Minor rant ahead. Last week I pulled the plug on my MySpace page, though admittedly not without a certain amount of hesitation and deliberation---it took a long time to amass those hard-earned 120k plays after all, that's for sure. But, once I thought about the ridiculous valuations MySpace has bewilderingly managed to achieve on the back of advertising potential (not to mention the many millions of penniless and uncompensated musicians bolstering its value), as well as its corporate bedfellows, I felt a little better about ditching it.
It seems I'm not the only one who's gotten fed up with numerous bugs and annoyances that litter the site, as various stats from the Guardian seems to portray a pretty sharp, but consistent, downturn of MySpace users and visitors over the past year. Personally, I got fed up with tracks inexplicably skipping part-way through, as well as the many error messages that used to plague the site, plus the tortuously inefficient attempt at page customisation, innumerable adverts and insufferable amounts of desperate spamming.
Of course, it’s still a free service though, so perhaps I shouldn’t grumble too much about its numerous shortcomings (though once its Google trust fund runs out next year, it’ll be interesting to see how it pays for itself). It does provide a familiar interface for those wishing to pop by and hear an artist’s music, without too much fuss. But unfortunately for MySpace, it’s no longer 2006, and there are much better alternatives for showcasing your music on the net. There’s Bandcamp and SoundCloud, for starters, both of which provide many more options and forward-thinking features, music widget-sharing facilities and greater general flexibility than MySpace ever could. They’re independently run, have no shareholders to appease, and appear to be run by genuine enthusiasts rather than advertisers and marketers. I don’t know how long that will last, or how both site’s growth will affect their continued operations, but for now things seem good.
But, as we’ve seen with countless other music showcase sites over the past decade, the online environment progresses swiftly, and if they don’t adapt and progress to meet the expectations of their users, these sites will quickly fall by the wayside. As soon as MySpace proves to be more of an unprofitable millstone around the necks of its parent companies, it’ll be discarded just like the rest before it. If there’s one thing we’ve learnt about the online economy, huge page views and users don’t equate with profitability, and as soon as one free service bites the dust, another will pop up, until it too realises it can’t squeeze money from users expecting a free service, and so on.
I’m getting fed up with hopping from site to site, keeping up with the latest ‘social’ trends, so I figure it’s perhaps best for me, at the end of the day, to concentrate on my own site, rather than spread myself thinly across various social outposts. I’m not earning a living from this (not by a long shot), and have never drawn much of a crowd regardless of how much I plaster myself over the net, so I don’t feel the need to advertise my ‘brand’ the way as a more... radio-friendly act might.
I do find it ironic given the continued fanfare we read weekly about the net’s ‘empowering’ or ‘democratising’ effects on indie musicians, only for us to end up having to connect through the mediation of a huge site like MySpace or Facebook in order to stand a chance of being heard, even if that chance pales against, say, winning the lottery. As for networking and communication---what’s wrong with email? At least we can control our communications that way, rather than relying on infrastructure set up for us by MySpace and Facebook, according to their own whims and advertising needs. Twitter has shown us that our networking online selves can essentially be boiled down to efficient sound bites, necessarily so in order to keep on top of the endless communications torrent (insofar as we ever can), and for that it does do a very good job. It goes to show though, just how far we can quite happily pare down our online selves to the bare minimum required, when needed.
Anyway, I'll stop there. Hopefully, somewhere within that ranting, there’s some insight as to why I pulled the plug. Thanks for hanging in there.