There were always two MySpaces. The first was a kind of proto-Anthony-Weiner-space, a forum where boys could tell girls how hot they are, where they could post shirtless cameraphone pictures of themselves. The other MySpace was the place where you went even before stealing a band’s album off the Internet, to hear a couple of tunes, see where the band is from and more. It was where you went to hear new music.
I’m watching with some ambivalence as MySpace sells, again, from Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp to a little-known company Specific Media LLC, whose investors include Justin Timberlake. NewsCorp bought the site in 2005 for $580 million; they are selling it for $35 million six years later. If it isn’t already, it’ll be time to stick a fork in a service that took a great model for sharing music and squandered it by ignoring what people liked about it: it was simple, customizable and versatile.
After an incredibly bad redesign, anecdotal evidence shows that musicians are leaving the website in droves, setting up shop in places like Facebook’s BandPage and the superior, simple Bandcamp. (Facebook overtook it as the most popular networking site in 2008.) Yet, while each of these services improves upon the latest version of the ‘Space, none has provided the sense of community that MySpace did for musicians.
For my part, I spent hours scouring the "top friends" of my favorite bands to see who they were listening to and who their friends were. The "Top Friends" feature created a sense of mystique around physical places. You could know what the Columbus, Ohio’s Shitgaze scene was all about by clicking from Times New Viking to Psychedelic Horseshit. Or about how the Arcade Fire and Wolf Parade were great friends, up in Montreal. If people still looked at it, there would be the opportunity for some local bands to build a positive local buzz around Charlottesville.
MySpace was also the forum where musicians learned to posture themselves in the Internet era. The punk ethos was translated into minimal MySpace layouts and a scourge of capital letters, slashes and exclamation points, all suggesting a crazy typist going through an Iggy Pop moment while filling out an Internet form. The careerist ethos played out in professional HTML design and links to where you could buy the band’s merchandise. The reluctant musician could communicate as much by leaving all fields blank but the media player.
As I became a musician myself, the "page views" prominently displayed became a source of friendly competition—everybody went there. But not anymore. I can’t help but lament the demise of the site where I learned how to find new music on the Internet.
Where do you look for new music on the Internet?