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Music TV spurs interest in new rock groups

By
BARBARA CANETTI

HOUSTON -- Every diehard rock 'n' roller has heard of the Rolling Stones, The Who, Frank Zappa and Fleetwood Mac. But who, or what, are the Waitresses, Squeeze and Joe 'King' Carrasco?

How about the Police or the Boomtown Rats?

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All are rock groups that have been introduced to millions of cable television viewers through MTV, or Music Television.

MTV is the only 24-hour-a-day, all stereo, video music channel available. Since August 1981, Warner Amex Satellite Entertainment Co. has been bringing its viewers music and interviews with rock stars, along with bizarre, surrealistic video clips of the groups acting out the words of their songs.

'There was an audience out there that was being underserved,' Les Garland, vice president of programming for MTV, said. 'No one was reaching the 12 to 34 group.

'The record companies were spending between $25,000 and $75,000 to produce a 3 -minute clip and there was no place to put them except in clubs or as fillers. It was an instant success.'

MTV is piped daily to almost 8 million homes where basic cable service is available at no extra charge to viewers, Garland said.

The concept of bringing rock music to television viewers is not new. Dick Clark started 'American Bandstand' in 1957, bringing the idols of their day to American teens. It gave the fans a chance to put faces with the names and voices they heard.

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Other shows -- 'Shin-Dig,' 'Hootennanny,' 'Soul Train' and 'Solid Gold' -- also gave viewers a chance to see who was singing what.

In the past, only well-known groups were featured on television. Now, under the MTV logo, many groups known only as opening acts for more established groups in large cities, are making names for themselves.

People who live in small towns off the usual concert circuit never got a chance to see the group 'Men at Work,' but at least two separate cuts from a recent album have been conceptualized in a corny but clever videotape that plays regularly on MTV.

'It has been a real shot of new life for the record business,' Garland said. Record company buyers agree.

'MTV sells records for us,' said Charles Pennington, a record buyer for Peaches in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Record store owner Dennis Douvanis in Allentown, Pa., said he has opened a new section to accommodate requests for New Wave records, which did not sell before MTV was introduced in the area.

'MTV has created an audience for groups that get no airplay whatsoever in this area,' Douvanis said. 'MTV has created overnight a market for New Wave music in Allentown.'

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Mike Duncan of Cactus Records in Houston said, 'Within a certain age group, people will come in and ask for off-the-wall stuff, and we know that MTV is the only place they could have been turned on to that. It exposes a product that isn't being exposed anywhere else.'

Victor Mickunas of the Music Circuit in Des Moines, Iowa, said, 'Anybody who's on MTV sells in my store.'

Bill Still of the Record Theater in Buffalo, N.Y., said, 'MTV seems to spur sales of obscure groups, and it helps because radio stations won't play new artists. We show MTV in-store and it's had a direct effect on sales, both how much and what they buy.'

Artists do not pay for their airtime on Music Television, said executive producer Julian Goldberg, who compared the concept to radio, where records are sent to stations bythe record companies for airtime. Goldberg said the unsolicited videos are screened by MTV officials, who decide what will go on the air.

When the tapes are aired, information about the group, song, album and recording company is flashed on the screen for eight seconds.

An added attraction are interviews by one of the five video jockeys with rock stars, and concert clips from international shows.

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Garland said about 40 percent of the videos on MTV are concert clips. The remainder are creative performances dubbed to the music.

Short, in-studio interviews with such notables as The Who's Pete Townshend, the Rolling Stones' Mick Jagger, Keith Richard and Ron Wood and the father-daughter act of Frank and Moon Zappa are quite popular because they give viewers a chance to see the rock 'n' rollers in relaxed conversations.

The success of MTV also is measured in dollars.

Garland said Warner Amex spent about $20 million to start MTV, but national and local advertising dollars already have generated almost that much in revenues. There are only 6 minutes of national advertising per hour and 2 minutes of local ads.

Garland said because of the popularity of music on television, an organization in Nashville plans a country music version of MTV, and an investor in New York is planning around-the-clock rhythm and blues on television.

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