And the VMA Goes to…APPLE.
Last week, Apple unveiled its latest and greatest technology to the public, new products such as iPhone 6s, the iPadPro and Apple TV. All of these will surely line the Christmas stockings of thousands of entitled middle-class teenagers within the quickly approaching shopping season. Make no doubt about it, the real star here is Apple TV and it will change everything.
While that new change is exciting, it’s also sadly anticlimactic.
The world's greatest personal-technology manufacturer has yet to actually harness its own real power in the music industry. As it is, Apple seemingly wields its influence without much forethought, missing out on the greatest publicity-machine platform ever known to musicians.
Last week, during the company's new-product show in San Francisco, while all the media and press should have been focused on the product presentation, something caught my attention, as well as everyone else’s: Sevendust.
The nod that Apple rep Jennifer Folds gave to Sevendust by playing the veteran metal band's “Thank You” — from their latest album Kill the Flaw, due out October 2 on ADA/Warner Bros — was 12 seconds of blessing from the publicity gods. Just the mention of the band's name sent the Internet into waves, and a full-on Category 5 hurricane in the metal scene.
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That’s when it occurred to me that Apple is the new MTV — or at least, it should be.
Think about it: how many articles were spun out of Fold's two-sentence mention? In my very unscientific research, I counted at least two dozen (plus the one you’re currently reading), and those are just the ones in English.
It’s no secret that Apple’s connections are global and what it can do for bands — and actually for its own bottom line in music sales — has yet to be really tapped.
In the huge publicity vacuum left by MTV’s musical departure, there’s really no large-market platform for musical exposure anymore. Outside of radio, YouTube and Vines, where are people learning about new music? ITunes, of course. But it could be so much more. Apple TV creates an enormous opportunity to take music exposure back to the forefront where it belongs. Videos, shows, interviews, previews…all those things that MTV used to do for music could now easily be done by the Apple TV app.
Our '80s forecast of video killing the radio star couldn’t have been more wrong. When MTV changed its programming, radio revived the video star. Now, without radio rotation, bands suffer from lack of exposure. That is outrageous to me. We live in a moment of instantaneous connection and incredible technology, yet bands need radio to survive?
In the words of the great dada lyricist Kurt Cobain, “Poppycock.”
Let’s face it, the MTV we once knew is dead. Its programming focuses less on music and more on, well, absolute shit. Most days see little more than back-to-back airings of Ridiculousness and reruns of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. How much Chanel WestCoast and skateboarding fails can you watch in one day? MTV thinks a three-to-four-hour dose of that shit daily is just enough.
Yet, for reasons I still don’t understand, MTV still reigns king of music videos because it still holds the VMAs. How is it possible that a channel whose programming has literally turned its back on the music scene and has willfully made itself irrelevant when it comes to music videos are allowed to even host such a show?
We’ve all been catfished by MTV.
Trust me, there’s no one who would love to see MTV resurrected in its full glory more than me. As a former stringer/writer for the network, I loved working for them. A music journalist's dream come true, no less.
At MTV, there was a time when we wrote and posted daily music content. Wrap your brain around that — a time when an entire network was producing coverage in every major city on a daily basis. We were giving exposure to unsigned, underground, unknown acts every damn day. Sadly, that simply doesn’t exist anymore. That MTV is the hoary stuff of museums, mothballs and bittersweet memories.
That’s where Apple steps in, right?
Apple could be providing an incredible platform for musicians, but it's not. Apple TV is going to offer its entire music library to customers for a small monthly fee ($9.99/individual, $14.99/family), which is kinda great but it's still relying on algorithms to predict what you’ll listen to and what you’ll buy. Not cool.
What the hell does a robot know about rock and roll? Well, they’re not bad at predicting codifiable genres; if you never break out of them and if you never listen to new music, hey, you’ll be okay. For those of us who seek out new music in order to thrive, the very idea of trusting music-sample data is frightening.
It’s about as personable as a live drummer verses a drum machine. We would all be better off getting our musical suggestions from real people free of profit-bias. In other words, I don’t need some damn program selling me shit. Give me the raw, fresh-from-the-gutter, punk band EP of a group of guys DIY-ing it across country in a smelly tour bus. That’s the real spirit of American music, or at least it used to be.
With Apple TV, we’re promised a much more cultured, hip and cool robot in the form of playlist compilations supposedly made and suggested by not only the music editors at Apple (by the way, what the hell are they editing?) but Rolling Stone, pitchfork, DJMag, shazam, Q Magazine and Mojo.
That gives me some comfort that my new Apple tv mixtape will be made by ultra-hipster magazine robots, but wouldn’t you rather have a real person suggest music? Of course you would.
Why not create a music-channel app, Apple? What are you afraid of? For the kind of money you hope to gain from the new music-TV app, so much more could be given here. The oversight is colossal. With no real competitors, there’s no excuse. Apple could employ actual people, writers, journalists, commentators and critics to create a brand-new music community. Podcasts, discussions, acoustic sets, interviews. You get my dream, right?
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Imagine a kind of interactive iTunes Music package that would feature music, videos, merch, interviews and tours — everything in one stop. An incredible network of mini-Web sites. Music and merch could be sold exclusively through iTunes. In this scenario, everybody wins: bands get exposure, iTunes monopolizes music, and fans get what they want — one-stop shopping.
Having witnessed MTV’s powerful spotlight take a band from obscurity into superstardom was exhilarating. But when they threw it away in favor of producing reality-television bullshit, everybody lost, especially American music. Apple has that chance, why in the hell it doesn’t create it is one of the greatest holes in business-model logic I’ve ever witnessed.
Not only should Apple takeover the VMAs, it should become one of the loudest voices of American music marketing. It doesn’t need permission or suggestions from music magazines, it should just do it because it needs to be done.
Apple, you have my permission for global domination. Oh wait, you already have the entire world.