Record companies beware: the Internet is taking over.
Kids in garage bands across America are logging on to MySpace.com, one of the biggest destinations in the do-it-yourself industry. Once a haven for self-absorbed teenagers taking pictures of themselves at weird angles (“MySpace: The Movie” is a favorite on YouTube.com), MySpace now has a rich and rapidly developing community of musicians and artists – from kids messing around with a guitar and a Mac computer to big-name bands such as Weezer and the Roots.
MySpace.com allows artists to share their music by uploading it for free onto their own customized Web pages. The site allows patrons to sample bands by listening to a few songs using streaming audio and video. There’s also room on the site for pictures, a blog, lists of upcoming shows and a message board where fans post comments such as “I friggen luvv you guyz! So friggen HOTT!” (actual quote).
Many familiar faces from the GW music scene are on the site, including the Sunday Mail, Kevin Eskowitz and newcomers The Wakes. For many, MySpace has widened their fan base from the metro area to nationwide.
“It’s all about spreading music for free and exposing more people to bands that would otherwise get lost in the shuffle,” said junior Tommy Siegel of the Sunday Mail. “We’ve gotten fans in states that we’ve never visited that would never have heard us otherwise, and that’s pretty cool.”
The appeal of a site such as MySpace.com for newer bands is obvious: paying to record demos is expensive, and distributing them can be difficult. Through programs such as GarageBand, bands can now lay down tracks on their own and send them out to the world on MySpace – to audiences much bigger than most clubs can hold. The Web site cuts out the major step of making a demo tape and puts relative unknowns on the same level as musical giants.
“More people than ever seem to be able to have bands now,” said junior Chet Vincent, guitarist for the Pittsburgh-based band The Wakes. “If you know what you’re doing you can create something that sounds professional.”
The sheer volume of the musicians on MySpace.com is a testament to Vincent’s assertion. In response, record companies are beginning to take a different approach to signing artists.
“There seems to be little difference between small bands and small record labels now,” Vincent said.
Many smaller labels scour the site looking for new artists to sign. In November, MySpace debuted a record label and released an album in stores and through the site that included songs from artists including Fall Out Boy, the All American Rejects and the site’s No. 1 unsigned artist, the scantily clad singer Tila Tequila. Always playing to its audience, the album comes with an offer of four new photos for your MySpace profile.
Verizon Wireless and MySpace also teamed together to present “Calling All Bands,” a contest to uncover the best artist on MySpace. The winning band will get its song as a ring-back tone and will be the first to release a song and video on V CAST, a streaming music and video feature on Verizon phones.
Some major bands have heeded MySpace’s call. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs recently released their eagerly anticipated new album Show Your Bones on the site in advance to its March 28 release in stores.
But finding great new artists on MySpace is a daunting task for the consumer. The site is filled with second-rate recordings and knockoffs of virtually every band on the radio. It remains to be seen whether the truly talented will rise to the top without the filter record companies formerly provided.
“It could collapse under the weight of everyone on there and nobody could take it seriously anymore,” Vincent said.
The amount of bands using MySpace also presents a challenge to groups such as Vincent’s, which have to struggle to get noticed among the hundreds of names out there.
“More people are out there but that means there’s more people you have to fight with,” Vincent said. “I guess it’s a double-edged sword . but there’s more good music out there, so it can only be a good thing.”
Freshman Kevin Eskowitz is more optimistic about the future the site presents. “It’s not like music’s going to get bad,” he said. “It’s just a question of who’s getting all the attention.”
Eskowitz is lucky: he hasn’t had to face quite the same troubles most artists have in promoting their music. He was given a full-page ad by a club for his first concert in Houston, Texas, and has had similar promotions for every show since. But he, too, sings the praises of MySpace.
“It’s the smartest thing, a way of incorporating the most popular medium which is the Internet,” he said. “It’s perfect for getting people to hear your music, which is key.”
Others are adapting the technology in different ways: many bands use spam tactics, blasting the message boards of people they’ve never met with links to their pages.
“That kind of aggressive advertising just scares the hell out of me,” Siegel said. “If you do that to total strangers, your band becomes about the same as one of those penis enlargement spam e-mails.”
It’s about as effective, too. MySpace provides the music to listen to, but when there’s so much of it out there, the only way to weed out what you’ll like seems to be by talking to people who are like you.
“Word of mouth is very powerful nowadays,” Eskowitz said. “MySpace just makes it easier to find out what it is people are talking about.”
The Web site is no longer limiting itself to music. Several companies including Burton Snowboards have MySpace pages, as do TV shows such as FX’s “Black/White.” Its current expansion, however, is into film. “Dave Chappelle’s Block Party” is one film that advertised heavily on MySpace, and more are likely to come. Up-and-coming filmmakers are putting their work on the site, though it has yet to take off to the extent that the music section has.
Whatever direction MySpace takes, whether it becomes a staple of the music scene or, like Vincent suggested, collapses under the weight of too many artists, it has already made its impact.