The Lair: MTV lures locals

De La Soul on 'The Lair'By targeting a constantly changing demographic, MTV must renovate itself as well as understand the local market. Nahal Donyadideh reports on two of their efforts.

With a 25-year old history in the US and an Australian presence since 1997, MTV’s young target audience demands a continuous renewal of its content and musical offerings. Each subsidiary of the multinational company is responsible for developing concepts to cater to the particular tastes of their local viewers.

The underground rock show The Lair is a local success story. The idea, according to producer and creator Dan Mansour, was to showcase local bands alongside big acts in a venue “that everyone would love to go to.” This, says host Darren McMullen, is “a big responsibility” because it’s the only show in the country giving young artists the chance to break out into the mass market.

The Lair is shot on location at The Metro, an iconic Sydney rock venue. “When we first went there, the place looked like an RSL room, but they were great and management allowed us to knock down walls and turn the place into a ‘rock dungeon’.”

The ‘dungeon’ environment creates a tone that even the most cynical viewers or performers can’t resist.

“Even the more indie and underground ones who are over MTV arrive at The Lair and appreciate it. It’s not Pimp My Ride, but something refreshing; MTV Australia is at the forefront of other MTV channels, coming out with cutting-edge music shows,” says McMullen. The Scottish-born presenter adds that other international MTV presenters and producers have praised this local effort.

Having recently completed production on its sixth season, The Lair has been a success for MTV. Mansour believes what sets it apart from most other music shows is “its use of other elements in the environment, in ways that have never been done before”.

“It’s the happy medium between being at a live gig and watching a music show,” he says. “We didn’t want it to feel like you were watching the same old type of music show or clip show; we made it rougher.

“By getting the camera right amongst the crowd and shooting through different elements inside the environment, we’ve created something new. I guess that’s why it’s lasted six seasons.”

The Lair will return for a seventh season later in the year and in the meantime, Mansour and McMullen are busy with a new locally-generated project, the game show Fan vs. Band in which bands compete against their number one fans and McMullen plays a character called Cheesy Mac.

“It gets the fans and bands interacting,” says Mansour.

“The bands have no idea what they’re up for; they think they’re on a game show against their number one fan, but Cheesy Mac [a deeply depressed alcoholic degenerate] comes out and says the most outrageously absurd things,” adds McMullen.

Fan vs. Band will debut on MTV Australia soon, and it is too early to say if the format will be picked up by other MTV channels. ■


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