the effort here is to figure out what teenagers think is cool. One of those companies is Youth Intelligence (YI). This firm describes itself at its web site: “Youth Intelligence focuses on understanding Generations Y and X (12-35 year olds). These consumers are creating and shaping trends in today’s culture.” The company uses focus groups, which are small groups of people who are asked to express their opinions and feelings about certain topics. The company also does person-on-the-street surveys and visits teenagers’ homes. Youth Intelligence and similar firms then sell the information they gather to MTV and companies that advertise on MTV, such as Nike and Gatorade.
Frontline Video- The Merchants of Cool
Click on Chapter 3
This document defines the following terms: alpha consumer, tweens, viral marketing, and alpha girl.