Quoted In The Observer – More On the Myspace Redesign

I was quoted in yesterday’s Observer, in an article by Jemima Kiss about the Myspace redesign.

Jemima contacted me via Twitter after I told her about ‘Quit Myspace Day’, and asked me a whole pile of really good questions. As is always the way with such things, she could only use a tiny fraction of what I wrote, so I’ll put the rest of it here. Enjoy! (I’ve paraphrased her questions, for the most part)

J: How useful was MySpace in the early days? How did you use it?

In the mid 2000s, MySpace accidentally filled a gap – the whole idea of adding a band as a ‘friend’ was revolutionary, and all of a sudden you had artists talking to their audience. For a whole load of tech-shy musos, the basics were there – music player, photo upload, gig list and a blog that acted as a newsletter. That it was happening at the heart of a youth social network was a double bonus – the sharing potential of that was massive, as kids put their favourite bands in their ‘top friends’ as a status symbol.

Sadly, that was also its downfall – the mutual friending thing meant that there was no way of differentiating between a spam-monkey who spent all day every day adding ‘friends’ to get their 75,000 friends happening, and an artist who genuinely had 75,000 listeners, and for whom that may well have been an indicator of them being interesting to people… So you then had an entire mini-industry built up around tools to game Myspace – auto-adding tools became the norm, not the exception, but because the system was so astonishingly rudimentary, there was no way of grouping contacts into those who were speculatively spammed with a friend request and those who were genuinely interested. Beyond about 5000 ‘friends’, the gig invites and mail-out side of things become functionally useless. Couple that to the horrible ‘pimp my profile’ automated customisation, complete with late 90s style animated gifs and bandwidth-hungry slideshows, and you’ve got yourself an cyber-dog’s-breakfast of a site.

J: Is there still a cool factor to MySpace compared to Facebook?

Not that I’m aware of – Myspace has become the ‘functionally tolerated norm’ – most musicians who are on there will tell you that the only advantage to it still is that bookers and venues still use it occasionally and it ‘ranks well in Google’. Dreadful reasons for maintaining a page!

J: What do you make of the redesign? How would you have redesigned it? What features have been or are still missing that would really make a difference to the band?

The problem with MySpace now is that it’s fallen between two (giant steaming) stools – it’s no longer THE social network Facebook took over that ages ago – so sharing within users has all-but vanished, but it’s also not even close to equipped to provide a ‘complete’ web presence. Since 2006 it’s been playing catch-up, copying other services in order to try and stay in the game, but being too big to be agile, and having a paymaster that has no interest whatsoever in providing useful, accessible community-based tools for musicians.

At this point, Myspace is useless. I didn’t delete my MySpace page as a ‘protest’ – MySpace don’t care that I’m not there – I deleted it because it added confusion to my web-presence. It was an ugly, clumsy, inaccessible version of information that was available in a much better form elsewhere, that’s very easily found, and then shared.

J: How much difference does it make to how you feel about the site to know that it is owned by Rupert Murdoch? Are there any smaller indie sites you use to promote your music at have real potential?

The Murdoch thing caused a lot of my left-leaning friends to quit the site back when News Corps bought it. A surprising number, in fact. I didn’t, largely because it was at the time more useful to me as a protest tool than my lack of presence was to me as a statement. But Murdoch’s involvement makes perfect sense of why it’s become unusable and meaningless. News Corp have no interest at all in helping musicians. They just want ad traffic as a return on investment. The size of redesign and the cost of the roll-out that Myspace really needs, and the effort to socially re-engineer its use by the main drivers of traffic to it (musicians) just isn’t remotely cost effective in the short term, and would be a major gamble in the long term.

More and more musicians are realising that their web presence needs to ‘breathe’ – it doesn’t have to be in one place. So their music is best served on sites that are music specialists, like Bandcamp and Soundcloud, that are designed to be shared and embedded. Facebook is becoming more and more useful for musicians, and there’s a new social metric that’s occuring when an artist hits 5000 ‘friends’ on their personal profile and has to move that activity over to an artist page. Because the personal page is like Myspace, in that you can add as many people as you want and make yourself look popular, whereas your artist page is opt-in only, so may be a truer reflection of interest. It’s also a site built around sharing, so music fits really well in there.

And as WordPress, Posterous and Tumblr have got easier and easier to use, having a band site with a blog at its heart is no longer a nerd-thing to do. It’s easy, it’s interactive and it’s a great way for artists to form ad-hoc collectives and promote each other, without having to have a ‘top friends’ section on their profile.

3 Replies to “Quoted In The Observer – More On the Myspace Redesign”

  1. Well Steve I guess for you it makes sense to quit MySpace. You used it when it was useful, both in terms of the community at large and for you in your career. Now you’ve got that built up, you have a well-functioning personal website that a lot of people visit and a strong presence on other social networks. You didn’t need to put effort into maintaining your MySpace ’cause it wasn’t giving that much back to you.

    However I don’t think we should generalize, and I’ll use myself as an example for that. MySpace, despite its downfalls, is a great place to have a presence on in my case. I put in the effort to have a good looking page, and I’ve built a good network of “friends” is very useful to have. It’s still one of the main places people visit and I think that’s a good thing. I only just set up my own site, and it has virtually no traffic and no communication tools (I need to get on that) so MySpace is a good portal to have, like a connection port into my social networking hub. MySpace is, along with ReverbNation, Facebook, and others, a very important part of my social networking as an artist, so I’m not gonna give it up. But you’ve definitely made the point for yourself, and it makes a whole lot of sense.

    1. As I said in part one, only you can decide whether myspace is a worthwhile part of your digital portfolio.

      However, the risks of having myspace as your main web home are all too clear when presented with the risk that it may shut down. http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/nov/04/news-corp-myspace-losses

      And when it does, as things stand, there’ll be no way of exporting a list of email addresses for your ‘friends’, no way of moving them to a new site, no way of turning all the myspace-juice into any other kind of currency.

      So I’d be working on a whole other strategy alongside it right now, if I was you, cos it look possible, even probable, that it’ll soon go tits up.

      1. That’s why, as I said, MySpace is just a page for me. It’s just one place to connect to my social network. The status updates are pulled from Twitter which in turn are pulled from Facebook, and my e-mail list is controlled through ReverbNation. Facebook and ReverbNation are really the center of my hub, and since ReverbNation has found a way to tap into the Facebook popularity, I think both are pretty safe.

        I would indeed lose all the “friends” but if MySpace were to fold I’m guessing they’d give us at least a week’s notice, enough time to direct most of those people to my other pages.

        Anyways, just to say that it’s still useful as an interactive page on the Internet.

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