THE BEGINNING

Reef Younis argues that the forerunner of social networking sites isn’t dead… yet.

tom_myspace

REEF YOUNIS ARGUES THAT THE FORERUNNER OF SOCIAL NETWORKING SITES ISN’T DEAD… YET

Facemate. Mybook. Beblow. Chandler Ping. Social networking didn’t so much as change the way we connect with friends/strangers/random mentalists; it fundamentally changed our lives. This is no great secret, and there’s an incalculable number of essays, blogs, reports and case studies that would back that up, but where Myspace was the earlier forerunner in the great face race, it’s long been accepted that Facebook is the social network de jour for those not overly bothered about butchering their profile with patchwork mosaics of ropey internet JPEGs and classroom photos.

Still, as well as revolutionising the way we interact, Myspace was fun. You could mould your personal page in your image by decorating and customising it. You could even soundtrack your moods. And then Facebook came along with its clean interface and decidedly adult way of promoting yourself to an e-audience. It looked serious and professional, offering more refined, grown up functionality than that of its Crayola-eating sibling – well, apart from fucking Farmville – and so, a majority of those adolescents who grew up with, and on, Myspace jumped ship. The era of Facebook was upon us and it was supposed to mean we’d be defecting and deleting Tom’s cheery image en masse. And we did. Facebook boomed, Myspace bowed out…but not entirely.

Sure I haven’t peeked at my own Myspace profile in a few years but once the novelty of emblazoning your personality on a webpage wore off, there was still a function and a purpose to Myspace that’s ensured I’ve never really left: the music.

Myspace was THE vehicle for aspiring bands and DJs, ignored, unknown or simply unwilling to rub shoulders with the corporate, cutthroat mechanisations of the music industry. The concept was simple but revolutionary: update your details, upload your tracks and plaster your URL everywhere you could. It was an essential tool in just getting your music out there and one that an unnerving number of bands, DJs and artists will be forever thankful for.

Knowing that Facebook had sounded the death knell for its fundamental social profile appeal, Myspace evolved to survive and remain relevant. And here’s the crux of it: whereas Facebook gives you your clean-cut profile, it still fundamentally asks you to pull all of your music and media content in from elsewhere (unless you have the time to play with HTML and build specific tabs); where Soundcloud is a wonderful, increasingly vital way of accessing, streaming and downloading music, its heart has never been in connecting you with inane status updates or keeping you posted on new releases, events and news.

This isn’t forgetting that the hybridisation of social media continues, unremittingly, to aggregate everything with one mouse click, in one place, and the likes of YouTube, Bandcamp, RCRD LBL, PING et al. still have a prominent part to play in its development. But no one has ever seemed to get it as right, first time round, as Myspace did.

Its initial simplicity, and now, fond familiarity ensures that the ease of referring a band or track to a friend is often a URL to their Myspace page. And it’s still an easy win for snaring new fans, having upcoming tours, tracks and information all front facing instead of being built a whole click away on a tab. So perhaps it’s a little unfair pitting Facebook Vs Myspace in a music war, especially with PING offering a more lucrative carrot for artists to potentially exploit, and no-one would deny it’s a long way down for poor old Tom, but you’d be a fool for thinking that any social network doesn’t have a life cycle.

The fact is that times have changed. Artists want to get their music out there but they also want to turn a profit. A visible, viral web presence will inevitably help a band sell digital songs and albums, and as useful as a Myspace page might be, when it comes to hawking tracks to the masses, you’re pretty swiftly directed to where the download money is to be made.

Many thought Facebook would be the one to end the Myspace reign, and it did to some extent, but PING is emerging as the platform to execute the final coup de grace. If Apple can convince acts to create their own profiles, with the added benefit of its in-house iTunes store, there’s your one click destination.

We were all supposed to abandon Myspace completely, and while it deals with the latest assault on its revamped purpose, that threat isn’t about to disappear any time soon. Anyway, I’m off; I’ve been told to check out a few bands. Wonder if they’ve got a Myspace…

By Reef Younis

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Originally published in issue 23 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. November 2010

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