The thing about MySpace

Social networking is so very important in this day and age. It gets people internships, jobs and admission into grad schools, showing that it’s more who you know than what you know.
The same can be said in the music business. It’s not a big secret that talent and ability are not the only qualities record companies consider when signing an artist. It’s more of a how-they-know-Pete-Wentz or whether-or-not-they’re-Jared-Leto kind of thing. After the Wentz—Leto test, though, another item of consideration has become the MySpace page.
Everybody’s favorite female version of Jack Johnson, Colbie Caillat, is a benefactor of the MySpace bump. Unsigned and with little promotion, besides her well-connected father, who engineered Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors and Tusk, Caillat got signed by Universal and her debut has gone platinum.
Of course, before she was signed, she hired an assistant songwriter and producer to help her put together a professional album, but it was the exponential growth of MySpace friends (from 6,000 to more than 300,000 in a matter of months) that got her the record deal.
It certainly makes talent finders’ jobs easy. See the top played unsigned artists, sign them and make money by releasing an already finished album. But sometimes, 20,000 plays don’t make the man.
For a small fee, some companies will increase your play counts by 20,000 every day. One of them is Tuneboom will slowly increase the profile visits and plays on your band’s page each day. It’s called the “Natural Trickle” and it moves “slowly and evenly — the realistic way.”
Yes, to get your band noticed, pay these Web sites to increase your play count. As they say, “Don’t let fans come to your page and see 20 … plays! People like to be a part of something big and don’t want to miss out.”
This is disturbing enough in itself, but majors have been doing this forever (relatively speaking). Only now this technology is trickling down to the hands of unsigned artists. It makes sense though; I’ve often wondered if 5,664 people actually listen to (Li’l) Bow Wow every day.
With all this inflation, it almost nullifies the play count entirely. And MySpace friends are hardly an indication either; I’m pretty sure my 10-year-old next door neighbor has at least 150,000 friends. This leads to the big concept here; the problem of MySpace.
It’s as big of a sham as the recording industry it appears to undermine. But just like the concept of record companies and label contracts, artists cannot abandon MySpace. Though the system is flawed and outright stupid, bands continue to work in it for fear of shooting themselves in the foot. But what happens in cyberspace is the same as what happens in the real world. Artists that are well connected (i.e. Colbie Caillat) and bands with a lot of resources (those who pay for plays) are who will move on to commercial success. Sure, Okkervil River gets as many MySpace plays as Fergie does on any given day, but Fergie wins and, as Will Sheff told me in an interview a while back, “makes as much as a clerk at 7—11.”
MySpace is certainly beneficial to bands. But the problem is, as is the case for most News Corp-owned media, that it’s owned by News Corp. It’s too commercially backwards. It’s strange that mature, grown musicians have to be successful on a tween-based Web site in order to be successful on a large scale.
There needs to be a big, genre-crossing push for artists to leave MySpace in favor of an artist—run and artist friendly hosting site. C’mon, because of the Space, Rupert Murdoch essentially controls all aspects of music. And if music is about anything, it’s about fucking Rupert Murdoch.

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