Channel [V], MAX & CMC: 25 years of unforgettable TV moments
Midnight tonight marks the end of a significant era in Australia’s music TV, with Foxtel switching off [V], MAX and CMC after 25 years for a new partnership with ViacomCBS.
Through the years, the channels greatly lifted the profile of Australian and international musicians, and emphasised the liberation and realness of live music, aided by an impressive financial commitment from Foxtel.
According to Danny Keenan, head of artist and music relations for the music channels for the past 10 years, there was a major difference in attitude in his teammates and those who work in music shows on mainstream TV.
“We don’t work in the television industry. We work in the music industry … with a music-first attitude,” Keenan explains to TMN.
As to [V]’s legacy, he says, “From day one, [V] had a reputation of being rebellious, being cheeky, being bold, being adventurous and being massive supporters of Australian music.
“We always sought to create moments. I hope people will remember us fondly for that.”
Such moments included Band In A Bubble, during which Regurgitator recorded an album under public scrutiny in Melbourne’s Federation Square 24/7.
There was also The Ele[V]ator bar, hanging 50 metres in the air at Soundwave and Homebake and unannounced Guerilla Gigs which included Ed Sheeran’s first-ever Australian performance.
The weekly new music discovery Unco[V]ered had a steady strike rate: one was Tones And I, whose ‘Johnny Run Away’ was playlisted even before she was signed to Sony.
The [V] Island Parties (“a great viewer event, unlike anything I’d ever seen before anywhere in the world for a media outlet”) attracted names like Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Major Lazer, Mark Ronson, Delta Goodrem and Ed Sheeran to floating performances on Sydney Harbour.
But for Keenan, “Foo Fighters on Goat Island is one of the greatest live shows I’ve ever seen.”
Three-month negotiations between various stakeholders to pull the show together were helped by newly-arrived Keenan’s close relationship with the band’s management.
“They understand promo really well, and they have a fantastic relationship with Australia, so it wasn’t as difficult as you’d expect.”
The Foos played 38 songs over three hours for 300 guests to launch the Wasting Light album.
MAX had similarly impressive moments, particularly during the 50 MAX Sessions performances.
Book-ended by two Coldplay performances, these included Eddie Vedder joining Neil Finn for ‘History Never Repeats’ and ‘Throw Your Arms Around Me’; Hoodoo Gurus at Vivid; Slash playing an acoustic ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ on TV for the first time anywhere in the world; and Powderfinger on the Sydney Opera House steps with Missy Higgins.
Great Music Cities of the World was an eight-part series with 250 artists discussing the musical history of their home cities: New York; Los Angeles; Detroit; Nashville; San Francisco; London; Manchester and Melbourne.
CMC (Country Music Channel) played a huge role in country music’s acceptance by a younger audience. Under program manager Tim Daley, it built an incomparable community and held a steady 40-45% of Australian content.
“We had many internal discussions to talk about making sure that country music in this territory was contemporary, that it was always seen to be a vibrant and upwardly mobile genre.
“We avoided hay bales and fiddles at all time on the festival and on the channel,” Keenan recalls.
CMC’s biggest success story was the CMC Rocks festival, a joint venture with Michael Chugg and Rob Potts, which grew from a crowd of a few thousand to last year’s 24,0000 ticket sell-out.
From it came the CMC Awards, Songs & Stories and The Variety Bash, where a CMC hearse was driven around the outback with a giant cowboy hat on top with Morgan Evans, McAlister Kemp, Buddy Goode and Courtney Conway behind the steering wheel.
The channels uncovered an impressive roll-call of presenters such as Osher Gunsberg, James Mathison, Yumi Stynes, Danny Clayton, Renee Bargh, Chloe Maxwell and Andrew Mercado.
Tonight’s switch off also marks the end of an era of music TV in another way.
“The evolution of consumer viewing habits and technology will eventually dictate that music television won’t be the same as we’ve known previously,” Keenan suggests.
“I don’t think anyone under the age of 18 will want to experience that. Because it won’t be part of their world.
“Everything’s on YouTube or their handset or whatever their viewing device is. They can dial anything up as quick as they please. So I think it won’t ever be the way that we know it.
Lost but certainly not forgotten, the next generation of music fans will find a treasure trove of history-making moments from decades gone by on YouTube.
Classics like when Robbie Williams kissed Stynes on her first day hosting the daily live music show WhatUWant, the unscripted mayhem of Jabba’s Morning Glory, or highlights from [V]’s DeTour Bus, where bands travelled regional Australia and played gigs live to air.
Their festival coverage gave all Australians a backstage pass to the country’s biggest music event, from Splendour In The Grass, Future Music Festival and Homebake to Soundwave, Groovin’ The Moo, CMC Rocks and of course the Big Day Out, where [V]’s all-day all-live festival coverage The Big Day In was like nothing anyone had seen previously, and maybe won’t again.