RockAmerica is a music video subscription service for professional disc jockeys based in New York City, New York. Founded in 1980 by Ed Steinberg, it was the first company to offer music videos on a subscription basis, and provided a vital channel before the establishment of MTV and other television outlets.
Founded on the heels of successful record pools that would distribute disco and new wave records to DJs, the company applied the same principle to music video but with important differences. The videos, which were obtained from record labels both major and independent, were gathered into compilations. Clubs could subscribe and receive fresh tapes on a monthly basis. However the tapes had to be returned at the end of two months. Further conditions were dictated by copyright concerns. Clubs were not supposed to play the reels continuously but to mix them into other programming. The clubs were also mandated to provide monthly 'response forms' to RockAmerica from which the company produced a video chart, as well as more detailed analysis that could be purchased by marketers. The first program included videos by artists Madness, XTC, David Bowie, The Flying Lizards, The Ramones and Ian Dury. The company rapidly signed up a number of east coast clubs. The company also produced videos for a number of NYC artists including the Bush Tetras and, notably, the video for Madonna's debut single Everybody. By the summer of 1983 RockAmerica had 300 subscribers.
In its early days Bob Pittman of MTV based his programming on RockAmerica's chart.
- Radcliffe, Joe (1980-09-20). "RockAmerica First Video Record Pool In New York" (jpg). Billboard. Retrieved 2007-11-27.
- McKeen, William (2000). Rock and Roll Is Here to Stay: An Anthology. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 462. ISBN 0-393-04700-8.
- Denisoff, R. Serge (1988). Inside Mtv. Transaction Publishers. p. 76. ISBN 0-88738-864-7. Retrieved 2007-11-27.
Pittman also consulted Billboard's singles charts and the popularity of video clips at nightclubs like the RockAmerica service. Indeed, the growing number of video clubs provided a ready-made test market for MTV.
- "Ricardo Marcus interview". musicvideopress.com. 2005-10-20. Retrieved 2007-11-27.
Backstreet Boys and N'Sync, the two boy bands, did not do very well the first time they were put out. It took the Backstreet Boys a year to break in America; they broke these artists' in Germany first. But both bands were popular in the clubs because the video pools, Rock America was one, and they actually released their videos to the clubs a year before they came out in America and they were successful because back then the CVC chart was still in existence, those videos were getting played by DJ's and they were reporting them. This is just simply based on the fact that it was something to throw on at night and they just played it and then the rest of what happened to the Backstreet Boys and N'Sync was history.
- "Retail Entertainment Design Appoints Rockamerica Founder Ed Steinberg to Vice President, Licensing and Label Relations". Business Wire. 2007-03-29. Retrieved 2007-11-27.
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