The other day I was reading an article by Robin Davey, "Why The Decline of MySpace Is Great For Musicians"1 and it made me think.
We have come a long way since 2000, when the first Internet bubble burst.
Back in the days IT stocks were climbing up like the Prince on Rapunzel’s hair. Everyone wanted to get on the dot com bandwagon, at times without a clue, just because everyone else was doing it.
Three years later, MySpace was established. One of the very first Social Media networks. And just like any fresh idea, it was popular in no time.
For the next five years, it would be the most visited social media site online.
It featured entertainment content and a glittery look that attracted teens and other young adults.
Musicians signed up for their own profiles and added friends, an innovative idea at the time as they could connect directly with their audience.
People had thousands of fans and millions of plays, as Davey puts it. However, this way of connecting with people seemed forced as you needed to send and accept friend requests (unlike Twitter, where you can just follow your favourite celebrity).
This required both time and effort on the part of musicians. They had to be regular with updates and accepting requests.
What impact did MySpace have?
MySpace was an excellent platform for fans and musicians to connect. However, it needed time and patience - two things that new musicians didn’t seem to have.
While the established ones already had their PR experts take care of the business, the new and upcoming talent or home bands didn’t enjoy this luxury. Also, MySpace didn’t actually care about promoting new musicians or providing them with a space to grow. They just wanted to attract people for views and revenue.
A lot of people, who wanted to get their name out and quickly get noticed, ended up buying Plays and Friends. So yes, they were promoting their music, but not actually to a group of people who were interested.
It kind of became a wrestling ring for popularity and at the end of it all, even after all the plays and fans, the bands were not making any money. They might have got a little recognition, but they couldn’t be termed as successful. They were making money for MySpace, not themselves!
Did MySpace do any good?
MySpace was a big thing till a very recent past, and we can’t argue about its success. Even recently in June 2012, it had 25 million unique US visitors.
It was good business for MySpace as it got in bed with the big-wigs of the music industry creating and catering them with a fan base that would help them get the word out. However, it was only a good model for the established musicians with a die hard fan base that wanted to keep in touch!
There were also instances when some unsigned musicians such as Ingrid Michaelson were discovered (featured on Grey’s Anatomy, 2007).
It was a good idea to have a MySpace profile and keep updating your content if you were hoping to be noticed. But, if you were looking to create your own fan base, you were doing it in the wrong place.
Whatever happened to the idea of getting out and playing a gig at that bar? MySpace sure made bands and musicians lazy in retrospect.
It gave rise to a generation of musicians who did not want to do the toiling, but reap the benefits, sitting behind a computer screen. Inspired by the pop culture, these wannabe musicians opted for cheap publicity rather than concentrating on actual music. Genuine young talent got dragged in the honey trap.
I have read a lot of comments from musicians and others who say that MySpace is the only viable resource for them to turn to. “If someone Googles your name, your MySpace page would be always the one on top” says a comment on a blog post.
The reason is that MySpace had signed up for a Google Search deal which allows its site results to be featured on top. However, this deal is also a double edged sword, which allows Google to look after all their advertising, and in doing so, they have to place more ads to an already clustered look (unlike rivals Facebook, which promotes open source apps and a cleaner look).
There is so much more to say, and I will continue it in my next column, Looking beyond MySpace, where we find out what are the alternatives. Till then, my advice would be to stop following the sheep and be creative!
Update Feb. 2013: in 2013, Myspace launched its new version. Read a review here: The new Myspace experience.
1 author: Robin Davey.