Even before his fame, Michael Jackson had always high hopes and with the release of his album “THRILLER”, he knew it will be a start of the next giant level up for him.
Weisner and MJ shared a common vision and he started working to turn this vision into a reality when he walked into the office of a 16-month-old network called MTV to present the Steve Barron-directed clip for “Billie Jean.” Way back then, MTV was a channel branded to be as racist, because they played videos of very few black artists, including Garland Jeffries and Joan Armatrading.
Living up to their image of being a racist, MTV declined the video. And so the quest begin, CBS Records head Walter Yetnikoff together with CBS head Bill Paley challenged MTV to play the “Billie Jean” video by the end of the day or CBS Records isn’t doing business with MTV anymore. MTV favorably give in to CBS Records’ demands, and that was the day that the color barrier was broken.
The video set the standard that day for what excellence in music video stood for and immediately it went into heavy rotation with eight plays per day, catapulting Jackson and MTV to another level of success. It also opened [the door] to more R&B videos being made and that led many to explore and provided more space for a wider variety of music
On May 16, 1983, another TV exposure changed the course of Jackson’s career. On an NBC broadcast “Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever,” Michael unveiled his sequined glove and the James Brown-inspired moonwalk with his iconic rendition of “Billie Jean”. The next day all anyone was talking about was Michael.”
After that, demand for “Thriller” became more intense that manufacturing plants had slowed the pressing of other albums to make more copies of it. Good thing about this is, there were never any real shortages or even serious delays.
Although the videos for “Billie Jean” and “Beat It” increased Jackson’s star power, the 14-minute clip for “Thriller” became a pop culture sensation.
As recalled by McCarrell, “We were making most videos for $30,000-$40,000 and I remember falling off my chair when I saw the budget.” It was made at a cost of $1 million–in 1983 dollars–“Thriller” was the first video shot by a film director, John Landis.
Considered as the most ambitious music video ever made, “Thriller” created a serious competition from several other networks for the rights to show it. MTV ended up paying more than $1 million for the exclusive rights to air it, the first time it paid a label for a clip.
While the fascination with the video grew so intense, Epic came up with the idea to create an hour long documentary called “Making Michael Jackson’s Thriller. It was aired on MTV and was eventually sent to retail. This can be traced back as the start of commercial market for videos. That was the first time, during that time, that such package had been created around a single video.
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