If you grew up in the late ’90s and early 2000s, long before Spotify, TikTok, and YouTube, Carson Daly was your gateway to new music.
On September 14, 1998, a little show called Total Request Live (TRL) premiered on MTV. It was a driving force that helped launch the career of a few blonde bombshells like Britney and Christina, boy bands like BSB and *NSYNC, and rappers like Eminem and Ludacris.
For me, TRL was my daily after-school ritual. I looked forward to exclusive interviews and music video premieres. But the best part was seeing which videos would clinch the number one spot. And in an age when artists were pitted against each other more than ever, the competition got pretty heated.
But TRL really wasn’t about the music. It was about the fans.
Even before social media made two-way communication something you could do in an instant, TRL found a way to put the power in their fans’ hands. The programming was essentially crowdsourced.
The countdown wasn’t carefully curated by music journalists or producers. They left it up to the fans to show up and vote. We were empowered to control the outcome.
MTV invited us into the studio. They let us take over the streets of Times Square. They answered our phone calls and counted our votes. TRL was our chance to feel seen, included, and heard.
This goes beyond simply acknowledging their audience. They made them part of the process, which is a surefire way to strengthen their bond.
How to Emulate the Success of TRL
Aside from the fact that the Backstreet Boys will always be better than *NSYNC, what can we learn from TRL?
If we want to engage with our audience more, we need to apply one of the magic words from TRL’s acronym: REQUEST .
Simply pushing a message won’t activate your fans or customers. Truth be told, sometimes they need a little nudge, and all you have to do is ASK!
Make your communication two-way by presenting them with a request.