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MTV Promos Keep Music Flame Lit

New York – At a time when reality and youth lifestyle shows – not videos – dominate MTV’s main programming hours, the network is looking to music-related contests, tour sponsorships and other off-channel marketing initiatives to drive its identity as a music brand.

Case in point: MTV in February is sending eight contest winners on a private island getaway with Columbia Records act Destiny’s Child in a stunt it is billing as Destiny’s Isle.

The promotion – which MTV has been plotting since last August and was aggressively promoting last fall – will culminate with clips from an afternoon meeting between the R&B trio and the contest winners being aired on an upcoming episode of its daily video countdown show, “Total Request Live.”

In the eyes of MTV executives, larger-than-life, heavily hyped contests that allow music fans to interact with such superstar acts help give the network a compelling music brand no matter how few videos it is playing in prime time.

“You can get a music video online at Yahoo or a million other places, but you can’t get the full experience that you can get with an MTV off-air experience,” says Joe Armenia, VP of music marketing and promotion at MTV. “Being able to put the viewer in touch with the artist is one of the advantages MTV brings to the table.”

Contests, tour sponsorships and special events are nothing new for MTV. But they are growing in number and scope as the network attempts to expand the slate of exposure opportunities it can offer artists and labels in lieu of video play. These opportunities are becoming increasingly important to MTV’s music strategy, as the bulk of its on-air programming centers on shows like “The Osbournes,” “The Real World” and “Newlyweds.”

In the last year, MTV and sister channels MTV2 and MTVU have increased the number of tours they sponsor to 16, up from 10 in 2003. The network also has stepped up the pace of its off-channel music specials, planning more parties and not-for-broadcast performances in 2004 around its own events, like the Video Music Awards, MTV Movie Awards and Spanking New Music Week, as well as other events like the Voodoo music festival and South by Southwest.

On the contest side, MTV has honed its approach, reducing the number of giveaways on the flagship channel to a handful of mega-contests like Destiny’s Isle, while pumping up to more than a dozen the number of smaller music-related ticket and merchandise giveaways on MTV2 and MTVU. MTV contests generated more than 2.5 million entries last year.

MTV teamed with more than 100 major-market radio stations last year on promotions of MTV tours, programs and special events and worked with dozens of artist fan clubs on promoting awareness of MTV-sponsored artist appearances.

Some music marketing efforts are even turning into new programming franchises for the network. MTV’s $2 Bill concert series was born out of the marketing department in 2002 and has become a staple touring and programming opportunity for the network since its introduction. The network is staging $2 Bill events on a quarterly basis.

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