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perception trumps design – why Myspace still works…

March 6th, 2008 | 2 Comments | Categories: cool links · Geek · New Music Strategies · tips for musicians |

A few thoughts that sprung from a comment response here and a twitter conversation, re: the myspace vs facebook thing.

One of the problems with being a webgeek is that it’s easy to forget to think how Webphobic digital-dabblers engage with the web. They often choose an ecosystem that feels homely, one that while not being particularly functional is self contained and looks like the scenery for a kids TV show. I can’t believe that any self respecting web-user would still be using the AOL interface, but it happens. And we-the-geeks have to learn to work within that first and foremost.

Re-educating people about the clunkiness of Myspace is a very different task from effectively and productively engaging with your audience. And for a huge part of the music-finding web-audience, Myspace is comfortable. It’s homely, familiar and doesn’t feel like a geek-domain in which webtards are a nuisance. It looks like it was designed as a school project, so no-one feels patronised by it. For a really significant majority of people looking for your music online perception trumps design – telling them that Myspace is clunky, horrible to use, slow to load, unmanageable in terms of effectively sending out mass mailings etc. doesn’t change the simple fact that they are happy there.

As my previous post about this said, Facebook is almost exclusively a friend-interaction ecosystem. Myspace is far more of a discovery one. Yes, it’s rubbish, yes facebook looks better, yes Reverbnation still has a far better feature set and interface than either of them for actually digging up great music without getting spammed or having a pumpkin thrown at you or being bitten by a werewolf, but within each one, we need to adapt, to understand and to engage. Yes, we can continue to educate people, and to request better integration and implementation from the various sites (Myspace’s new API for developers is a HUGE leap forward… let’s see how much of it is useless spamming BS when the apps go live), but if you’re in the business of making music and connecting with an audience, educating digital toe-dippers has diminishing returns as a primary method of engagement.

Make Myspace work for you by interacting with people who express an interest in discovering new music, keep your friends list manageable, send regular friendly bulletins, use the blog and the status update, and if your friend list is small enough, the event invite (though I’ve found in my experience that the response to bulletins is close enough to being as high as it is for event invites as to be not worth the extra effort to send the event invite…) and use the status updates to keep people clicking through to your page.

And use facebook to connect with your friends and to supply them with the social capital to look cool because they know you – Facebook’s primary virgin market for musicians is friends of friends – your friends post your music on their page, and their friends listen because someone they trust digs it. It’s a pretty simple equation, and a pretty effective strategy in terms of quality engagement with people predisposed to wanting to like what you do.

So don’t get so hung up on telling people that they are losers for liking myspace, just accept that they do, and talk to them there. Just avoid spam like the plague, it’s so flippin’ obvious on Myspace, it stands out like a dog turd on a dinner plate. Better quality interaction with fewer people.

All of this changes when you reach 50,000 people that have added you and engaged with you, when 10,000 of those have comments, and you’re regularly topping 3000 plays a day. Then we can start to talk about the percentages involved in sending out blanket mailing and trying to get actual email addresses from those people to connect with outside of myspace. Til then, it’s one potential TRUE fan at a time.

Remember, no-one owes you anything, no-one is compelled to engage with your music, or assume that it’s any more important than what any of the other millions of musicians out there do. And a lot of them won’t like what you do, for perfectly valid reasons that have nothing whatsoever to do with how ‘good’ or ‘bad’ you are in any measurable way. So we keep putting it out there, inviting them in, rewarding their engagement, providing social capital and resources to gain cache and kudos from having engaged with us, and just making some friends! I’ve found that the vast majority of the people who dig what I do are people I like. Not in a sycophantic ‘hey I love you for buying my music’, but just that the music that soundtracks my life (my music) is likely to appeal to people who share a few of the values and perceptions that I have. I’ve made friends with so many people whose first point of contact was a gig or masterclass or CD of mine, it’s great, and a vital part of my life right now.

…I also have great friends who really couldn’t care less about my music, and are equally valuable for that reason, but that’s a whole other blog post…

So obviously, if you want to connect with me, feel free to do so on twitter , myspace or facebook.

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2 Comments so far ↓

  • Andrew Durkin

    Yes, all good points.

    I personally don’t begrudge anyone their affection for MySpace (or any other outdated or inefficient technology) — you’re right that for some people that’s what’s comfortable, and that’s totally fine with me. To each their own, and you’re right too that as artists we have to be aware (and respectful) of the avenues fans take to find us.

    But when it comes to my own experience, it’s really just a matter of impracticality, both as an artist and a fan. Personally, I *want* to listen to all the bands / artists who request my friendship. But to do that nowadays (i.e., the problem seems to have gotten worse as the site grows) — given the number of requests I get, and given the bugginess of the site — I would probably have to set aside an entire “MySpace day,” once a week. And I wouldn’t even mind doing that, except that half of that day would be spent waiting for the music to start.

    I still do my best to check in on MySpace regularly — but nowadays it’s usually while I’m in “multitasking” mode.

  • Steve

    That desire to engage with the actual music of the people who add you is a really admirable one, Andrew – I think that’s great. I try to do that more now, but I filter the adders by looking first at their number of friends (I tend not to accept friend requests from people with more than about 15K friends) and then at the nature of the comments on their page – if their comments are almost all just ‘thanks for the add’ then it seems like they are just adding randomly and I’m just one of the faceless millions to be spammed… if there’s some interaction going on on the comments, THEN I listen… So I do like to listen, but I tend to work out why I should listen first… a personal message with the add request ALWAYS gets me to listen, and I now always send a message with an add request, just to get out of that spam group in someone else’s mind…

    It’s all about juggling information streams and managing screen-time to make your computer interaction more effective… going to blog about that soon… :o)