A week ago Bell Media Megolithic Oligarchy Inc. gutted many of their TV channel networks including CTV, E!, Space, and the formerly music oriented MTV Canada, MuchMoreMusic and MuchMusic by laying off 91 people.

The shock isn’t so much that the layoffs happened – it was inevitable as the channels have been bleeding hipster sweat for years. No, it was the fact that there were still 91 people working there. It was like announcing that the Lint & Dust Museum of Topeka, Kansas was laying people off. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/06/arts/design/swept-away-at-museum-of-arts-and-Leah Millerdesign.html

Due to the confines of a pre-existing broadcast license that they were grandfathered into, MTV Canada started life as a live talk-show format with the occasional reality TV show and recently leased content from the US; MuchMoreMusic and the original MuchMusic offered up a lot of the same but created Canadian content like ‘Video on Trial’ and ‘1 Girl, 5 Gays‘. Oh, and they ousted their #1 VJ – Leah Miller who started with the station in 2004 and also did stints with ‘eTalk’ and ‘So You Think You Can Dance’.

With the exception of the people who’ve lost their jobs, few are morning the loss as the stations have become virtually irrelevant. And it is this ‘duh’ moment that Bell was quick to react to. Who are the audiences for music video stations that are no longer playing music videos?

The shift from 24 hour video jukebox – hosted by VJ’s like Christopher Ward, Michael Williams, Erica Ehm, and J.D. Roberts who knew as much about pop culture and music genres as the late MuchMusicCasey Kasem – began in the 1990s following the last great music fad in North America…Grunge. As hip-hop and rap began to shift the urban viewership scrabbling production staff at Much attempted to respond in kind. It worked for awhile too as the urban music content on MuchMusic was above par. Add to that the homegrown content from Maestro Fresh Wes, Michie Mee & LA Luv, Dream Warriors, Kon Kan, Simply Majestic, Snow, Rascalz, Devon, k-os, et al and you had a new burgeoning core to tap into for content.

But two things happened that would forever change the face of compiled playlists of music videos. Digital music became a free commodity due to the advent of Napster‘s file sharing Napstersoftware and ultimately, quickly, gutted the machine that had been keeping the music industry humming since the 1940s. Free music meant less purchasing, less purchasing meant record label belt-tightening (and the ridiculous battle to sue consumers who would illegally download and further share MP3s). Labels held back budgets for video production, investing only in tried and true artists whose visual profile supported their audio sales (and vice versa). MuchMusic began cutting back on independent content – preferring to emphasize major stars and their world premieres to keep eyeballs glued to their programs; Secondly, and simultaneously, the uploading of video content on the internet exploded on the backs of global channels like Vimeo and, of course, the Goliath of a la carte visual content: YouTube.

While MuchMusic had spent 30+ years as a schism of radio playlists and music-oriented feature shows (‘The Big Ticket’, ‘Intimate & Interactive’), YouTube offered instant access to an endless jukebox of songs and, eventually, full albums, interviews, rare TV performances, live concerts and bootlegs, plus the current rage – lyric videos. Ironically, many of the videos on YouTube were lifted from MuchMusic back when music fans had their VCR’s actively recording the latest vids.

GreedyAgain record labels have attempted to control the content. Their pressure on YouTube to keep fan-made videos featuring copyrighted audio recordings from being loaded and shared has had mixed results. Ultimately, the ability to prevent these videos from proliferating has forced many labels to throw in the towel and create their own channels on YouTube – offering fans a safe, ‘legit’, and usually higher quality experience. The most successful so far has been Warner Music and its offshoot label, Rhino – who specialize in retro re-issues of CD and vinyl along with the original marketing promotional videos for same. Other labels have not been as quick to join the 21st Century – instead, continuing to pay staff to harass YouTube to remove copyrighted material…on a daily basis in some instances.

Everyone wants to get paid. Everyone wants to control the flow of information. The horse has left that barn, people. And the barn is on fire. MuchMusic and MTV are burning to the ground. The artists know this and moved to the new format some time ago. The ones most benefitting are independent of the strings-attached machinations of record labels like Julia Nunes, Amanda Palmer and Die Antwoord.

