Jerry Bryant has put up for sale his massive, one-of-a-kind JBTV archive of 30,000 remastered, first generation digibeta music videos from the ‘80s, ‘90s and 2000s in order to capitalize the expansion and resources of his live music show.
The painstakingly preserved vault of 1,100 one-inch tapes is a cultural mother lode of Smithsonian proportions. The storage devices alone are worth $125,000. Bryant has “no idea” of the content’s value.
“It’s a one of a kind collection that nobody has,” he says. “It’s got some of the best and some of the worst of all the music videos ever released, sort of a history of rock and roll since 1984.”
Including pop standards from superstars like Madonna, classic cuts from hard rockers like the Foo Fighters, uncensored takes from oddballs like Primus, two X-rated performances by Icelandic squealer Bjork and one Flaming Lips’ video that Wayne Coyne made “just for JBTV,” the story behind the archive is sort of a history of JBTV.
Bryant began the collection during the show’s early days, when he was developing JBTV’s exclusive music format and occasionally broadcasting videos that he discovered pretty much by accident.
“We would do commercials and on the same reel would be a Peter Murphy video,” Bryant remembers. “He was so excited that there was a TV show that played it.”
As JBTV became a preferred step for serious bands hoping to climb the charts, so did Bryant’s access to music videos. He began receiving videos from unsigned acts across the country, including one sent by a group of suburban Chicago kids who called themselves Fall Out Boy.
“We have the first video before they were signed to a record deal,” Bryant says, “and then they got signed and the record company goes, ‘well, that video’s not good enough, let’s make a real video.’”
The show also received original music videos directly from “every label” in the country, a pipeline it shared with MTV.
“MTV and JBTV were on one-inch, D2, quad, the high end formats,” says Bryant. “They would send videos to both of us.”
Once he got his hands on the originals, Bryant often corrected the color and remastered the sound. In some cases, though, he would completely replace the audio with the song from the band’s CD.
He also archived the material on digibeta tapes from the very beginning of the format’s existence, meticulously listing each song’s title and artist next to the exact minute, second and frame of its location.
“One tape can hold about 30 videos,” he says. “It was so much easier to do the show.”
The collection grew until the late-2000s, when JBTV devoted its entire program to live music and Bryant began authoring videos with footage shot in the show’s studio. It now occupies 20-feet of floor-to-ceiling shelves in a temperature controlled room adjacent to his editing suite, where it’s been stored the whole time.
“I treat all these videos like they were my kids,” Bryant says. “It’s been a labor of love.”