Bob Baker's Indie Music Promotion Blog

Music marketing ideas for DIY artists, managers, promoters and music biz pros


April 16, 2008

MySpace Haters & Corporate Conspiracies

It seemed simple enough. But who knew it would stir up such poisonous venom from readers?

I'm referring to my blog post last week about the upcoming launch of MySpace Music, which is supposed to allow MySpace artists (both signed and unsigned) to sell music downloads, merchandise and concert tickets from their MySpace profiles.
The opportunity to not only get exposure, but also make a few bucks from a MySpace music profile, seems like a potentially good thing to me. But some readers felt otherwise, mostly because of the involvement of major labels in the new MySpace Music venture.

One reader wrote "How can this be a good thing for indies if 3 out of the 4 major labels have a stake? It smells fishy to me. Why does a major label need a percentage of ownership?"

From what I've read, it's a business decision on the part of MySpace. For any company to take on iTunes and make available a vast amount of music to sell, they'd have to pay the major labels exorbitant licensing fees.

By bringing on the labels as partners in the project, MySpace is most likely avoiding a ton of upfront costs and the labels will get paid later as their music sells, and will likely get a cut of ad revenue as well.

I understand the concerns. Here's this hugely popular site that was built in its earliest days in part by the indie musicians who flocked there and promoted it to their fans. There's a fear that the magic will be tainted now because the struggling and desperate major labels are sinking their claws into it.

Hence the fear, the worst case scenario expectations, and the cries of "Chicken Little, the sky is falling!"

But here's some news for you ...

Three years ago, MySpace was purchased by NewsCorp, the media conglomerate owned by Rupert Murdoch. Back then, the conspiracy theorists predicted that life as we knew it would come to an end. But here we are in 2008, and MySpace continues to be a major online force in music.

I'm not saying that all is well and these business entities always have the best interests of indie artists in mind. (Remember, I'm the guy who for many years has been saying "You don't need a record deal.") My attitude is, it sounds good, but let's wait and see. Why rage against the machine when nobody has even seen what the new music agreement will be?

If the new MySpace Music lets artists sell stuff (without claiming any crazy rights) in addition to what they can currently do with a music profile, who cares if the majors are involved? Who cares if they're getting a cut of ad revenue? Heck, maybe they'll help draw even more traffic to the site. No one knows, so let's just wait and see what happens.

But what if they change the rules and make it harder for indie acts to get exposure on the site?

Well, that would indeed be very short-sighted on the part of MySpace. But here's the ugly truth: MySpace doesn't owe you or any other artist anything. Just because they've made all these cool tools available to you the last few years doesn't mean it's now part of the Bill of Rights.

There were no guarantees when you first signed on, and there are no guarantees now.

In case you're wondering, my core message here isn't one of being helpless in the shadow of a corporation. Instead, it's a message of self-reliance. If your success depends on the existence of some distant entity, there's something wrong with your career plan.

I think MySpace is a cool promotional tool (so much so I wrote a popular book on it). But I've always warned musicians about making MySpace their primary Internet presence. Every artist needs their own domain name and web site. Then you use MySpace, Facebook, YouTube and other popular sites to funnel fans to your personal space on the Net.

That's the best plan, in my opinion. That way, if one stream in the funnel dries up, you have multiple other streams to keep fans coming your way.

There's another aspect of this that concerns me, especially after reading comment threads on this around the Internet. It's the anger, resentment and fear that wells up in some artists at times like these.

Why get so worked up over something you know few details about? Plus, I believe you are far better off focusing your energy on what you WANT, not on what you DON'T want.

It's a choice. You can get frustrated and rail against the evil you perceive in the world. Or you can decide what you really want from your life and music career, then go to work making that positive vision a reality.

As Mother Teresa said, "I don't participate in anti-war demonstrations. But as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I'll be there."

-Bob

P.S. I encourage your comments, whether you're a lover or a hater.

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posted by Bob Baker @ 11:09 AM   15 comments


15 Comments:

At Apr 16, 2008, 2:16:00 PM, Anonymous John of Celtic Ways said...

Bob, I just think you compacted the entire "secret" of indie music promotion. Your own web site is the best showcase you can have. If your web server provider dries up, you take the web site elsewhere. Your domain name is priceless. Never get behind on domain name payments, then then you can take that from registrar to registrar. Anything else on the net must joined and developed as a funnel to the web site. If it does not work out, like mp3.com some years ago, there plenty of untouched places to open a funnel.

