Video officially killed the radio star August 1, 1981, when MTV launched, albeit to just a few thousand people on a single cable system in northern New Jersey. A few months prior, John A. Schneider, the president of Warner Amex Satellite Entertainment Co., explained the competitive logic behind its new channel to WWD: “People are just not going to have time to listen to rock on the radio as well as TV.” At the time, music videos were in their infancy, and the channel’s promise of 24 hours of rock required new talent, which raised a few concerns. As Robert Pittman, then 27 and vice president of programming, said, “In case they don’t sound so good, we hope they will look good.” Once the highly styled videos of fashion influentials including Michael Jackson, Madonna and Cyndi Lauper entered America’s living rooms, it was obvious that an artist’s look was as, if not more, important as his or her sound.
Moment 69: Video Stars
MTV, launched in 1981, promised a 24-hour diet of music television, feeding the nation’s living rooms a constant stream of fashionable stars in stylish videos.
Special IssueWWD 100 issue 11/01/2010