Even more fascinating was the channel’s choice for the first music video it ever aired: “Video Killed the Radio Star,” by British rock band The Buggles.


“As we watched the launch that night, we were all sobbing,” recalls Martha Quinn, one of the original five VJs—video jockeys—who served as DJs for the channel’s non-stop broadcasts back in its first year. “It was the most emotional night. It was like having a baby being born.”

Perhaps the only thing more fitting than MTV’s decision to air The Buggles’ song was the channel’s original tagline: “You’ll never look at music the same way again.”

It was a promise on which MTV quickly delivered. Within months of the channel’s launch, record stores in America began stocking albums promoted on MTV and not on local radio stations—and the channel’s popularity as a platform of discovery even spurred the Second British Invasion, a wave of new music acts infiltrating the US from overseas. Now, as cable television is overtaken by digital platforms and streaming services, it’s hard not to see a channel dedicated to 24/7 music videos as obsolete; yet back in the day, the channel made history.

(MTV in 2016 is also still very much interested in capitalizing on that nostalgia—with a channel dedicated to the glory of its Nineties programming.)

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