Wednesday, Sept. 17, 1 p.m. ET

Without 'TRL,' MTV Soon to be Music Free

Monica Hesse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 17, 2008; 1:00 PM

Is a music channel still a music channel if it doesn't play any music? Post staff writer Monica Hesse was online Wednesday, Sept. 17 at 1 p.m. ET to discuss the past and future of MTV and look back with fondness as "TRL" nears its end.

A transcript follows.


Monic Hesse: Welcome, Total Request Live fans and haters. TRL is going off air after 10 years. This is the place to share your favorite Carson Daly moments (Mariah meltdown! Mariah meltdown!), lament the end of the show, or pontificate on where you think music television is heading. Or not heading.


Washington, DC: In terms of overall quality and impact, how do you think TRL compares with Yo! MTV Raps, Headbanger's Ball and (my personal favorite) 120 Minutes?

Monic Hesse: Ooh, good question. I was a 120 Minutes fan myself, but I have to go with TRL in terms of impact. The voters-choosing-videos aspect really gave fans ownership over the show. And while Headbanger's/120 Minutes/etc. were amazing for people who wanted to hear music within a certain genre, TRL actually managed to introduce artist in various genres to new fan bases (50 Cent, etc).

Monic Hesse: Other people gotta ring in on this, though.


Washington, DC: Why was it canceled?

Monic Hesse: I'm guessing it was a numbers game. Ratings peaked in 1999 and had basically been declining since. There was talk of MTV replacing it with a Web-based show called YouRL, but that never got off the ground.


Greenville, S.C.: Back in the '80s, I used to leave MTV on ALL DAY! It seems to me that a channel that encouraged viewers to watch long stretches at a time would be a boon for advertisers. What went wrong?

Monic Hesse: Yes! I would leave it on for "one more song," which would turn into 17.

I honestly think it's the on-demand Youtube world we've gotten used to. Why wait nine hours for your favorite song to come on when you could just Youtube it?


Alexandria, Va.: Has anyone figured about how many hours or what percentage of the day does MTV play videos (in full)? I would probably put it at 20 percent.

Monic Hesse: Monic Hesse: I only seem to see music on MTV in between Real World episodes. Sigh. Once I ran in from the kitchen because I thought I heard a good song, but it was like a Degree Deodorant commercial. And it was still the best music I'd heard on MTV in five years.


Arlington, Va.: Can you explain to me the appeal of stuff like "The Hills" and "My Super Sweet 16"? Is the "I can't believe there are people this self-absorbed" factor really strong enough to have maintained the popularity of these shows?

Monic Hesse: Okay, but have you watched My Super Sweet 16? Because the "I can't believe there are people this self-absorbed" factor is really, really strong.


Best MTV show: Was "Unplugged" during its first year or so.

Monic Hesse: Unplugged! Yes!


Birmingham, Ala.: I haven't seen MTV since the mid-1990s. What programming does it carry now? What does VH1 show? If neither of these show music videos, what effect has that had or might that have on music videos and their place in the national culture? Is there any real need for musicians to make videos anymore?

Monic Hesse: You've got your Real World, you've got your G's to Gents (Wikipedia it. So bad). You've got your Supers Sweet 16. You've got your, uh, Real World...


Washington, D.C.: Why doesn't MTV -- vanguard of the future and all that -- have a better online presence? You can't watch hardly any of their shows online, there are far better sites out there for music news, reviews, downloading, etc. Where they just asleep at the wheel on this? Comedy Central is owned by the same company and has done a much better job.

Monic Hesse: I think that's what they were probably thinking with the YouRL concept. But I agree...I never use

And maybe they figure that no one is going to watch The Hills online. That's a show I only watch when the remote is missing and I'm too comatose to change the channel. Seeking it out on a Website? Ewww.


Ghosts of MTV Past: Have you seen this?

7 MTV-Defining Stars Who Wouldn't Be Allowed on MTV Anymore


Monic Hesse: I think that's pretty brilliant, and probably accurate, especially Tabitha Soren and Daria.

Let's all have moment of silence for Daria.


Midwestville: Great article. Just an observation here, and it may be an oversimplification, but... are haters of the current MTV lineup just old fogies? It seems like MTV is for younger audiences, and older people who want MTV the way it was don't get what young people are into and hate on the current lineup of mostly non-music shows. Similarly, when MTV first aired in the 80's, many older people didn't get why someone would "watch" music rather than just listen.

Monic Hesse: That's an interesting perspective. Thoughts, anyone else?


NYC: Hasn't one of the explanations of MTVs programming always been that it's really for 12-year-olds who think it will show them how teenagers should act?

And, given the music that's currently created and marketed for mass consumption of the 12-20 demographic, I don't think we're really missing much if they stop playing it.

Monic Hesse: Maybe, but I think that also gets into the question of what you think the channel should ideally do. Do you think it should only play that mass market 12-20 year old demographic stuff? Or do you think it should be doing more of what Youtube has inadvertantly done--promoting lesser-known groups, introduced people to new music?


New York: Okay, so what would you like to see MTV program?

Monic Hesse: I'm no purist--I don't need videos 24/7. But I think any station that wants to keep the name "Music Television" should have the bulk of it's programming be centered on listening to, or learning about music.

I'd love to hear other people's dream MTV shows/programming lineup.


Youtube: Hi Monic

MTV stopped playing videos regularly years ago before Youtube even came out. Now, it's easy for us to find our videos online, but I still miss shows like Top 20 Video Countdown with Adam Curry! It's all good though. MTV used to give off the impression that they support free speech and stuff like that, but then they go and censor the heck out of Dr. Dre videos.

Monic Hesse: Yeah, music on MTV has been on a steady decline since 2000-2001. TRL was one of the last holdouts.


Old Fogeyville: At 31, I am pretty well out of the MTV demographic and after watching the recent VMAs and not knowing half of the acts, I have accepted that I am an old fogey. That being said, I don't think my distaste for the current MTV lineup is because I'm caught up in the past. I watch some of the shows and laugh. It's just that MTV used to stand for MUSIC television. And now there's no music. There are a million channels out there. One of them should show all of the "reality" shows that MTV keeps producing so that MTV could get back to playing MUSIC.

Monic Hesse: Ironically, MTV2 was invented to get back to the roots of MTV and play just music videos. That lasted a nanosecond. MTV7, anyone?


Reston, Va: When artists make videos, where do they expect them to be seen?

Monic Hesse: I think it depends on what kind of artist you are. If you are Beyonce, you expect to get one of the few remaining slots on MTV. If you anyone else, you expect to MySpace and YouTube yourself like mad, and built a grassroots fanbase.


Monic Hesse: Thanks for stopping in, everyone. Going to go find some 120 minutes clips online somewhere, and lament the MTV of my youth.


Editor's Note: moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company