However, equally important is to make offline efforts a funnel to the web site too, the biz cards, the cds, the demos, the chats, the sticky notes, the posters, the graffiti, wear the TShirt, have the bumper sticker on the car or bicycle.

Gawd, there's more offline funnelling opportunities than online, and its all localized, more focused.

 
At Apr 16, 2008, 2:52:00 PM, Blogger Michael said...

Bob,

As you summarize at the end "It's a choice...you can decide what you really want from...music...then go to work making that positive vision a reality."

I left MySpace over a year ago due to recognizing that the style music I write and perform has little audience there. I've not been hurt by it.

I see this move by MySpace being akin to what happened with MP3.com once they sold partnership shares in their company - it became much more about the major label artists and the indie's faded out of view.

I'm sure the major's will now use MySpace to harvest new talent so there will be some lucky few, mostly in the rock and pop genre's, that will get signed. But is "getting signed" really all that attractive anymore?

All-in-all it's big business shaking hands with (other) big business and we know the result of that is never a benefit to the *little* guy. Do you really think they're looking out for the indie artist?

 
At Apr 16, 2008, 3:04:00 PM, Anonymous Johnny J Blair said...

Dear Bob--I'm glad you said it in your book that Myspace should not be anyone's primary site. However, a loud number of people did not listen. My gripe with Myspace has little to do with corporate conspiracies. It's the fact that so many people got on a Yellow Brick Road that traffics in mediocrity. For the amount of time invested in a generic, buggy Myspace page (with almost non-existent customer service), no one can report a significant stream of downloads, gigs or anything else. Myspace has been built on fraudulent claims (example: Artic Monkeys, who DID NOT build a career on Myspace, contrary to urban myth). In short, Myspace is a giant assimilator that amounts to a Wastespace. It is The Borg with a Smiley Face. There are so many hours in the day. Why should you or I divert people to a time-eating website when we should be spending time on real-world cyber marketing? I'm just surprised for all the people who fell for this red herring. JJB

 
At Apr 16, 2008, 4:22:00 PM, Anonymous Kurt Lindal said...

Hi Bob;
Just a few words on this myspace thing. At the beginning of this year I found you, and purchased some of your materials including "Myspace Music Marketing". At that time, other than a few friends and family members, no one had ever heard of Kurt Lindal before, at least not related to music. I set up a basic music profile on myspace, myspace.com/kurtlindal, 29 days ago since that time I've had 429 profile views and 306 playes of my music. I have no way of knowing how others would respond to these numbers, but for me it means that there are at least a couple of hundred people that have heard some of my music. These are people that would never have even known that I exist without myspace. Other than a bit of time, this exposure has been FREE of charge.
Thank you for your books and thank myspace for theirspace.
PS
I also have my own infant site as you suggested kurtlindal.com that still needs lots of work.
Best wishes to you Bob!
Kurt

 
At Apr 16, 2008, 4:52:00 PM, Anonymous Jen said...

Bob -

Thanks so much for presenting the 'other' side of the coin. You're right...there have never been any guarantees with MySpace and that hasn't changed. I also agree that you really can't rely on some distant entity to make your career. Being an indie artist myself, I've learned to become more self-reliant (thank goodness for that!) and when one of my normal sources of promotion dries up, I just go elsewhere. I'm looking forward to seeing where this MySpace Music thing goes. For all we know, it could end up being a very positive thing! If not, well, that's going to be a huge loss for MySpace as we will all find somewhere else to promote our music. In any event, there's no harm in giving it a try and seeing where it goes.

All the best,
Jen

 
At Apr 16, 2008, 5:45:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Clear Channel and the Majors all over again.

The little guys will become nothing but fodder to help the major label acts get more traffic. The indie acts are regarded as nothing but competitors to the big guys who will act to constrain distribution.

 
At Apr 16, 2008, 10:23:00 PM, Blogger Tim said...

Who has time to get upset over this junk?!!

 
At Apr 16, 2008, 10:36:00 PM, Anonymous Matt said...

Bob,
Some great points on your article and some interesting responses from the indie music community
My take on things uses four sayings.
1. Nobody owes you a living
2. Time will tell
3. It is what it is
4. When one door closes another one opens.

