Hey! Remember your embarrassing emo phase? Remember taking moody selfies in the mirror then posting them to your MySpace page, with the custom purple and black background, and a song by My Chemical Romance that would play automatically every time someone visited your page? Remember ranking your top eight friends? Aren’t you glad you made the transition to the dull white-and-blue world of Facebook, and all of those cringy photos of your younger self disappeared along with everything else on MySpace? Maybe it was for the best that MySpace faded into the void, but during its peak, MySpace was the best online tool for musicians, and since its downfall, no website has come close to pulling off what MySpace was able to provide to bands during its few years in the sun.
Many bands credit their success to MySpace. Popular genres like metalcore, indie rock and bedroom hip-hop gained a mass following thanks to MySpace. The platform was easy to use, and pages were easy to customize. Bands were able to advertise new releases and post news through bulletins that fans could easily access. They could post new songs, photos and videos (I can’t remember if they were able to advertise merch, simply because I never bought merch through MySpace).
I might be a bit biased in my selective memory of MySpace, just because I used it a lot in 2006-2007, when I was discovering things for the first time that eventually shaped who I am today. I often used the music discovery tool to check out new bands, and when I found one I liked, I would then go through their top eight to find bands with a similar sound. Following those bands, I was able to find out when they were playing live next and message them directly if I needed directions to the secret DIY venue. I even ran a few artist pages of my own, to promote my terrible high school punk band.
I resisted joining Facebook for the longest time because I didn’t think it offered the same support for artists the way MySpace did. Musician pages on Facebook had the photos, links to events and interactivity, but fans would have to go to a different website if they wanted to actually listen to their music. There were attempts to integrate a third-party app to play songs on FB, but that involved going to a separate section and the apps never really worked properly. At least with MySpace, the music player was right next to the profile picture, so you could get an idea of the band instantly. The one advantage Facebook has is in their event pages; there’s more than just a time and location, you can also find links to artist pages, as well as updates and discussions.
But due to a series of bad decisions, like a drastic change in the format, adding in advertising, and its inability to stop creeps from messaging underage users, MySpace ran itself into the ground. In my opinion, media mogul Rupert Murdoch— who purchased the website in 2005 hoping it’d be a cash cow— is to blame. By the time Justin Timberlake purchased a stake in MySpace in 2010, it was already dead. There was nothing left to salvage. Songs that were not available anywhere else became unplayable. And last year, it was revealed that when the website was moved to another server, every song that was uploaded prior to 2015 was lost. That’s about 50 million songs. So many that had an effect on me in my formative years, all gone.
The one website that comes close to peak-era MySpace is BandCamp, though ReverbNation has also tried to replicate MySpace’s discover tool as well. BandCamp is great for fans because it’s easy to explore and listen to music. It’s great for independent musicians because they’re able to sell both digital and physical releases, as well as other merchandise, with 85% of music sales going directly to the artist, making it more lucrative than Spotify. The only downside is that it lacks the interactivity of MySpace. Artists can only upload one profile picture, and one photo per release, but not an entire album of pictures from a concert, for example. Fans can comment on the music, but there’s no two-way communication between fans and artists. Touring musicians can list upcoming shows, but only dates and names of venues. I’m confident that BandCamp will be sticking around for years to come, because its owners are not looking to make massive amounts of money off the backs of struggling artists, and they refuse to bow down to advertisers. They’re content with keeping things simple.
Artists today have to spread themselves across different platforms to get any kind of traction. They need to be on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, BandCamp and Spotify, to name a few. Back in the day, it was enough just to be on MySpace. But for all the bands who didn’t move onto new platforms when the ship went down, their music is lost forever.
Written by Chris Aitkens
*Edited by Dominic Abate