Thursday, September 10, 2009

9.10.09 MYSPACE IS THE PLACE



This article originally appeared in the 9.10.09 issue of Metroland

MySpace is the both the bane and the blessing of musicians everywhere. It’s clunky, it’s ugly, and the flashing banner ads make you feel like you’ve entered a low-rent carnival midway. Every time I visit MySpace I feel like I should take a shower afterwards and then run an industrial grade virus scan on my computer. And I have a Mac.

If they’ve updated the code that runs MySpace in the past five years it sure doesn’t show. The user experience hasn’t changed at all, which leads to the likelihood that the architecture probably can’t be changed without blowing up the whole decrepit mess. So we’re stuck with it.

There have been plenty of challengers to MySpace’s hegemony with musicians, sites that no doubt run better, look better, and do more and better things. But they all seem to plateau early, then whither and disappear, leaving old crusty MySpace blinking and bleeping and refusing to die.

But, for all its faults, the damn thing works. Gig info is easily updatable, music can be put on and taken off in a flash, photos and videos are easily posted, the search function works OK, and what else do you really need?

And the proof is in the pudding. In the past year, I’ve added a bunch of musician clients who all have the best shots at real success of any musicians that I’ve represented in my twenty years (yikes!) as a lawyer. And they all came to me with offers and opportunities already in hand. And they all got “discovered” on MySpace.

And, even if they can’t fix their crappy code, MySpace seems to be doing a spectacular job of customer service, if my experience this week is any guide. Tuesday morning I got a frantic call from a band who’d just kicked their drummer out of the group. Seems they forgot that the drummer had admin privileges for their MySpace page. So the drummer, after no doubt lying to his girlfriend that he’d “quit” the band and drinking heavily, changed the password to the MySpace page and put on a profile picture of himself smiling demonically and giving the world the finger.

Funny as it was, the band was traumatized. Their main portal to the world had been hijacked. And what was the x-drummer gonna do next?

I’d had lots of crisis situations like this before where a disgruntled x-band member takes over a band’s MySpace site. I’ve seen jilted musicians talk trash about the old band, remove gig info, and post embarrassing photos. In one case, a booted lead singer even formed a new band overnight and posted new photos and band info. It’s not your band, it’s my band! D’oh!

In the past, I’ve written lawyerly letters to MySpace explaining the situation, and the few times I’ve gotten any response, it was usually something about MySpace not wanting to get involved in inter-band disputes and that I’d have to get a court order if I wanted the site back. A court order? That would cost a couple thousand bucks and probably take weeks.

This time was different. I sent off the lawyerly letter, mainly to placate the band, but with no hope that it would really accomplish anything. Within an hour I got an email back from MySpace, telling me to send them “salutes” from each of the remaining band members. There was a nice explanation that a “salute” was a photograph of the band members holding a handwritten sign with the MySpace ID on it. They’d check the salutes against the pictures of the band they already had, and if a majority of the old band members were represented, we’d get our site back.

This took my breath away. First was how quick MySpace responded. I mean, how many of these kinds of complaints do you think MySpace receives every day from the gazillion bands it hosts? Thousands? And somebody actually read my email and responded in an hour. And then the solution: so simple, so elegant, so right.

Moral of the story: number one, if you’re gonna kick somebody out of your band, secure your online stuff first. And number two, for all its faults, MySpace rocks.

Last year a bunch of you attended the Future of Music Coalition’s seminar on making money making music in Albany. If you want the super deluxe version, the FOMC’s big Policy Summit is taking place in Washington, DC October 4-6. Speakers and panelists include Senator Al Franken, Mike Mills of REM, and a ton of music biz 2.0 heavyweights. I’m honored to tell you that I’ll be a panelist on the topic of revenue flows for musicians. The conference is super cheap, especially if you can find a place to crash in DC. If you’re serious about making it in music, you wanna be at this one. Info at Futureofmusic.org.

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