When large numbers of Houston musicians jumped onto Myspace several years ago it was an effective tool for communication, promotion and music discovery. It was also simpler to set up than a personal website, and provided international visibility for the mostly insular, strongly DIY Houston Music Community. Fast forward several years, though, and people have been making jumps elsewhere as better tools become available. Accelerating Myspace’s brain drain is its loss of appeal, as the noise of advertising overtakes the content itself, and as it is easier to set up your own website. Still, there are bands who have decided to stay on Myspace and not to explore additional social networks or build their own website. Those bands are left with a noisy site that is ineffective for promoting their music, several technological steps behind the rest of the media consuming world, and viewed as unprofessional by many in the music industry.
At Bandcamp: ONLINE PRESENCE we led a discussion about the importance of bands having a strategic online presence, including outposts like Myspace, combined with a home base, a website of one’s own. The benefits and tools of a personal website were used to highlight the marginalizing effects of using an outpost like Myspace as a home base. Here are just some of the reasons that using Myspace as your home page is hurting your musical career:
Myspace is not your website
Myspace does not have the functionality of a website, it is not something that you own, it is something that you use. Myspace is a social network, a tool, one of many available to you as a musical artist. There are many that have recently shown to be more effective and streamlined, such as Virb, ReverbNation, imeem and others. By using Myspace as your website you reduce the number of tools available to you and confine your audience to a corner of the internet.
Myspace controls your network and your message
Because you don’t own Myspace, the content, design and functionality is limited to their vision and services. There are themes and profile editors available, however it is extremely difficult to stamp your own bands’ unique personality on a Myspace page. In the time it would take you to personalize it you could have put in the same effort for an actual website, one that you own. Myspace controls your message by only providing specific bins to deliver your information, such as label, label type, band members, influences and sounds like. Myspace controls your network by keeping all of the information about your contacts on Myspace without the ability to export to something usable.
Conversation is worth less on Myspace
Not everyone is on Myspace but most people have an inbox. Using Myspace as your sole website means that all communication comes in and out through that site. Myspace’s messaging tool is effective for sending and receiving information from friends and others on the network, but does not allow you to take the discussion to a more professional venue such as email. Because this conversation happens only on their social network, you have little archiving control or ability to use this communication or the contacts outside of it. Also, you cannot send out a mass email to all of your contacts, relationships or colleagues. You are also not given an email address that can be mailed to or out of for people who are not on Myspace. By not being able to take the communication to a more professional venue, such as email, you are keeping your friends on Myspace as distant relationships rather than colleagues and professional relationships.
Professionalism on Myspace is reduced
There are many bands that use Myspace as a serious place to host their songs but fail to present themselves professionally by not filling out their profile completely. Incomplete profiles, joke information or long and meandering bios or your art makes you look not only unprofessional but like someone who doesn’t care about their music. Incomplete information or joke information only make it more difficult for music writers/bloggers to cover your music.
Low Signal to Noise ratio
In a recent article about the Social Media Arms Race, owners Chris DeWolfe and Tom Anderson said they view their ad revenue competitors as Yahoo and MSN, not Facebook. On a standard Myspace page, the amount of advertising distracts from actual content and with a statement from the owners of the site like that, you can expect more noise to come. From a promotions standpoint, mass bulletins are one of the tools to promote a show, and these, too, are more distraction than content. Playing Myspace from a numbers standpoint instead of a ‘strength of network’ approach means that you’re receiving bulletins from hundreds of people daily which makes it difficult to receive salient information. Some have found ways around this, such as Free Press Houston, who sent out a bulletin promoting their block party once an hour for the weeks leading up to the event. While this was an effective strategy, the time investment must have been staggering and, it could be argued, overall ineffective.
Myspace does not have the tools of a normal website
Myspace provides a terrible URL for bands. Myspace requires a login to see additional content. Myspace limits the number of tracks that you can host without use of an additional plugin. Myspace does not provide full website statistics and trackbacks – entrance, exit, or traffic sources that would allow you to learn about your audience (UPDATE: You can install Google Analytics for your Myspace page). Myspace is unable to host your files or pertinent band information such as stage plot or press releases. And Myspace can be frustratingly slow.
What You Can Do About It
Think about the Home Base and Outpost concept discussed by Chris Brogan and Darren Rowse. Plot out your current Home Base and Outpost map to see where the gaps are. If you don’t have a home base yet, get to work on that first. I recommend WordPress; tips for building your own website with WordPress are here, here, and here. If you already have a home base, then plot out your proposed outposts that can help yourself get promoted and discovered. Try passive engagement first with music discovery sites like Blip.fm, Last.fm, lala.com and lp33.tv. After you have a placeholder presence on these sites and more try active engagement on other sites like Imeem, Virb and Facebook. If you are in Houston, attend Bandcamp on 2/22 to learn more about an effective online presence. Those outside of Houston can keep up with by watching the bandcamp videos and engaging bandcampers on twitter and on this site.