As Youtube Has exploded into a vintage video destination, MTV has been digging slowly through its vast vault, uncovering footage that has been buried for decades. On Nov. 24, Rhino will release the first fruit of those labors, REMTV, a six-disc box set that chronicles R.E.M.‘s numerous appearances on the channel during the past 30 years. The collection features live performances, awards show highlights, interviews and a documentary, R.E.M. by MTV, by Alexander Young that traces the band’s appearances across Viacom’s networks.
“We have such a long, storied history with R.E.M.,” says Van Toffler, president of MTV Networks Music & Logo Group at Viacom. “Their rise to fame chronicles MTV’s beginnings, and they did so much work for us around the world. We’re realizing as we’re unlocking our vaults how much rich material we have: artists like Michael Jackson, Aerosmith, Madonna. We’ve got tremendous history with these artists.”
The set, which retails for $99.98, includes R.E.M.’s appearances on MTV Unplugged and VH1 Storytellers, as well as European concert performances spanning 1995 to 2008 that weren’t aired in the United States. There is also unaired B-roll and interview footage that Toffler hopes will offer fans new insight into the band’s music and history. He says 85 percent of the footage on the six discs came from inside MTV’s vaults, which the network is only beginning to catalog.
And while there isn’t yet a master plan for the fruits of MTV’s spelunking, REMTV is a promising sign for the future. “We’ve put some of this stuff out as B-sides or bonus tracks or as extras on DVDs, but nothing as exhaustive as this box set,” says Toffler.
The documentary section of the box set will air on VH1 Classic and Palladia in November, and Toffler anticipates some of the live footage may also make its way onto TV after the collection lands in stores.
“MTV as a brand isn’t really that reflective — we’re always about what’s new and current and now,” says Toffler. “The reflection happens a bit on VH1 and VH1 Classic and Palladia. We’re just looking at the right way to unlock our vault, whether you can tab it by a decade or genre or artist-specific. But [this] shines a light on the great heritage, and on probably the best music production on television in the last 30-plus years.”