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