Can We Talk About The Box Music Network?

A screenshot from a YouTube video upload from original VHS source tape recording of The Box Music Network. In the upper left hand corner is a TV screen rendering, with three women singing in a music video, with the 90s R&B group Blaque, and the song is 808. A list of songs and their call numbers are on the right, reading from top to bottom: 150 Jordan Knight, Give it To You, 448 Juvenile, Follow Me Now, 422 Juvenile, Ha, 192 K-Ci and JoJo, Life. Text at the bottom of the screen reads Call Now 900-884-0072, 1 Video/$1.99, Under 18, get parent's permission. In the bottom right hand corner is a small red phone receiver with the word "Thanx!" above it.

MTV, VH1, and BET were all the rage in the 1990s, and as an elementary school kid, the coolness of these cable channels wasn’t lost on me. Since we didn’t have cable, I saw the channels elsewhere. My own favorite was CMT, but in my broadcast market, I’m pretty sure it shared a channel w/ something else. I vaguely remember TNN, and had never heard of GAC until college.

Otherwise, all I knew about MTV was through the magazines I lived for back then, and the songs I heard on the good radio station from a neighboring college town that I still can’t get to come in worth a damn.

Until one spring day in 1999. That’s the day my mom and I discovered that a new channel had come to our broadcast market. My mom tried to fiddle around w/ the antenna, but it never seemed to help w/ the grainy potato quality.

That channel? The Box Music Network. When my mom would go to bed before work, since she worked the night shift, I’d watch The Box Music Network in the living room, since I’d swiped the old color TV on its’ own stand, and couldn’t get it to come in on that one to save my life.

I had no idea why, until I recently learned that the grainy quality was there intentionally, to give it that bootleg aesthetic. The channel also aired on the UHF stations, which have never come in all that great for me.

Horrid quality or not, I loved that channel from the second we found out about its’ existence. Usually, it would be the menu screens w/ clips from the music videos, commercials for whatever hole-in-the-wall/no-name/for-profit educational institution, the Army, some lame TV psychic, or various promos.

Like the Joe Namath janky insurance commercials on Charge! in my broadcast market, I guess they knew who they were trying to market to, eh?

Until someone would call that 1-900 number on the screen, and a music video would play. It wouldn’t always be the one I’d have chosen, but I watched anyway. My mom and I couldn’t afford it, and I’d make lists of all the videos I’d request if my mom would let me. Like it said on the menu screen, “under 18, get parent’s permission.”

After those two minutes were over, it would go back to the menu screen full of song samples and music video clips. I remember there’d be the Box Tops, and also the New Videos of the Week.

I was going through a really awful time in my life at that point, and The Box Music Network brought joy into my life, along w/ my standard PBS Kids favorites.

The Box Music Network aired the videos MTV wouldn’t touch even if someone had them at gunpoint, and yes, some of them were indeed uncensored. They also aired the so-called “popular” music videos long before they even made it to MTV.

I sort of remember there being a mention of The Box having a website, but it didn’t mean anything to me, since this was long before a computer and the Internet ever came to my house, haha.

We moved that year, and when we got to the new house, I couldn’t get The Box to come in, no matter what. Guess the old house had that sweet spot for it.

The Box had stayed w/ me ever since those few short months it was in my life passed. I later learned that the channel had ended operations in January 2001, and that was the end of an era.

I only wish it occurred to me to record that stuff, but it didn’t. However, someone else took up the torch for that, as seen in the video below. Since the screenshot I got the main photo is from is from a video that contains mentions of a certain someone who’s engaged in consent violations, I found this one to share here so you can bask in the glory and relive the good times.

Over to you, readers? Do you remember The Box Music Network? Did you ever call that number to request a video? Did you request it online? What was it like? Do you remember which ones you requested? Either way, I’d love to hear all about your thoughts and takeaways, so drop em like they’re hot below, and let’s talk.

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