Stations and programs devoted to music videos now exist all over the world.
In North America, MTV has become an institution. And the on-air personalities
known as video jockeys (VJs) have become national celebrities.
First coined by an advertising agency, the term "video jockey" was adapted
from "disc jockey," reflecting how industry people initially saw music television
as a visual form of Top-40 radio. But the role of the VJ has developed well
past that of a TV version of disc jockeys.
Like many jobs in entertainment and media, much of what a VJ does depends
on the nature of the contract they have signed. Some have a very limited job
description: introducing videos based on scripts and interviewing artists.
"Mostly, for me, it's studying, memorization," says Chris Booker, a VJ.
"We have two writers. They do a lot of the info and the day-to-day prep work.
That's typical of the stuff that's going on now in the industry."
Others play an important part in the actual production of shows. For instance,
VJs Exan Auyoung and Leslie Bosacki, who used to produce as well as host a
popular video countdown program in Canada, did a bit of everything.
While still with the show, Auyoung said: "We do pretty much everything
on our own, which is a great learning experience. In the U.S., one person
is generally allocated one job, whereas in Canada, the budgets are a lot smaller
and therefore the more you can do, the better."
Workdays for VJs vary greatly according to the nature of their contract.
Booker, who works the night shift six times a week as a DJ, tapes segments
three days a week. "It's mornings, three or four hours a day, and that goes
until 11 a.m. or noon."
Provided a person has what it takes -- that hard-to-define quality, which
includes looks, personality and talent -- almost anyone can be a VJ.
"There are people who are good on camera and people who aren't," remarks
former VJ Laurie Brown. "A lot of it is just an innate sense of how to do
Though it helps to appeal to a young audience, VJs don't necessarily have
to be in the full bloom of youth. "Kurt Loder, he's like 94," jokes Booker.
"And John Morris, he's probably in his mid-30s. Music will keep you young."
VJs are no longer "torn," as MTV executive John Lack once remarked, "between
being television personalities and being radio disc jockeys."
People with physical disabilities are capable of doing this work.