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« 1,000 True Fans - Another Perspective | Main | A Buyer's Market: The way we purchase online music »
Monday
Apr212008

MySpace Music & Corporate Conspiracies

It seemed simple enough. But who knew it would stir up such venom from my readers?

I’m referring to my recent blog post about the upcoming launch of MySpace Music, which is supposed to allow MySpace artists (both signed and unsigned) to sell music downloads, merchandise and concert tickets from their MySpace profiles.

The opportunity to not only get exposure, but also make a few bucks from a MySpace music profile, seems like a potentially good thing to me. But some readers felt otherwise, mostly because of the involvement of major labels in the new MySpace Music venture.

One reader wrote “How can this be a good thing for indies if 3 out of the 4 major labels have a stake? It smells fishy to me. Why does a major label need a percentage of ownership?”

From what I’ve read, it’s a business decision on the part of MySpace. For any company to take on iTunes and make available a vast amount of music to sell, they’d have to pay the major labels exorbitant licensing fees.

By bringing on the labels as partners in the project, MySpace is most likely avoiding a ton of upfront costs and the labels will get paid later as their music sells, and will likely get a cut of ad revenue as well.

I understand the concerns. Here’s this hugely popular site that was built in part by the indie musicians who flocked there and promoted it to their fans. There’s a fear that the magic will be tainted now because the struggling and desperate major labels are sinking their claws into it.

Hence the fear, the worst case scenario expectations, and the cries of “Chicken Little, the sky is falling!”

But here’s some news for you …

Three years ago, MySpace was purchased by NewsCorp, the media conglomerate owned by Rupert Murdoch. Back then, the conspiracy theorists predicted that life as we knew it would come to an end. But here we are in 2008, and MySpace continues to be a major online force in music.

I’m not saying that all is well and these business entities have the best interests of indie artists in mind. (Remember, I’m the guy who for many years has been saying “You don’t need a record deal.”) My attitude is, it sounds good, but let’s wait and see. Why rage against the machine when nobody has even seen what the new music agreement will be?

If the new MySpace Music lets artists sell stuff (without claiming rights to the music) in addition to what artists can currently do with a music profile, who cares if the majors are involved? Who cares if they’re getting a cut of ad revenue? Heck, maybe they’ll help draw even more traffic to the site. No one knows, so let’s just wait and see what happens.

But what if they change the rules and make it harder for indie acts to get exposure on the site?

Well, that would indeed be very short-sighted on the part of MySpace. But here’s the ugly truth: MySpace doesn’t owe you or any other artist anything. Just because they’ve made all these cool tools available to you the last few years doesn’t mean it’s now part of the Bill of Rights.

There were no guarantees when you first signed on, and there are no guarantees now.

In case you’re wondering, my core message here isn’t one of being helpless in the shadow of a corporation. Instead, it’s a message of self-reliance. If your success depends on the existence of some distant entity, there’s something wrong with your career plan.

I think MySpace is a cool promotional tool (so much so I wrote a popular book on it). But I’ve always warned musicians about making MySpace their primary Internet presence. Every artist needs their own domain name and web site. Then you use MySpace, Facebook, YouTube and other popular sites to funnel fans to your personal space on the Net.

That’s the best plan, in my opinion. That way, if one stream in the funnel dries up, you have multiple other streams to keep fans coming your way.

There’s another aspect of this that concerns me, especially after reading comment threads on this around the Internet. It’s the anger, resentment and fear that wells up in some artists at times like these.

Why get so worked up over something you know few details about? Plus, I believe you are far better off focusing your energy on what you WANT, not on what you DON’T want.

It’s a choice. You can get frustrated and rail against the evil you perceive in the world. Or you can decide what you really want from your life and music career, then go to work making that positive vision a reality.

As Mother Teresa said, “I don’t participate in anti-war demonstrations. But as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I’ll be there.”

-Bob

P.S. I encourage your comments, whether you’re a lover or a hater.

Reader Comments (6)

I really like what you are sying here Mr. Baker.

I think many folks out there feel the need to be angry about something and waste a lot of energy on it.

Take that energy and whatever talent you may have and make something happen for yourself instead of getting uptight about what I would call an "Entitlement" state of mind.

No one owes you anything you have not earned. This works in every aspect of life, not just the music making environment.

Myspace was / is a gift. Free Internet exposure is a gift.

To have any kind of fan base takes work and we should all be thankful that these "gifts" are available to help.

Quit taking these gifts for granted and instead utilize them while they are here...because they might not be someday.

I am so angry that folks are angry (OK, not really...just annoyed).

April 21 | Unregistered CommenterMilton

MySpace has always seemed to me an accidental music champion, and therefore we shouldn't get to upset if they don't have the best interest of music makers and fans at heart.

That not to say they don't, but hey they're owned by NewsCorp and have 17m users... they're hardly indie!

I think you're right that the best strategy is to use all the tools available to you but not be reliant on any one.

If Myspace screw up by offering a raw deal for smaller artists, there will be a hundred other sites waiting in the wings with glee (and equally big dollar signs!).. Last FM for a start...

April 21 | Unregistered CommenterDan

As Myspace has grown, what it is about has changed. It started off as a social network combined with music. Now it is a music network, the majority of casual users have moved on. I'm not surprised - the constant bombardment of bands spamming them for attention gradually gave Myspace less relevance to people simply wanting to have some fun.

Everyone I know uses Myspace to get gigs and exposure with other like minded people on the fringes of the music biz and beyond. But as regards to attracting new fans it seems to have become dead in the water - even the potential fans themselves have had a lot of their accounts taken over - whenever I log onto Myspace I feel like I'm housekeeping, not doing anything productive. The fans don't believe the band friend adds are personal, and the bands don't believe that their fan friend adds are anything but spam back.

So the problem is I think that even fans will seek bands out initially on Myspace, but then look to connect in a better way. Myspace has become the ultimate redirection service.

And fans would prefer to buy their bands music from a place closer to the source. This was almost impossible when Myspace started. But now it's so easy, having music for sale on Myspace is almost irrelevant. Bands have been embedding their online stores on Myspace for years now - just because you can buy direct from the player doesn't mean people are going to.

Myspace has become part of the musical landscape there is no doubt. But now it's part of the route and not the final destination.

Let's be honest - a bands website on Myspace, no matter how well it's been hacked, is still very web 1.0, takes ages to load, the music sounds terrible, and the flash banners are awful. Coupled with the spam in all directions leads to a really terrible web experience.

It's going to take more than a music store to make Myspace a true fan to band playground again. What they really need to do is start again - but they are trapped in the legacy of their source code.

April 22 | Unregistered CommenterJulian Moore

@ Julian,

Agreed, agreed, agreed.

Milton

April 22 | Unregistered CommenterMilton

Sombody saw the secret ;-) Kudos to the truth, here.

April 29 | Unregistered CommenterChuck

The problem with MySpace is not conspiracy but simple incompetence. In the past year the site has become less usuable, plagued with pop-up ads, and most of the promotional tools got gutted (for instance, bulletin and comment links being blocked) -- and with all of these problems, of course, the icing on the cake is the utter lack of customer service. Nobody will help you and nobody cares.

All in all, a golden opportunity for other platforms like ReverbNation to step in and step up, with clearly defined benefits and a good educational promo campaign.

August 4 | Unregistered CommenterJustin Boland

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