MySpace shouldn’t be a strategic focus for musicians anymore. Here I explain why and what the alternatives now are.
This morning I heard the phrase “MySpaceItis” used to describe the tendency, amongst Hong Kong musicians, to put all their music and media eggs in one (increasingly broken) MySpace basket. While musicians in other parts of the world have left or are leaving MySpace, those artists in Hong Kong who have an online presence (and many don’t), are relying solely on a MySpace page for their digital “strategy.”
Strategy rests in inverted commas because I believe that whatever you do online, as a musician, should be geared towards helping sustain yourself. That means helping your fans find and hear your music, pay you for your music (or music services) or at the very minimum, allow you to grow the pool of fans you can communicate with directly and then deepen that conversation. For something that looks much more like a real strategy, check out Mike King’s excellent post, Direct to Fan: Creating an Effective Offer Page and Fan Acquisition Techniques.
What’s Wrong With MySpace?
I could write a whole blog post on the problems with MySpace (despite the recent facelift). Instead, I’d encourage you to consider Eric Beall’s view, from a recent piece on the broken parts of the Music business,
“Maybe it’s your space– it’s not my space. In fact, it doesn’t seem to be anyone’s space anymore. In a new record of corporate bungling, within what seemed like only months of having purchased Myspace for $580 million, Rupert Murdoch had turned the once-essential site into the most awkward, slow, cumbersome, ugly, ad-heavy and useless social network of them all. Then, over the course of several years, after several revamps and corporate upheavals, the wizards who were going to make Myspace the hub of the music world actually managed to make it worse. At this point, any A&R guy faced with the prospect of having to search through Myspace to source talent should receive hazard pay. The time it takes to load, the number of pop-up ads, and the generally ghastly design make it a mind-numbing experience (and most A&R’s minds are pretty numb already). Plus, it’s just not cool.
The point is: If you’re sending a link to an A&R guy, make it to your own website, or YouTube, or SonicBids, or any other music site– but please, no Myspace. No one has that kind of time.”
Or an even more succinct and pointed comment from Andrew Dubber (in relation to ‘Quit Myspace Day’),
“Myspace is not simply irrelevant, it’s utterly poisonous.”
Look At The Alternatives
So, if MySpace is the beached whale of music social media, what are the alternatives? For starters check out SoundCloud, a fast growing platform for sharing and distributing music. SoundCloud allows fans to subscribe to their favourite artists and then listen to music either online, or through a mobile device (SoundCloud have their own apps). Moreover, incorporating SoundCloud onto your own site, or into social media services is easy and straightforward.
Then take a look at Bandcamp, which allows you sell direct to your fans. BandCamp is a fully featured platform and what most appeals to me about it is that the site is not just built around sustaining musicians, it is also built around sustaining the album as a way to deliver songs.
Along with these I also suggest that musicians check out CDBaby, Tunecore and IndabaMusic and perhaps most importantly of all, Topspin. Have a look here, for a few real world examples of independent musicians using Topspin as part of their strategy.
In all this it’s worth keeping control of you identity (or brand). What’s the point of coming up with a cool logo, or visual style for your band, only to dilute it in a website that is heavily branded with it’s own identity. Neutral looking sites like SoundCloud are less problematic than others where the artist’s identity only takes up a small space of the real estate on each page.
Don’t Wait To Be Discovered
Perhaps the worst thing you can do is sit around waiting to be “discovered.” That ship has sailed. As the quotes above suggest, the people who could help you along the path to sustaining yourself as a musician are not going to be impressed by examples of MySpace-itis. More importantly, the tools are out there to help musicians take control of their business (for more on that, take a look at Music Power Network).
And, my final word would be to spend a little less time hanging around musicians and attending “jam sessions,” and a little more time hanging around creative professionals in other fields, like photographers, graphic designers and animators. In some ways these kinds of artists have done a better job than musicians at taking of advantage of the digital tools available for creating new creative business models.