When it comes to music, the Internet has always been the Next Big Thing. It has changed the way we listen, the way we buy, the way we discover new music-it's even changed the way we get sued. But until recently, the Internet itself hadn't really made a star out of a single artist or act.
That may be changing. On Nov. 15, Santa Monica-based MySpace released a collection of tracks from bands that use the online social network, including Fall Out Boy, All-American Rejects and Weezer, on its new record label, MySpace Records, an Interscope imprint. This is significant because prior to MySpace, arguably the only artist to hit the big time online was Danger Mouse, whose Grey Album-a terrific mashup of Jay-Z and the Beatles-was both downloaded incessantly and critically acclaimed.
"It's the greatest networking device since mp3.com," Cattle Decapitation's Travis Ryan says of MySpace. Indeed, there is no shortage of San Diego bands with MySpace pages, and those who use it regularly are generally positive about their experiences.
"I think MySpace has been one of the greatest tools in getting your music out," says Tristan Prettyman. And Mike Alfred of A&R Entertainment, which manages Get Back Loretta and Getty City, calls it "the most efficient way to spread the news about your company [or] band and consolidate your fanbase."
San Diego singer-songwriter Annie Bethancourt says MySpace is "the next music revolution, because it successfully caters to the short-attention-span culture-someone sees your picture, goes to your site, and there's no searching or effort expended."
What? You haven't heard of MySpace? Then you're probably reading a hard copy of CityBeat.
The network allows users to create websites and blogs and make it easy for bands to offer streams and downloads, concert dates and news updates. It can be addictive, and many users spend an hour or two on the site each day. And very quickly, MySpace has become a huge success among several key demographics. It gets more traffic-unbelievably-than both eBay and Google.
"We've also been able to aggressively find new fans in areas we're touring in by searching people's profile and e-mailing them about the band," says the Accident Experiment's Pete Stewart. "It's definitely translated to both CD sales and concertgoers. MySpace is the biggest thing around for new [and] unsigned bands period."
"We can communicate with our fans and friends, and they can communicate with us, but they can use our page to communicate with each other as well," says Cullen Hendrix of the North Atlantic. "Moreover, it's highly searchable. For example, if I don't have any idea where to try and book a show in Missoula, Mont., I can search on the events page and get the skinny on places that do shows."
But it's questionable as to whether the new label will have a trickledown effect on the majority of bands that currently use the site. No longer a start-up, MySpace's parent company, Intermix, was acquired by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. for $580 million earlier this year. And though no changes have been seen as yet, many independently oriented bands are suspicious.
"If major labels are involved," says Silver Sunshine's Richard Vaughan, "I'd rather stay away." It's no surprise that most of the groups on the MySpace compilation were already commercially successful, though one previously unsigned band, Hollywood Undead, was signed to the label and added to the compilation CD.
"What folks really need to understand," says Zach Wentz of Kill Me Tomorrow and Tender Buttons, "is MySpace is the most advanced and thorough consumer profiling system that has yet come into being. Millions of people personally go out of their way to let you know their gender, age, area, occupation, income, everything about them and everything they like and don't like. It's like being able to check out the studio apartment of a million strangers."