How Apple Music TV Aims to Capture Your Nostalgia

Music makes people come together

Key Takeaways

  • The ‘80s and ‘90s are making a comeback with Apple’s latest innovative take on music-based television with Apple Music TV.
  • Questions about the success of Apple Music TV’s business plan remains.
  • Nostalgia has become an important cultural force in modern Western culture as companies and creatives look to the past for inspiration.
Apple Music TV image.
 Apple

The launch of Apple Music TV has us wondering why the tech giant is interested in seemingly outmoded forms of media broadcasting.

As reported by Variety, Apple Music TV is a free, US-exclusive, 24-hour live stream of the world’s most popular videos curated by their team of music experts via the Apple Music or Apple TV apps (through internet browsers, iPhones, iPads or Apple TV devices). The channel is also seeking to reimagine the market of the past with its own version of video premieres starting this Friday with two artists—Joji’s "777" and Saint Jhn’s "Gorgeous"—at 12 PM ET and every subsequent Friday as new videos are released. It is also turning its eyes to focus on other exclusive, music-related content Apple has invested in, like concert films and interviews with musical artists, similar to MTV and BET of the past.

"It’s an era that’s making a comeback. If you look on TikTok or Instagram at all of these kids, they’re so inspired by the fashion of the '90s especially and even the '80s to a lesser extent," Texas-based creative Sondra Bishop said in an in-person interview. "They say nostalgia takes 20 to 30 years to take hold as the people amid that era become adults and the creatives behind what we see in fashion, music, art, cinema and television. And I think we are definitely seeing that with this resurgence of the '90s across all those mediums."

Music Television’s Comeback

A self-proclaimed connoisseur of the '80s-era music and fashion, Bishop was around when music videos first debuted in 1981 on the now legendary MTV with the aptly named "Video Killed the Radio Star" by The Buggles. 

"Before that, we had Dick Clark and other places to watch performances, but there [weren't] really any music videos… to watch this industry form and become a staple in popular culture to now where it, almost just as quickly, has become a relic of the past is quite something," she said.

These days, tweens and teens aren’t sitting in front of their television set waiting with bated breath to catch a glimpse of their favorite artist’s new music video. Now, they simply launch YouTube on their smartphone, tablet, or smart TV and within seconds they have access to an exhaustive array of music-based content to experience whenever they want for however long they please. Effectively, the internet killed the video star.

MTV is a shell of its former self. A brief view of its TV schedule for the next week shows almost every time slot playing wipeout television series Ridiculousness with a few movies and reality shows like 16 and Pregnant and Catfish occupying time slots as well. Outside of its award shows, music rarely if ever plays a factor in the station’s daily operations, contrary to its name.

Enter Apple Inc. An innovator in the tech sphere, it is safe to say wherever Apple goes, the industry follows. Much like Amazon, it stands in a league of its own when it comes to its competitors and its attempt to reignite the industry of music television is already making waves.

This leads to an important question about why this multinational conglomerate is investing in music television in the modern era, connecting the immediacy of app-based platforms like Apple Music with the programmatic arrangement of traditional TV. It's a marriage that has yet to be tested. But with an audience that exceeds 60 million subscribers, Apple is perhaps best suited to test the theory of whether or not nostalgia culture has enough cache to cement itself against the immediacy users have come to expect in the digitized entertainment sector.

Nostalgia Moment

In her 2001 book, "The Future of Nostalgia," Harvard literature professor and media artist Svetlana Boym captured the appeal of nostalgia. Described as an important cultural force, Boym makes the argument that it is equally as prospective as it is retrospective: existing both as a yearning for the past while also seeking to assemble the future through a mythologized image.

From the revivals of popular '80s and '90s IPs like Star Wars and It to series like Stranger Things and Wonder Woman 1984 banking on a modern construction of the past, the late 2010s and now 2020s have been defined by a cyclical culture where the past has become a salve for the present—and that is what Apple Music TV is aiming for.

"The fantasies of the past determined by the needs of the present have a direct impact on the realities of the future," she wrote. "The optimistic belief in the future has become outmoded while nostalgia, for better or for worse, never went out of fashion, remaining uncannily contemporary."