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Obsessions: Snooki killed the video star

By Samantha Eng, Special to CNN
Last year's MTV Video Music Awards were hosted by Chelsea Handler, seen here in a skit with the "Jersey Shore" cast.
Last year's MTV Video Music Awards were hosted by Chelsea Handler, seen here in a skit with the "Jersey Shore" cast.
  • With the focus on reality, MTV's VMAs are a chance for artists to shine
  • A performance on the show is a coveted spot for musicians
  • Celebs from shows like "Jersey Shore" have replaced video stars

Samantha Eng writes for Socialite Life, a sister site of Celebuzz.

(CNN) -- MTV has long since moved away from being a "music channel."

Just as "Video Killed the Radio Star" marked the ending of an era when MTV played its first music video on August 1, 1981 at 12:01 a.m., 30 years later, the success of the network's shows like "The Jersey Shore" have all but eclipsed the video star.

So what's a musician striving to connect with fans and sell records to do?

If you are lucky, you land an appearance on the Video Music Awards.

This Sunday MTV will air the 2011 Video Music Awards (aka the VMAs) live, marking 27 years of a successful annual award show. Last year's VMAs boasted the highest ratings since 2002, bringing in 11.4 million viewers and making it the No. 1 cable telecast of 2010 for the MTV network.

For musicians, the coveted spot has now become the performance slots during the award show. Those selected have been identified as key players within the industry and to be asked has become an honor and acknowledgment of the music that an artist has put out that year.

The musicians and MTV look to secure their audience base not through music videos, but by broadening the guest list, in particular the red carpet, to encompass all those within the MTV lineup from musicians, actors/actresses, celebrities and the reality stars that are the driving force of the network. So don't be surprised when the newest Teen Mom is standing next to the boys from The Buried Life on this year's pink carpet.

That's because the true bread and butter of the network now is its reality shows.

MTV's mega-hit, "The Jersey Shore," has successfully followed eight dark haired and tan strangers -- Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi, Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino, Jenni "JWoww" Farley, Paul "Pauly D" DelVecchio, Ronnie Ortiz-Magro, Sammi "Sweetheart" Giancola, and Deena Nicole Cortese (replacing Angelina Pivarnick in season three) from the New Jersey shores to most recently, Florence, Italy.

The premiere episode of season four, following the cast overseas, broke the record for the largest audience for an MTV premiere with 8.8 million viewers, according to Us Magazine. Now that's a reason to fist pump!

In addition to "The Jersey Shore," MTV currently has 10 reality shows in rotation. This does not include 11 other reality-based shows ranging from celebrity reality to competitive shows like "America's Next Dance Crew."

With not much room for 4-minute music videos, MTV launched MTV2, a secondary channel dedicated to constant, commercial-free music videos. However, after two unsuccessful re-launches since its founding, MTV2 struggles to maintain the constant stream of music videos it proclaimed it would be dedicated to. The schedule now focuses the majority of music programming between the hours of 3:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. and has dubbed it "AMTV2."

No wonder MTV decided to drop the "music television" tag line altogether in 2010 when it launched its official new logo -- though networks executives maintain that music is at the heart of all they do. It just happens to be smothered and covered by reality shows and scripted programming.

So where does that leave the VMA "Moon Man" in the race to the top?

While the categories honored at the VMAs still include video of the year, best new artist, best video in the hip-hop, pop or rock genres and many others, the award show has become a celebration of the MTV family of programming and of the youth that it entertains. Musicians are merely hoping to secure their presence in that market by attending.