We're often quick to declare a social network "dead." Sure, plenty of them have come and gone in recent years, but few have had such a massive fall from grace as MySpace, which has come to be known as "DeadSpace." The unpronounceable "My____" logo rebranding did not help. Now it's rumored to be at the dawn of a complete overhaul, but this article isn't about that. It's about the hole that MySpace has left specifically in the music community.
MySpace was the first social network that I joined. I snubbed Friendster previously. I would riff about how odd it was to try to make friends online and how checking out your friends' friends encouraged leeches, moochers and social-climbing. But I caved into MySpace because it had some useful features for musicians. The first one that drew me in was simply the events listing. The year was 2006 and I was about to embark on my first extensive headlining tour. Here was a way for me to not only announce the dates but also post the flyer art and blast out updates if we decided to change venues or add more cities.
As I delved into its functionality, I found a complete set of features to serve the DIY artist. One that was surprisingly meaningful was the option of customizing your page's layout and background. The same way that producers were suddenly able to make their own music at home on affordable software, artists were more than ever in control of their image and branding. Before branding was even a buzzword, we were all recruiting our friends to help us learn basic HTML to design our MySpace pages.
Take my friend Kavinsky for example, of Drive soundtrack fame. I can assure you that in 2007 he was already MySpace-famous for having the coolest looking page on there, complete with a tri-dimensional Tron moving floor. Compare that to Facebook where everybody has the same blue-grey theme that looks like the Post Office. Then of course, before murders were committed over relationship statuses, there was the choice of "Top Friends." This was by far the most strategic chess move on the network. Placing someone in your Top 8 meant forging an alliance, one which you hoped would be reciprocated. You would put a few of your obvious allies, a couple of extended peers, and some oddball selections to show the depth of your character. A mysterious hot girl? David Lynch? An über-cool niche label from the '90s?
Even the most straightforward functions of MySpace haven't been replaced. Look at Facebook's Fan Pages. How do you post your songs on there? Most people use Bandpage, a third-party app developed by Root Music which you have to embed onto a tab and grab your songs from your SoundCloud account, yet another social network. It's astounding how complicated that is. MySpace had a music player where you could post six songs (another strategic selection from the artist), and non-musician users could grab one of your songs for their personal page, which turned the "Daily Plays" metric into an extremely useful measure of someone's popularity beyond their number of friends.
Are you nostalgic yet?
Think about it. I run a record label, Fool's Gold. We signed a great deal of our artists simply based on their MySpace pages. If I heard about a DJ, rapper or band, I would type out myspace.com/theirname and get their full list of tour dates and venues ("oh wow he's already playing Mercury Lounge"), their pictures, a glimpse of their aesthetics from the page design, their popularity and of course listen to their songs. What website gives your all that info today? None! We have to juggle data from SoundCloud, YouTube and Twitter into an esoteric algorithm that I haven't figured out yet. No wonder I haven't signed anyone in 2012. And you can forget searching for an artist website: MySpace made those obsolete, and now that it's gone it left a hole even bigger than before it arrived.
My final point about what MySpace brought to the music community is the ability to communicate. You could send a message to anyone, regardless of whether you were "friends." I'll give you an example: there's a German techno DJ called Boys Noize. I saw him DJ in Miami one year and although we ran in different circles back then, I wanted to tell him that I loved his set and was a fan of his work so I wrote him a message. We spoke a couple times and he asked me to remix one of his songs. The whole thing was set up on MySpace. The remix was released and I won some sort of award in electronic music at the end of the year. The system worked! Now if you want to reach out to a peer that you don't know, you either look up their birth name and write to their personal Facebook page, which is very creepy, or you tweet them to follow you so that you can send them a short Direct Message. What is this, a telegram?
The point of this article isn't that I want MySpace to come back. It doesn't matter if it's MySpace or another site. I just want there to be a destination that gives me the full picture.
Now pardon me while I clean up my past on Facebook's Timeline...