A week ago Weird Al Yankovic’s new album ‘Mandatory Fun’ debuted at #1 on the Billboard album chart with 80,000 units sold in its first week because of his videos.


Weird Al is the guy who originally couldn’t get arrested because the industry considered him a short-shift novelty act. But he took on the video parody business with the same gusto he did with his music. Making fun of famous songs was the tip of the iceberg – making fun of the videos of those songs elevated his art to that of solitary master. The collapse of MuchMusic, MTV and VH1 stateside was merely an inconvenience. Like Madonna, Michael Jackson, Duran Duran, and others who defined the shape of music video content on our televisions, Weird Al was an early adapter and has been able to take his visual medium to a new level – especially as a white man doing parodies of rap and hip-hop music. His video for “White & Nerdy” was gut-busting and helped sell his 2006 album ‘Straight Outta Lynwood’ up the charts. But the outtake footage of 1970s teen idol Donny Osmond dancing behind Yankovic to the same song in a separate video sent it viral.

Jayz_BeyonceYankovic’s current media guru status is due to a year’s worth of promotional and market planning geared specifically through social media and the YouTube generation of challengers – Vimeo, College Humor, etc. His new album has been pushed along on the back of a campaign that didn’t rely on the worn out industry grid-locked trope of one single/one video. Though there have been a spate of full-length video albums from the likes of R.Kelly, Jay-Z, and Beyoncé, Weird Al upped the ante by releasing a new video for songs off the album once a day for 8 days straight. Poking fun at current pop icons and their hits is his stalk in trade.

But, the sheer variety of song styles in question guaranteed Yankovic a much wider global audience – some old fans, others totally new. The reaction and buoyancy of the material is hit and miss but social media turned every new video release into an uncontrolled viral event. Al literally just sat back, pushed upload and the videos – like a selfie of teenage sex junk – proliferated on their own. Not since Michael Jackson’s full-length ‘Thriller‘ mini-movie reveal has there been as big a collective disturbance in the media forces.

This, of course, will lead to million imitators and the music industry once again scratching their heads trying to figure out how to get a piece of that action.

Lana Del Ray

I expect the upcoming Lana Del Rey video for her song “Fucked My Way To The Top” will be the new route to do so. Cause if you can’t get the audience with sheer talent, something crass and titillating will do the trick – hell, it worked for Rammstein. The video for “Pussy” has become the litmus test for societal standards on the net. It’s been banned on YouTube…but Vimeo has it.

WARNING: Contains full-frontal sex acts plus singing so bad it’s not suitable for work…or anywhere else.


And so the pendulum swings for another 10 or 15 years which will allow time for video content makers a chance to find a new form to present their wares. I expect it will involve virtual broadcasting using Google Glass or maybe even beaming the visuals onto your eyelids directly. Viva la Video!



Send your CDs for review to this NEW address: Jaimie Vernon, 4003 Ellesmere Road, Toronto, ON M1C 1J3 CANADA


Jaimie’s column appears every Saturday.

Contact us at: dbawis@rogers.com

DBAWIS ButtonJaimie “Captain CanCon” Vernon has been president of the on again/off-again Bullseye Records of Canada since 1985. He wrote and published Great White Noise magazine in the ‘90s, has been a musician for 35 years, and recently discovered he’s been happily married for 17 of those years. He is also the author of the Canadian Pop Music Encyclopedia and a collection of his most popular ‘Don’t Believe A Word I Say’ columns called ‘Life’s A Canadian…BLOG’ both of which are available at Amazon.com orhttp://www.bullseyecanada.com


  1. Peter Mlontreuil Says:

    Another great column!

  2. Max Brand Says:

    Much Music is Dead and It’s been that way for quite awhile now the only show that I watched which even though I never saw it much was the MMVA Awards and this years show is their last. I didn’t know it then but after hearing the news of it this is their last awards show where all the screaming gals yelling out their favourite celebs from televsion to movies.

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