Page 6 Wednesday, March 16, 1983 The Michigan Daily
_ _MTV looks and listens.
By Mare Hodges
and Susan Makuch
IDEO MUSIC is definitely not
r )a fad - it's the wave of the
future." So says Alan Hunter, a video
jock (VJ) for MTV, cable television's
" hottest channel since MTV's inception a
- ' tHunter, while visiting Ann Arbor last
week for a promotional MTV party at
F. ,the Second Chance, continued by cor-
y menting that, "fashion is a fad - but
because we (MTV) are what we are
we can be flexible. We're not going to
die because we'll introduce all the fads
and when they die out, there will be
another one, and we'll introduce it."
Although video production has levelled
off due to hard economic times, it
hasn't always been that way. With an
impressive 9.5 million subscribers,
MTV has become the major
Daily Photo by ELIZABETH SCOTT promotional outlet for advertisers-
MTV video jock Alan Hunter makes a point about video music last Saturday at the Second Chance aiming at the hardest-to-reach audien-
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ce - that elusive teenage market.
While MTV lists their target audience
as the 12 to 34-year-old age group, it is
teenagers that advertisers concentrate
on reaching. The combination of music
and video allows for an audience that
regular broadcast television doesn't -
and that's what promoters like.
However, MTV doesn't necessarily
like to limit itself to such a narrow
focus. "First we started out with a for-
mat we called 'rock,' and any band that
played rock - which sure means a lot
now - they got played on the channel
regardless of who they were, and pretty
much regardless of the kind of
following they had," explains Hunter.
But over the last year-and-a-half the
channel has beome more definite in the
video music it broadcasts. "We still
maintain that we play music that we
call 'rock' music, regardless of the
color, or the minority group, or the age
or religion of the performers," Hunter
says, hinting at the controversy
surrounding MTV programming.
MTV has recently been the target of
much criticism by black performers
who charge that the channel is
descriminatory in determining what
bands will make up their playlist. Ac-
cording to Hunter, however, it's the
music that determines which groups
will be played, not the group itself. He
explains that groups such as Musical
Youth, Garland Jeffries, Gary U.S.
Bonds, and Prince are played because,
"they're black performers but they do
rock music. We won't play a Crusader
video, although many of us really like to
listen to that music. We think it's a dif-
ferent genre than rock music - more
toward the disco or dance side," so they
eliminate such genres from their video
One of the most popular videos on
that rotation happens to be by a black
performer - one that, Hunter says,
stradles the fringes of the rock sound.
Michael Jackson's newest video, "Billy
Jean," is the latest rage on the station.
"The video's really hot right now. In
our opinion it has the rock appeal we
look for," Hunter says.
With video battling sightless music
for prominence in the industry, the ob-
vious question becomes when is the
video going to take precedence over the
music? Hunter says that video enhan-
ces a song - sometimes making it ap-
pear better than it really is.,"There
have been some songs I like better
because I saw the video - the video
was really good. But that is the excep-
tion. The music still must hold up," he
observes. "All I can say is more power
to the more exposure - both visually
and in audio."
Despite the competition between
radio and visual rock, there is also a
discrepancy about what actually con-
stitutes 'rock' these days. Hunter ex-
plains that he "tends toward newer,
music - music with a contemporary
sound." But he shied away from the
term "new wave" - "I'm not gonna
say new wave - (rather) new music.
New wave was a wave and the wave is
over. When the next wave comes they'll
have to call it 'new wave II.' New wave
doesn't mean anything. New music
keeps up a little better than new wave."
This concept of 'new music' brings to
mind the newness of video music itsef,
as well as the position of VJ. Hunter ex-
plains that he had been an actor4
previous to his position on MTV and for
him, auditioning for the role was like
auditioning for just another part.
However, he explains, "being a VJ is a
different kind of performance for me
Someone was asking me to be myself and
not a character. The real performance
for me has been just being myself."
Being an MTV VJ means that Hunter
is responsible for announcing video
records, providing concert information1
and music news, interviewing muic
personalities while at the same time
maintaining the continuity of the chan-
nel. VJs also have the option of being on
a committee to determine which videos
will be played, but, explains Hunter,
"VJs have a chance to put in their two cents
if they want to put in their two cents
(without being on the committee)."
Hunter had to research the music in-
dustry before he began his job as an
MTV VJ, but previous to this he was
cast in a rock video himself - David
Bowie's "Fashion." "They were
looking for the ethnic types and I was
the only WASP that showed up for the
audition." Hunter said he would love to
be in more rock videos but the oppor-
tunity hasn't really presented itself yet.
Although he foresees no change in the
near future, Hunter would like to
"weave acting back into the scene."
As for the future of MTV itself,
changes are on the horizon. In order to
incorporate the multitude of video
material that MTV receives from new,
unsigned bands, the channel has
created MTV's Basement Tapes "a
Monday night special that occurs mon-
thly. The programming includes only
those bands that are, as mentioned
before, unsigned (meaning they have
no record label). A winner will .b"
determined from each program by the
response of the viewers who are asked
to call in and vote for their favorite.
Audience participation is a new thing
for MTV, since the shows are taped thus
eliminating instant feedback from
viewers. The winners of the competition
will get their video broadcast on MTV
for a month. The final champions
(chosen from the monthly winners) will
not only get to produce a new video,
they will also obtain a record contra
with EMI-America for a four-song EP:
The fact that MTV is willing to sup-
port unheard-of bands, as well 'as
established performers, proves that-it
is a medium that keeps up with the
times and not one that is in danger of
losing its novelty. "Since MTV was the
pioneer, we won't die out," Hunter
promises. That says' a lot when the
future looks precarious for many of
today's broadcast fields.
Daily Photo by ELIZABETH SCOTT
Alan Hunter lets everyone know that video music (as well as MTV) is here
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