Songs on the Small Screen: The decline of music television

music tv

The celebrated program “Later… with Jools Holland” has returned. Now in it’s 46th series, it is continuing it’s longstanding tradition of being the key UK television platform for both up-and-coming artists and big name stars. It has long been in the public eye and after many years of memorable performances it has become a key part of British music culture. The problem is that the show is the last of a dying breed. Britain’s other main music shows – Top of the Pops and The Old Grey Whistle Test – are no longer with us. The former survives only in the form of an annual Christmas special and the latter is on the way to fading from the public’s memory.

British television has suffered a decline in live music. There are plenty of shows out there that have a weekly music guest but none of these performances are on the same scale as some of the high profile platforms across the pond such as Saturday Night Live. Although the USA still has a strong music scene thanks to shows like Austin City Limits, it’s not what it once was. MTV was once the single most important thing in music. All you needed was a remotely catchy song and a memorable video and your song would be world famous in days. It broadcast some of the most memorable live music of a generation thanks to it’s unplugged series. These days it seems that the music has come second and their main output has become ‘reality’ shows.

The internet is now the world’s main source of music. It’s a chicken and egg kind of situation, is there less music on our tv screens because people turned to their computer screens instead? Or did people start using the internet for music because they were dissatisfied with the music on television? Music isn’t leaving our screens without a fight, recently we’ve had coverage of the summer’s major festivals and the first ever BBC Music Awards, but the declining role of live music on British tv looms in the distance. Jools Holland won’t be around forever, make the most of it before the show shares the fate of it’s predecessors.

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