Putting the M in MTV
Rock clubs and boardrooms are part of a long day's work for Amy Doyle (COM'92)| From Features | By Taylor McNeil
“The way the audience experiences music has changed, and so we’ve evolved according to how they are consuming and experiencing music,” says MTV’s Amy Doyle. Photo by Scott Gries/Getty Images
Most corporate senior vice presidents don’t roll into the office about 10 a.m. — but then, most senior vice presidents aren’t hanging out in rock clubs until all hours of the night, listening to the latest bands. Amy Doyle is, and she’s accustomed to the eye-rolls she gets when she talks about her work with her New York pals, who often arrive at the office before 8. Nice work if you can get it, they think, and she agrees.
Doyle (COM’92) heads MTV’s music and talent group, which means it’s her job to put the M in MTV: find new talent, get it on one of four television channels, push it electronically through the Web and wireless, showcase bands at MTV events, and do everything else possible to keep the music and programming fresh for her target audience, those easily jaded twelve-to-twenty-four-year-olds.
MTV has come a long way from its early days of the mid-1980s, when it played music videos nonstop and even the cheesiest New Wave band videos seemed so cool.
“The way the audience experiences music has changed, and so we’ve evolved according to how they are consuming and experiencing music,” says Doyle. “Videos are still a part of that, but it isn’t all of it. The audience now has this insatiable desire for all things music. Not only do they want to see the video, they want to see an interview with their favorite artist, view a live performance, and be able to rate, rank, and comment on just about everything.”
These days, MTV is better known for reality shows like The Hills than it is for music, but the beat is still the heart and soul of the channel. Watch The Hills, for instance, and you’ll hear songs strategically placed at high-profile moments, with a soundtrack list at the end sending you to mtv.com to hear more. It’s all part of the strategy to keep one step ahead of the competition, something that is not easily done in an age when any fifth-grader can watch a music video on YouTube or MySpace.
In fact, in addition to those late-night concerts, figuring out how to stay ahead of the competition keeps Doyle awake at night. She may be young, she may love the rock scene, but she’s every ounce the executive — MTV is, after all, a subsidiary of media conglomerate Viacom. She talks about “brand image” and “strategic music placement,” and she has some thirty people reporting to her at her glass-walled office in the middle of Times Square.
Exposure on MTV — or the lack of it — can still make or break a group, and Doyle knows it. She can play musical Svengali, and does, for artists she thinks deserve the attention. Fall Out Boy, for one, was signed to a small indie label when Doyle ran across them. She and her crew noticed the band had a growing online following and went to see a show. “We fell in love with them,” she says. “In that moment, we decided this was a band we were going to do everything we could for.”
They added the band’s video to mtvU — the company’s college channel — and then started booking them on mtvU shows. As the group grew in popularity, they were bumped to MTV2, the next level up the MTV food chain. “Whatever MTV2 opportunities existed, performing live or hosting the rock show, we fit them in,” she says. When Fall Out Boy made it to MTV itself, “it busted wide open.”
Doyle’s work these days, especially pushing the digital entertainment side of things — making videos available on cell phones, for example, and creating virtual worlds where fans can mingle with their favorite rock stars — is a long way from her origins in the business. Her first gig was an internship at a Boston radio station that had just flipped its format to rock and whose manager let her jump into different sides of the business, from sales to programming. Out of college, she landed a full-time job at the station and soon moved south to launch a start-up alternative radio station in West Palm Beach, Florida. After stints in Dallas and Detroit, she got a call from an old contact, Tom Calderon at MTV, who offered her a job in the music and talent department in New York.
The joy of her job, she says, “is that literally since the day I walked in, it has continued to evolve, with new challenges and new platforms — it’s not the same job every single day. As long as it continues to be unpredictable, and the role evolves, and it feels different on a regular basis, I’ll be pretty satisfied.”