Myspace is a great marketing tool but I'm sure it wasn't put there to specifically help each and every person using it. I'm sure the original designers and subsequent owners had/have a plan and an exit strategy. Treat Myspace for what it is. A marketing tool to use with all the other marketing tools.

Bob is right. Wait and see what is going to happen and then make a decision on how best to take advantage of the new changes. If it changes and you don't like it, or is not suited to the Indie community - that's life - find another avenue because I'm sure one will open up quickly.

Matt

 
At Apr 16, 2008, 11:03:00 PM, Blogger Nathanael Matthias Weiss said...

Bob. thanks for putting it that way.

An indie band/musician needs their own internet platform outside of Myspace, Reverbnation, Garageband, etc... because what indies truly "own" is what they can really stand on.

This new Myspace deal will probably be another stream of traffic for indies. However, all indies need to be aware that this stream:

1. Could dry up any year

2. Might not pay a fair amount to indies or unsigned bands (remember snocap.com ?)

3. Might do what profits *them* most vs. what benefits *everybody* most.. Unless they wise-up and realize that we are all inter-dependent.

 
At Apr 17, 2008, 9:50:00 AM, Blogger sexyguitar said...

We have been independent since 1985. Always took responsibility for ourselves. We were on mp3.com, even earned some money there. When they closed it didn't hurt us because we didn't depend on them. Always had our own website. The reason I put Blue Star on MySpace was communication in the first place. Never expected big sales that way. But I'm happy about everybody who gets to know us.
The main thing however is how you feel about yourself - as a victim, needy, complaining, or as a creator, a winner who takes full responsibility for his own career. Then you can let other people run their business as they want to. It can't harm you anymore!

 
At Apr 17, 2008, 10:04:00 AM, Anonymous Vikki Flawith said...

Thanks, Bob, for your thoughtful response to the negativity. I emailed you after your initial blog to say I'd seen a huge negative reaction to this myspace announcement & wondered what your take on it was, and I appreciate you responding to what you've seen. I purchased your myspace marketing book and I have had over 13,000 visits on my myspace page, which I use for networking with fellow musicians and fans. It's just one of the ways that I connect with people. It's been a good thing for me, and I don't see that changing anytime soon.

cheers
Vikki
www.myspace.com/vikkiflawith
www.vikkiflawith.com

 
At Apr 17, 2008, 4:40:00 PM, Blogger Hoover & said...

Great Post Bob,

I enjoy your rational thinking. No one owes you or I anything. We have to adapt to what happens. The only constant is change.

If MySpace does make it tough for indies, they will leave for a better service (which a smart entrepreneur will develop if the opportunity presents itself).

I for one look forward to what they come up with. They do have their own record label as well so I'm sure they'll design something that will benefit their artists and the label.

Cheers everyone,

Hoover

http://NewRockstarPhilosophy.com

 
At Apr 18, 2008, 11:44:00 AM, Anonymous StrollerInfo said...

Bob,

You are exactly right. To rely too heavily on any platform, whether it be online or offline, will most probably result in failure. Now that the major labels are trying to find a new way themselves, it seems more than ever before that we are all on a more even playing field.

Right now is more exciting than ever in the industry, and artists have an excellent opportunity it on their own: but only when all means of self promotion are utilized to the fullest extent possible.

Always interested in your insight,

A Aros

www.PaulTaneja.com

 
At Apr 21, 2008, 2:55:00 PM, Anonymous Mark Crowley said...

Well stated, Bob. Why is it that everyone (including most artists) in society today feels like everyone owes them everything for FREE? I find it ironic that the same musicians that scream about the possibility of Myspace taking something away are the same ones probably screaming when fans take their music for free on P2P? The bottom line is what you already stated: work hard, determine your own destiny, and stop spending time on anger and just GO DO IT!?
Cheers

 
At Apr 24, 2008, 7:22:00 AM, Anonymous Maggie said...

I completely agree that the web site -- or whatever you own that is YOU -- needs to be your main point of contact as a musician. You hit the nail on the head when you said MySpace is a tool; that's what it is, a tool. But it is never a good idea to put all your eggs into one basket, especially if that basket happens to be opend by News Corps and can change your terms of agreement, delete your account, or start spamming all your fans you worked hard to get at any time.

More than anything, I think this points to the idea that, once again, the big labels still matter. They're not going anywhere anytime soon.

 

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