Scene and heard

How MySpace changed the way local bands operate, for better or worse

It is the Great Satan of the Internet, the Hot Topic in the mall of information, the mental crack of Generation Y. is more than, as its slogan puts it, a place for friends, it is the online cancer in the brain of youth culture. The site where users can make a personalized Web page and network with friends has grown to include more than 43 million users and become a primary method of communication. And now, instead of just allowing those with limited social skills the illusion of popularity, MySpace has changed how underground and unsigned bands function.

The MySpace Music variation of the site lets bands put up mp3s to download, display photos and post lyrics. Everything that one might need to book a show or to research a band for an article can be done with the click of a mouse. So bands from U2 to my roommate’s noise/comedy/amplified fart project Failure Face have a convenient online presence.

But here I’ve got to tell you, I do not like MySpace Music. I book shows here in Chico, and MySpace has taken all the work out of being in a band. So now I can’t tell the difference between dedicated, hardworking musicians and complete yahoos who aren’t serious and will cancel their tour at the last minute. There’s no quality control. It’s how well band members can lie about themselves online.

My misgivings aside, I know that many people use MySpace for their bands. But when I fired up my MySpace account (yes, I’ve got one, too) and talked to some Chico bands about it, I found that my annoyance was not unique to me. Justin Cash of The Abominable Iron Sloth put it pretty well.

“In the past there were isolated puddles of shit music all throughout the world. Basically MySpace has brought them all together to create a worldwide shit tsunami that is threatening to drown us all in the riptides of shit.”

Justin, whom I only talk to on MySpace despite the meager five-block distance between my house and his apartment, complained about being inundated with messages from bands he doesn’t want to deal with, but conceded that the convenience of MySpace keeps him coming back for more.

“It’s just a universal method to get a hold of people to tell them about happenings, or to try to book shows in another town,” Justin said. “I’ve tried e-mail lists, sending messages to band Web sites, phone calls, [an online booking network], message boards, etc. I’ve had some success with each one, but MySpace is like having all of them in one simple package.”

Justin can send the Sloth’s 930 MySpace friends messages, invitations and post bulletins about what the band is doing and when they will play next. That kind of free advertising is hard to beat.

Chico’s favorite heartbroken girl with a guitar, Aubrey Debauchery, agreed that despite the headache, MySpace’s convenience cuts down on her dealing with scenesters when notifying people of upcoming events.

“If you ever look at the bulletin board, everyone is bored,” she said. “They’re posting shit about how they’ve changed their hair and posted new pictures of it. Not only are they posting non-stop, but they’re reading everyone else’s lame posts. Somewhere in the mix, they’re going to find the fliers and the show dates, and will see them about five times before the date, eventually getting through the thick Aqua Net and to the brain.”

The impersonality of the bulletin board often doesn’t convey much importance to Aubrey’s 567 MySpace friends—so she counteracts people’s indifference by going the extra mile.

“I really like to let people know individually that I’d love to see them at the shows, so I go through and try to message everyone in the surrounding area. It takes a while, but it’s filled with love and fuzzy stuff.”