The Emperor Has No Clothes

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The Emperor Has No Clothes

This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.

Being hip and cool are indefinable qualities, usually reserved for rock stars, writers, artists and other creative types. It's a state of mind. But when it comes to big business, being hip is far more contrived. Most businesses struggle long and hard to gain the trust of their audience as the purveyors of cool. Once they achieve this rare and elevated status, they work twice as hard to avoid a potential fall from grace. One serious wrong step could take them from coolsville to dullsville in a moment, and then, recovery is practically impossible.

It's for this reason that it's downright stunning that MTV and VHI lost the plot so significantly with their presentation of the Live 8 performances. Stunning that they would underestimate their own brands' significance in this important worldwide event. Even more stunning that they would underestimate America's interest.

No matter how little you watched MTV, it was still recognized as the number-one place for music television. Given that, one would expect an outstanding presentation of Live 8 -- and here is where MTV really blew it. They chose to produce the program as a four-hour montage of concerts with little rhyme or reason. The presentation was haphazard, with only select music performances shown, interrupted by commentary and commercials.

Meanwhile, the internet portal AOL gave outstanding offerings, with full webcasts around the globe, using individual links for streaming. If you didn't want to watch the London concert, you could watch Paris, or Philly, or Germany.

What a differenced that day has made. MTV's fall from grace is far more than a simple ratings drop. They have become irrelevant in the music world; and far worse than that, they've lost the public trust.

Though MTV lost their moniker of &quotcool;" years ago, when they substituted quality music programming for shows like Pimp My Ride, and Cribs, this was their opportunity to regain their stature as the last word in music. Instead, they forfeited their crown to an Internet portal. In one swift move, AOL will replace MTV, VH1 and all music television as the place to find music news and content.

It's a serious switch. Twenty years ago, we all wanted our MTV and MTV not only gave us a view inside in world of hip, but they defined it. From Peter Gabriel's wild videos to Nirvana's chilling performances - we were glued to our televisions to see what our creative visionaries had in store. Those million-dollar branding ads that ran between videos became MTV's signature of all things cool.

Now, apparently, we don't want our MTV and the time has come for all good men to go and build a better community. One created in the likeness of its viewers, with a sense of professionalism that honors the artists and the audience.

If our next cultural revolution will be played out on a channel on the Internet, then I say, play on. This is an idea whose time has come.

This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.