End of an Era: 'TRL' Shifts Online

Did you grow up in the early '90s? Then you were part of the generation that made MTV's "Total Request Live" into an hour-and-a-half pop culture buffet. The Nov. 16 airing of "Total Finale Live" marks the end of a 10-year run that contributed to the identity of a generation.

"I think it's the end of an era, like maybe the same way American Bandstand was for the baby boomer generation," said one former "TRL" viewer who stopped by MTV Studios last week to participate in one more taping of the show. "I can't get my mainstream videos. I don't know what [MTV is] going to do now."

The volume of MTV's music video programming has faded over the years. TRL host Damien Fahey credits that to viewers' changing preferences.

"You really have to respect the times, and the times have changed, and if we air music videos no one really watches," Fahey said.

The Internet Revolution

The "TRL" countdown can still be found on MTV.com, where visiters can watch whole videos and post comments. There's no host or bevy of shrieking 15-year-olds, but Fahey says even though "TRL" gives that live experience, the rise of interactive sites such as YouTube, MySpace and Facebook has had a huge impact on viewership.

"The good thing about music right now is there is so much of music even on MySpace -- 6,000 bands so there's outlets, this isn't the only outlet," Fahey said. "It's shifted to more of the Internet."

Bobby Bones, host of "The Bobby Bones Show" in Austin, Texas, on 96.7 KISS-FM, agrees that the Internet has changed the game.

"Nobody watches TV by appointment anymore. I download all my shows off iTunes," Bones said, "and the younger these kids get they realize they don't have to" watch shows at a certain time. Back when we were kids, we had to watch at 7 o' clock."

Bones, whose target audience includes 12- to 18-year-olds, first started using the Internet to promote his show five years ago. He said Internet content has been a key component in making "The Bobby Bones Show" one of the top five morning radio programs in the country. Bones provides listeners with a podcast of the show on iTunes and video on YouTube that are meant to promote but not replace his radio show.

"Back when [the show] started, I was fresh out of college, and YouTube was in its infancy. We were ahead of the curve because we started implementing these elements before anybody else did," Bones said.

"[The internet] adds more work for me. I end up having to do so many things around the show, from my blog to videos ... but we don't want people to just watch the videos because we don't get ratings for that. Everything extra that we do, we try to turn it all the way around back to the radio."

Blame it on the ... Economy?

The state of the economy has played like a soap opera for months now. Fahey does not explicitly blame the economy but said it may play a role.

"MTV doesn't make money, Viacom doesn't make money and stocks go down so I'm being a realist with the fact that it is a corporation," Fahey said.

College students about to enter the real world are concerned as well. It's cheaper to broadcast over the Internet, and does not take as much manpower. A.J. Mayers interned for MTV this summer as part of the University of Texas Summer in Los Angeles program and has VJ experience with MTV on summer 2007's "The Big Ten." Mayers even pitched a reality show while in Los Angeles that made it all the way to the New York headquarters.

"For those of us thinking about maybe getting a career in that field, we may be stopped from pursuing that," Mayers said. "'TRL' was one of the coolest shows they had where you were able to use those skills, and I'm not sure how things would be nowadays with the whole turn of events."

Launching Careers

"TRL" can be credited with helping spark the careers of many acts from the late 1990s, from the boy-band boom, with N' Sync and the Backstreet Boys, to edgier trends led by the band Korn and rapper Eminem.

"'TRL' has actually created so many artists," Fahey said. "'TRL' has been at the forefront of pretty much every single major music pop star. They have some sort of connection to 'TRL.'"

Not all the credit, however, should go to the "TRL" fan base. At least one record company played a role in making sure its marquee artists made the countdown. According to the Office of the Attorney General of New York, Universal Music Group allegedly used "phony call-in campaigns" to vote artists onto the show to boost airplay of a song.

In May 2006, the state attorney's settlement with UMG Recording Inc. stated that a UMG promotions executive sent an e-mail in June 2005 to the UMG president and chairman that read, "FYI we are hiring a request company starting Monday to jack 'TRL' [Total Request Live] for Lindsay [Lohan]" (emphasis supplied).

Is 'TRL' Really Necessary?

Some artists who have never been a guest on "TRL" do not believe they would need the show to market themselves. Kevin Jack is a UT graduate and a rapper on the rise. His debut album, "Campaign for Change," is available online through his MySpace and Facebook pages, and Jack is a finalist for the Maxwell Song of the Year award. Jack has also opened for the established hip-hop elite, including Common, the Roots, Method Man, Slick Rick and Sean Kingston.

"You went to MTV and BET to see those artists first, that was the platform where you were introduced to new artists," Jack said. "No longer do you need MTV to tell your story. You can introduce your fans to your music directly."

The end of "TRL" signifies that the media is changing. Bones describes it as an evolution.

"When cable started everybody said, 'Oh, the broadcast channels are done,' but the Internet is so limitless. If [broadcasting] moves only to streaming [online] we'll be there," Bones said. "Broadcast channels are just as strong as ever, so I think when something comes in that's better everything else has to be better, if not [TV and radio] will go away."