Oct 24 2008

Is MySpace finally dead in the water?

Thought I’d draw you into the conversation with that provocatively titled post…!

I made the decision last last to finally upload one of my solo bass tracks (the most recent post on my Solo Bass Podcast, Calling Out) to my MySpace page. Until now, I’ve used MySpace purely as a promotional tool for my work as a session player, ie; the bulk of the work I do playing for other people. My music player therefore featured tracks by various artists I’ve recorded with over the last few years, including Clare Teal, The Divine Comedy, A Girl Called Eddy, Chris Difford and Ian Shaw. I thought it was time to introduce more elements from my solo project. I’m getting closer to wanting to start work on the actual finished album, and once I have a product to sell I’m going to need as many people to know about it as possible.

Which brings me to my first dilemma. I have quite a few ‘friends’ on MySpace (3,452 is todays count). My current music profile has been active for almost two years now. Most days I get a few friend requests from various bands and solo artists who seemingly have no relation to what I do and more than likely have never heard me play. Very occasionally they attach a message introducing themselves, or saying how/why they found me which is always appreciated. I make a point of sending these folk a little thankyou message/comment, as I believe these are the people I’m really aiming to engage with online.
I’m guessing that most of the MySpace ‘promotion’ tools that other bands use to contact their friends are via the blogs and bulletins. I stopped using my MySpace blog a few months ago in favour of this Blogger site, which is both far more interactive and has myriad sharing/subscribing possibilities thanks to Feedburner. I found that virtually nobody would read the blogs on my MySpace profile; but the minute I posted the same blog on Blogger, various people would start subscribing and leaving comments. Which is the whole point of blogging; engaging in a conversation. I seriously doubt whether the majority of people that visit my MySpace page actually hang around long enough to read the blog, let alone listen to all the music.
The bulletin system is fundamentally flawed as a promotional tool. Once a user has more than 1,000 ‘friends’, they no longer receive bulletins. Which is entirely sensible. Before I got to that stage, my MySpace home page was something akin to my junk mail inbox, littered with a variety of messages inviting me to “Come listen to my new song” or “Check out my new video”. Frankly, I don’t have the time and if I was that interested in your band, then I would have made the effort to check your page under my own steam. I do make a point of visiting several key MySpace profiles regularly to see what new projects are on the go. In fact, the ability to receive updates from selected users only (starting with your top friends as default) has been incredibly welcome navigationally. Thus, if I was to send out a bulletin on MySpace informing my friends of a solo show or a new release, chances are that 90% of them would never see it.
This is my main issue with MySpace. It’s complete lack of interactivity and flexibility. My Reverb Nation page has become the hub for all my various social media dabblings. My blog is imported straight into Reverb Nation, as are my status updates via Twitter, which means that the page is kept alive and vibrant without me even having to log in every day. The music player behaves exactly as it should, making sharing my music clear and simple. Unlike the MySpace music player…
Last night’s uploading was a fiasco, let me tell you… My good friend Eddy was on the phone to me last week in a panicked state over the demise of her music player on MySpace. It had disappeared entirely. A little investigation concluded that her page was not the only one to suffer this glitch. As I uploaded Calling Out, I had the distinct feeling I was in for trouble. although the track uploaded properly, the associated artwork didn’t (and it seems still hasn’t, despite two subsequent attempts). And the fact that I designated the track a free download has been totally ignored. Nearly 15 hours later, the track still cannot be downloaded and plays with no artwork. Rubbish.
The plodding user interface is a nightmare to navigate and frankly I’ve had enough. My most recent gripe with the site (and judging by the plethora of similar exclamations on Twitter) is it’s insistence on plaguing users with drop-down banners which completely obscure the page you’re viewing. And more worryingly in the last few weeks it seems that several of the links you click on to navigate around the site suddenly transport you into another page entirely, loading up some promo clip. Now, this is really not something I would have expected from a ‘social networking’ site. Over the last few months MySpace has been almost entirely overrun by corporate nonsense and it is undeniably getting worse every day. I give it another couple of months before all those bloody awful ‘Adult Friend Finder’ type ads start encroaching on MySpace. Seriouly, it wouldn’t surprise me. We’re 3/4 of the way there already.
A few days ago I sent a MySpace friend request to a band called Nohno, a fantastic industrial-electro/ambient duo from Newcastle. I don’t remember how I came across their music (although I suspect they cropped up on Last.fm), but I really liked the sounds they were creating and wanted to know more. I received a message back from them yesterday asking me to let them know how I found them and basically to confirm I was not some kind of MySpace friend-gathering machine. So I replied and the conversation began. This is a rare occurrence on MySpace and I took the opportunity to point Dean in the general direction of Reverb Nation.
I don’t think it’ll be long before more musicians become as disillusioned with MySpace as I am, and will start to investigate other avenues to engage with their audience. And I think Reverb Nation will provide the most effective template.
Anyway, enough of this ranting. As Stephen Fry says in his last excellent Podgram, an angry article writes itself. And I shall duly leave it there.
So how have the changes in MySpace over the last few months effected your perception of the site? Have you, like me, been forced to migrate elsewhere? I’d love to hear your thoughts…
Until next time.
Simon x