VJ (media personality)

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A video jockey (usually abbreviated to VJ, or sometimes veejay) is an announcer who introduces and plays videos on commercial music television such as the United States' MTV, VH1, Fuse TV, non-commercial TVU, Canada's MuchMusic, and Asia's Channel V.

Origins of the term

The term "video jockey" is a derivative of the term "disc jockey", "DJ" (deejay) as used in radio. The term was popularised in the 1980s by the Music Television Network (MTV). (See List of MTV VJs.)

The founders of MTV got their idea from studying Merrill Aldighieri, the person to invent the job of Video Jockey and its term. Merrill worked in the New York nightclub HURRAH which was the first public arena featuring video with music in New York City. When Merrill was invited to show her experimental film in the club, she asked if she could first develop a use for video to complement the DJ music so that when her film would be played, it would become part of a club ambiance and not be seen as a break in the evening. The experiment was such a success she was offered a full-time job.

Several months later the future-founders of MTV started coming to the club regularly, interviewing her and taking notes. She told them she was a VJ, the term she invented with a staff member to put on her first payslip. Her video jockey memoirs[1] have a complete list of all the live music she documented during her VJ breaks. There are over 100 hours of seminal recordings of new wave, post punk, experimental, jazz, and many musical genres never named.

Her method of performing as a video jockey consisted of improvising live clips using a video camera, projected film loops, and switching between 2 U-matic video decks. Many video artists were showcased and contributed raw and finished works. Stock footage was also incorporated. At this inception, the DJ was already the controller of the music, and the VJ was the visual adjunct. In the next incarnation of Merrill's pioneering work as a VJ she worked at Danceteria where there was a video lounge and the dancefloor was on a separate level. This change in architecture influenced the role of VJ to incorporate any and all sound sources available and be free not to focus on dance music as the only criterion for the audio. Video jockeying then expanded to incorporate live television feeds, music concrete, and other experiments with multi-media crowd participation. Meanwhile, MTV was now well established and focused on the commercially based playlist with their VJ's as TV personalities who were in fact fictionalised - they neither jockied any videos nor even chose them.

Other names include "VDJ" (Video DJ) and "MVJ" (Mobile VJ).



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