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MTV Baltics – Taking our talent to the top

Ayear ago the international music channel MTV launched MTV Networks Baltic, the first pan - Baltic media platform. The three localized channels MTV Eesti, MTV Latvijas and MTV Lietuva, broadcast in their local languages. The channels combine local and international music, as well as MTV's trademark shows, and airs local programmes such as European Top 20, Baltic Top 20, Dance Floor Chart, MTV Oops and MTV Supermercado. MTV Baltic celebrated its first aniversary with an outdoor concert drawing a 26,000 strong crowd in Riga, Latvia. The event showcased nine artists and bands from the three Baltic states with many more and bigger music events planned for the future.

Not only has MTV brought people in tune with what music is hip and happening, influenced and taught the latest dance moves for the disco floor and brought to the Baltics hundreds of low pant wearing (opposite of high panting, not sure which is the best look) bandana toting, bling-bling, 50 Sants (Latvian santims) but MTV is now boosting the music careers of Baltic bands.

Through the new formatted MTV channels, Baltic artists are getting much needed airplay and exposure. "These days the balance of our musical playlist looks like this: - International music 85% vs. Baltic music 15%. We hope to move up to 20% in the near future, depending on the development of the local music industry," says MTV's talent and music manager, Lithuanian Vidmantas ÄŒepkauskas. With MTV headquarters in Vilnius, the music giant is helping to promote local talent. "We already have cases of successful collaboration with local talent, unearthing new Estonian youngsters Bedwetters and helping them produce their first video. We also helped to produce the new video for popular Lithuanian band SKAMP and did our first ever Artist Week with them. We helped Latvian biggies Brainstorm win their first ever MTV award last year. We're having more and more Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian videos in general and for Exclusive and Fresh positions (two categories of high rotation) on our channels. And these are just a few examples of bolstering local talent," says ÄŒepkauskas. "We are always thinking up ideas in the MTV kitchen, for example the idea of having local Baltic MTV Music awards and we are working hard to increase the local production ratio on the channels, but high quality and originality are currently holding us back. Viewers will have to see what the future brings."

According to ÄŒepkauskas it is not so easy for bands to become global even with the help of MTV. "There is only so much we can do, the artists need good talent representatives providing communication, marketing, event promotion, radio play and most importantly sales. Without good management all you have is a pretty sounding picture on your TV screen," he says.

"To introduce bands to the worldwide market we present actual Baltic hits to special international programs, like World Chart Express. Soon we will start producing so-called Baltic Artist Shorts, short show-reels presenting artists, their videos, interviews, etc. for established and emerging local talent, to present them on other channels of the MTV network. Big things start from small moves and initiatives."

For the second year in a row Baltic artists are participating in the most important MTV Networks event in Europe, the 2007 European Music Awards. The awards will be held on Nov 1st in Munich. This year, Lithuania's Gravel, Estonia's Bedwetters and Latvia's Astro'n'out have been nominated in the European Music Awards new category, devoted to up-and-coming talent, the New Sounds Of Europe award. The big prize is the Best Baltic Act, last year going to Latvia's Brainstorm. This years nominees are Latvian bands, Double Faced Eels and Tribes of the City, Lithuania's SKAMP and Jurga and Estonian band (and one of the favorites) The Sun.

The Sun's front man is Tanel Padar. In 2001 Tanel shot to fame with his then boy band 2XL and Dave Benton, by winning the Eurovision Song Contest. In 2003 Tanel, Danel Pandre, Meelis Talik and Tonii Rahula formed The Sun and the band has become one of Estonia's most popular rock groups. The band has been actively performing in festivals and concerts in all three Baltic states as well as the Live Coke Festival in Poland. The Sun supported Metallica in Tallinn in 2006 and Aerosmith, in Riga and Tallinn in 2007.

A modest Tanel thinks their chances of winning the award are 5 to 1. "Being nominated for the second time feels damn good! And hopefully it won't be our last." MTV has helped the band a lot, giving them exposure and support. "You need to help yourself and be passionate about your music and all good things will come sooner or later," he says. The Sun has plans to release an English album at the beginning of 2008. If they were to win the MTV's Best Baltic Act Tanel would be a very happy man.

Regardless of whether they win or lose, they will keep producing and playing rock 'n' roll to satisfy audiences and their fans.

(Note: The Bedwetters won the New Sounds of Europes Award and Lithuania's Jurga won the Best Baltic Act award)

By Larisa Medena