The emergence of MTV and its role in product placement

October 1, 2017By

August 1st 1981 12.01am

This was the time that MTV came on to our TV screens with their 24 hour video channel. The first video played on the channel was “Video Killed The Radio Star” by the British band The Buggles.


Music videos had been produced long before the creation of MTV. It is possible to view these clips from the late 1950’s but their influence gained momentum in the “Swinging Sixties”. The Beatles created promotional clips and actually featured in two full length films, “Help” and “A Hard Day’s Night”.

But the time that these promotional clips were replaced by an actual music video came in 1975 with Queen’s release of “Bohemian Rhapsody”. Originally this was produced to cover the band’s absence on Top of the Pops as they were busy touring. This masterpiece provided the platform for future music videos to launch from

The Buggles

The song ”Video Killed The Radio Star” became a huge hit for the Punk band who had not up to this time experienced any chart success. This was to be their only hit and although the band claimed it was due to the quality of the song there are others who feel that the influence of the video was the major reason for the song’s success.

The first band to be played on MTV in 1981 The Buggles

Whilst the Buggles could not take advantage of the opportunities that the music videos and MTV would provide, there were other artists who would revel in these new opportunities. Madonna, Adam Ant and Duran Duran were artists made for the music video.

Their smoldering good looks and high energy music were ideal for music videos. This combined with the seductive appeal of the videos produced a recipe for success that these bands, and many others, were able to launch their careers with.

The MTV golden years

Bands were now placing more and more importance on the role of the music video. As greater time was spent producing the videos and the desire to hire the best video directors increasing, it was hardly surprising that the costs of production spiraled.

The trend was now set that no single was produced without being accompanied by a video. The release of Michael Jacksons single “Thriller” in 1983 became a major landmark not just for the quality of the video but the cost involved. Over 500,000 dollars was invested in the production.

The music video “Thriller” cost over 500.000 dollars to make

Huge costs meant that more money was needed to finance the production of the videos and this was done more and more by product placement. One of the earliest examples of this came from the rock band Autograph in their music video “Turn Up The Radio” where a “papermate” retractable pencil was plugged during the recording.

The decline of MTV

However, the rise in popularity of MTV soon waned and by 1992 MTV were expanding into reality television shows. Music Videos were still being made but they were no longer reliant on MTV and the growth of the digital world gave the music industry a new platform. YouTube has now attracted the music videos away from the television and into the computer.

MTV also suffered from competition with many other companies being set up to provide musical videos. Today the company airs reality shows comedies and dramas, as well as still showing music videos. It was a major force in the start of product placement entering into music videos but now its influence is not as strong. Product Placement has continued to grow but the majority of music videos are now being shown on line.  This in no way has had a diverse effect on the revenue that is now being generated.

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