Last week, reports broke around the internet that the hosts of BET’s 106 & Park, Terrence J and Rocsi, would be exiting the show after six years. Although the two hosts and BET haven’t confirmed the reports,this story seemed to bring out mixed feelings. Some said that they haven’t watched the show since former hosts Free and AJ left in 2005, others seemed happy that there was a possibility of Terrence J and Rocsi leaving, and then there were those who suggested 106 & Park be canceled altogether. To that I say, not so fast, shows of this format have more impact on culture and youth than you may think.
On the surface it may look as though music video shows only give you, well…music videos, but it’s more than that. Shows of this genre allow new on-air personalities to break into the broadcasting industry while also giving them the platform to become gatekeepers of what’s cool and relevant in urban and youth culture. Former 106 & Park hosts Free and AJ now have careers as radio show host and as an Extracorrespondent, respectively. Terrence J and Rocsi have both entered the acting field with multiple film roles under their belts.
Youth culture is a big part of music video shows, and they often serve as the best places to talk to young people about social issues. Former MTV music video countdown show Total Request Live (TRL) was one of the firsts to have an open conversation with young people about the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Recently, 106 & Park featured a discussion with the parents and brother of Trayvon Martin, which was hosted by T.J. Holmes.
Many have questioned whether the television music video format can still thrive in an age where fans can watch their favorite artist’s video online. That’s a fair observation, however, what these shows provide that you can’t get anywhere else is fan interaction that artists need in order to reach their audience and those moments for fans to come in contact with the artists they love. You can watch a video online as many times as you want, but it’s not the same as seeing a celebrity in person and getting to know who they are. Like change, celebrity admiration is a constant in life, especially with young people.
Shows of 106 & Park’s format (and the now-defunct MTV show TRL) serve as an even exchange for record labels who want to promote their artists’ new albums and projects, while movie studios see it as a way for the stars of their films to promote to the target viewing audience. 106 and Park and TRL have both served as the catalyst of launching the careers of the biggest stars in pop and urban music.
The TRL decade was from 1998-2008 and was instrumental in the pop music era that featured boy bands *NSYNC and Backstreet Boys and singers Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera among others. Filmed live in the MTV studio, if you weren’t able to make it into the studio audience, catching a glimpse of your favorite star when they waved to fans outside the window was the next best thing. Sometimes fans got so rowdy and excited that the shades had to be brought down so the featured celebrity could be interviewed. TRL felt the hit of the digital age of downloading music, online video streaming and social media, and as a result, went off the air in 2008.
Capitalizing off the social media era, 106 & Park has incorporated Twitter into its show along with the “106 & Park App” where viewers at home can participate. With so much talent breaking on the internet due to YouTube views and a large Twitter following, if there aren’t any programs on television catering to this new music and its audience, we run a risk of creating a culture of YOFO artists, meaning ‘you’re only famous online.’ Many artists, especially those that are new to the entertainment business, feel a certain sense of accomplishment when they’re on a television stage discussing their music or premiering a new video.
The landscape of how we consume music and videos has definitely changed in this digital age, but shows of 106 & Park’s format have a certain way of connecting with the culture of music and the youth that consumes it. Of course, social media will have to become show elements, in order to stay competitive. Music is cyclical and the next generation of artists and their fans need to have a platform where they can have fan moments as well. Besides, if it’s proving to be good for the culture, why not stick with it?