Pop Rocks

Pop Rocks: MTV Celebrates Independence With Music and Stolen Freedoms

In the not so distant past, MTV, VH1 and CMT were entertainment destinations that viewers could go to and escape reality through music videos. Then one day someone at Viacom, the media conglomerate that owns these channels, said, "Hey, let's stop doing that, and force them into reality programming."

Rather than take away our MTV, which we had demanded that we wanted for many years, they instead gave us our MTV2, which they promised would have music videos. Then they said, "Music videos are for old people, you get MTV Hits." A similar marketing strategy occurred with both VH1, which was always considered to be the network for seniors already, and CMT, the country music channel; both channels have taken to using their offshoots to play music... sometimes.

On July 4, with the celebration of this country's independence, Viacom will also give us the opportunity to celebrate our freedom from its poor programming and bring us music again!

They ruined our music channel so why not ruin our holiday too. MTV just announced that July 4 will be "Music Independence Day," a full 12 hours (holy wow!) of music, giving the networks plenty of assurance that their primetime slots will not be overrun, and Basketball Wives will play as previously scheduled.

In addition to what they describe as the "ultimate party playlist," all the music you are already sick of being on rotation, fans will also get something exciting and new. The networks will be pushing something called the "Artist Platform," which is a website where bands create profile pages for fans to visit. So... Myspace? Once fans "discover" their new favorite artists they can buy their albums or donate to their tip jar or promote them in some other fashion.

According to the President of Viacom, Van Toffler, this new platform will help get the word out about musicians you never heard of.

"We have a history of introducing new artists, celebrating our audiences favorite established superstars and providing a forum for all to reveal their influences and the stories behind their music. So we're going to celebrate the music, let musicians get heard, promoted, and loved. That ain't all bad."

That's an odd way to end a quote. Are you saying, Mr. Toffler, that some of it's bad?

Well, I dunno. I dug around through the Artist Platform and read some things that seemed kind of bad. First, if you have a band that is fairly well known you will be given an artist page whether you want one or not, meaning they will input all of your information for you via wherever-the-hell-else they find it (Facebook), and you'll have to go in and claim yourself as a band. This approach is similar to Facebook giving all businesses a page and then making it a huge hassle for them to cancel.

Viacom is making veiled promises to highlight bands that get the most "tips" (I'll get to that in a minute), perhaps on air during this blockbuster 12 hours of music freedom, but to get more tips they are encouraging that the band pull out all the stops as well. This means you should link up your artist page to all of your other social media sites. And what happens then? If I were a gambling man, I would say that they have access to all of your contacts and their friends and their likes and dislikes and NSA leaks and 1984. I can't be sure because in the FAQs, while this question is addressed, the answer is more vague than the question.

What happens when you connect with my accounts? When you connect your additional accounts (e.g. Twitter, Instagram, etc.) to your artistpage, we make sure to let you know exactly what is happening right when you hit the "Connect" button to do so. Each of these connections will add different features into your artist page, making it easier to for you to keep your page up to date for fans. These connections are only used to optimize your page and also help fans find you in the other places your brand lives.
When you click connect, they will be sure to let you know then. Now, they will just let you take wild guesses.

Bands are also able to sell their music via this site, which is nice for smaller bands that might not have access to iTunes or any of the other 100 websites you can sell music on. But there's a catch of course.

According to the website:

For transactions under $6, keep 80% of the profit. Above $6, you keep 85%, minus $.30 per transaction. We mentioned this is all free right?

No, you mentioned that someone that was not the band would be taking 20 percent of the profit minus $.30 per transaction. That's not free. Free costs nothing. I even Googled it to be sure.

And then there is this tip jar thing. The website gives very little explanation of what it all means. Is it hooked up to a credit card or Pay Pal account? Or is it like a virtual tip? Or is it more of a piece of advice, i.e. "here's a tip, something is shady about all of this." I could find no information on this.

What I find so fascinating about this entire spectacle is how tied or rather untied it is to freedom. We are celebrating this country's independence by being begrudgingly handed free music videos that we should have been getting all along from three networks that we, no doubt, pay for. These networks are then telling us to celebrate our God-given right to appreciate whatever music we want, but you know really just pop, country, hip hop, indie and EDM, with a website that is forcing bands to opt-out of their own right to not be a part of this website. And we are maybe asked to pay for all of this somehow with real or virtual tips and/or our entire contact list of social relatives.

One if by land, two if by sea, three if by data mining.

Something about this leaves a bad sound in my ears, and I bet they don't even play any good videos all day.

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Abby Koenig
Contact: Abby Koenig