I was looking over my Google analytics today, and saw that I had some referrals from the Velvet Rope. For those of you not in the know, it's a music biz messageboard filled with people unwilling to sign their real names to posts and the random worthwhile discussion of the music biz at large. I hadn't visited the site in years but while I was trolling the site, I stumbled upon an interesting thread concerning MySpace and its ability to really generate a fan base.
Let me start out with a rehash of my current take on non-commercial radio promotion. Dominated by the majors and overwhelmed by digital alternatives, it's a far cry from what it once was in the 80's and early 90's as a tastemaking tool for an underground artist. For the most part, Radio is still great as a network of people into music, but is really more of an extension of a street team. (Note: I'm not talking about web-friendly public stations like KCRW or KEXP, or well programmed legacy stations like WSOU or my beloved WFMU.) But the whole chart business is total bullshit. The only people perpetuating the myth are those who still make their living from promotion and the trade mags. But as long as there is a chart, people with cash to burn will spend money to try to be number one, even if their victory is mostly pyrrhic.
The same "chartiness" (an homage to Colbert's "truthiness") is true with MySpace and the social networks. The 'ropers are so busy asking about ways to cheat the system and how to artificially inflate their numbers, they miss the whole point. If your band is touring, engaging their fans in other ways, and really uses MySpace as a tool for 1 to 1 contact, the fans you build will be worth it. (Check my previous posts or see the page for bands like Grace Gale, The Fire Still Burns, and Vaeda.) But random adding a bunch of people just to spam their comments is ineffectual. Maybe it's just that I grew up in hardcore, so community is very important to me- but most of these guys just don't f'n get it.
Part of it is the poor follow through on MySpace's music section. There are quite a few things that they could do to create a far more compelling music experience for the listener, and really enable the artist to reach their fans without resorting to third party plug ins. But that's a story for another day...