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Will approaching age of video music

By
MARK SCHWED

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- In a few years, you'll be able to pop a videosette into your video-viewer and groove to the visual vibes of the latest Rolling Stones tape.

Music with pictures -- the technology exists today -- and some predict it will make the phonograph record obsolete by 1990.

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Michael Nesmith, a member of the 1967-68 television group the Monkeys, was a featured guest at a recent Nashville forum on 'What is this thing called video music, and where is it going?'

The forum drew 300 recording executives to a new $2.5 million state-of-the-art audio-video studio to hear Nesmith say he was 'irresistably drawn' to video.

Americans demonstrated their willingness to accept the video artist with the introduction of the game 'Pong,' Nesmith said.

'You play ping pong on your TV set,' Nesmith said. 'It's kind of dumb. But it represented a general change in the mindset of the public about their TV sets.'

Nesmith, who said his record sales dropped off after leaving the Monkeys, has abandoned audio-only recording and plunged into the video market.

'I became more and more convinced that audio-only recording was becoming obsolete and probably by 1990 we won't have audio-only records,' he said. 'What's happening in the video business is not the death of the record business, but the beginning of a new era. I'm not kidding when I say it's the most important event in the history of rock 'n' roll.'

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Nesmith said video records will force artists to be more inventive than simply showing someone strumming a guitar and mouthing the words of a song.

'You've got to put pictures on the music now,' he said. 'It's a whole different thing. It's not just radio with pictures. This is where we're going. There's no choice involved in this. Video music, video records is your future. It's simply the way the American people are moving because of this perceptive change in the use of the television.'

But others, like Robert Pittman of Music Television, don't agree that video music will replace records.

Pittman is the programming director for 'MTV,' a New York-based cable television channel that shows video clips of the latest pop, rock and punk music songs strung together by a video disc jockey. With a simple connection, the music can be heard in stereo while the pictures are being shown on televison.

Some industry experts believe the growth of cable television will launch other cable music channels and with a flick of the dial, you'll be able to tune in to video blues, classical, soul, disco, easy listening, gospel and country music.

'For the first time we can play our television,' said Frances Preston of Broadcast Music Inc. in Nashville. 'It is believed by many that MTV may change the way we look at the whole cable-television business and the music business.'

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'We'd like to think we are to FM (radio) what FM was to AM in the early '60s,' Pittman said. 'It is more than another TV channel. We are really looking at a new use of the existing technology of the TV set.

'But we're not going to replace radio or records. FM didn't kill AM. It reached parity with AM,' he said.

Sam Trust, president of ATV Music in Los Angeles, is more pessimistic about the video craze.

'I'm not convinced video will replace the phonograph,' he said. 'Music is for listening. Video is just another area of communication.'

One question to be resolved is who will make money from the video clips. There are royalties for records, but nothing comparable exists for the video artists.

The Stones, Paul McCartney, The Who, Journey, REO Speedwagon, Blondie and other rock groups have already set their music to pictures. Since few recording artists control the use of their songs, permission must be secured from record companies, publishers and managers before the music can be set to video. Securing the synchronization rights alone may take up to two years.

Trust said that is one reason he's not pushing video music.

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'We've made more money not by royalties, but by suing people,' Trust said.

Despite the roadblocks, there are signs video is becoming entrenched in the music scene.

New and costly studios are being built to handle simultaneous audio and video recording. Audio-only studios are being converted to handle video, laying the foundation for the anticipated boom in video recording.

Pittman reports that MTV market surveys indicate the video clips have an 'amazing impact' on record sales, especially for previously unknown bands.

But record companies are reluctant to commit to video for any but the most popular artists. That's because a single video clip of one song can cost up to $150,000, while an entire album can be recorded for less than $50,000.

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