Thursday, October 15, 2009

MySpace is a shopping mall; Facebook is a college campus

facebook iconmyspace iconI like reading other local blogs to see what's going on. Most of them lack opinionated writing, but that's never been a problem for TwoGroove, which is why I read it often... even when I disagree. This is one of those instances.

Two days ago, TwoGroove published a post called "For Bands, MySpace is as Good as Dead". Then he wrote a followup yesterday. TwoGroove's argument is that Facebook is a better alternative for band promotion because it has more users than MySpace, which is partially true but not the whole story. Read the posts here and here.

I have to rebut this assertion about MySpace being dead because I've heard it uttered by many a snarky Facebook user. Did MySpace die? No. It changed; there's a difference.

While MySpace once was the biggest social network on the Web, it no longer fits primarily into the social networking category. It has become an information portal. People who use MySpace regularly today aren't using it to look at drunken wedding photos or to get your live status updates from ACL Fest. People are logging into MySpace for information -- be it about bands, movies, celebrities, etc. The new trailer for Toy Story 3 has received a million views since MySpace uploaded it to its movie preview portal ( a week ago today. The equivalent video uploaded to YouTube has 188,000 views since it was uploaded by YouTube Trailers four days ago. It's on pace to fall just short of 400,000 views in the same seven-day span.

Now where music is concerned, consider this: When you Google your favorite band's name, what comes up first? Go ahead and try it. If it's a big major label act, the top three search results usually look like this: official website, MySpace page and Wikipedia entry (in any order). Then you get random news items, and maybe a account. With unsigned bands, it's usually the MySpace page first. So when the average fan goes to see a touring band and they're impressed with the local opening band, the first thing they're going to do is Google it. And guess what they'll find first: a MySpace page. And that page will give this new fan some music, tour dates and a bio -- all without having to click anywhere or even scroll that much. Convenience.

There's no other website where I can go to get the latest tour dates, news updates, streaming music and embedded videos all on one page from every band I listen to, ranging from stadium-filling rock giants like U2 and Muse (a combined 700,000-plus MySpace friends) to unsigned experimental bands whose entire recorded output consists of bedroom demos. The structure of MySpace is consistent enough that I always know what I'm going to get. But the structure isn't so rigid and stale (Facebook, I'm looking at you) that a band isn't allowed to show off its personality with its design choices.

As of today, Facebook is the king of social networking. There's no doubt. The graph below (found on GigaOM here) displays the results of a survey conducted last month by Hitwise. Clearly, MySpace has been dethroned as the social king.

facebook myspace graph

But comparing MySpace with Facebook is like comparing a shopping mall with a college campus. They serve two totally different functions in society, and to ask which one is better is to miss the point. Like a college campus, Facebook is a good place to post fliers for upcoming shows. Based on the concentration of young people who drink, it's ideal for promoting 21+ shows. But I'm not going to aimlessly walk around a college campus if I want to hear samples of a specific band's music. I'm more likely to go to the music shop to preview the band's tunes on headphones. Online, that's MySpace, which can be as tacky or flashy or classy as the designer decides to make it (just like a brick-and-mortar music store). Facebook, like a college campus, is rigid and bland in its structure and design.

But here is where Facebook differs from colleges: Just because people are on Facebook right now, doesn't mean they'll be there tomorrow. Before there was MySpace, there was Friendster. Before Friendster, there was LiveJournal. Facebook became the hot new kid in town a couple years ago when it repealed its policy of only allowing users who had university e-mail addresses. Then last year, the rise of Twitter forced Facebook into a panic that caused the giant to change its format multiple times to catch up to Twitter's immediacy and ease-of-update. There's always the next little guy gunning for the top spot. I can't foresee what will dethrone Facebook, but did anyone know Facebook would storm the social networking world when MySpace was king four years ago?

Where MySpace has distinguished itself from Facebook, Friendster and LiveJournal is that it has successfully transformed itself from a social network into an information portal. MySpace will continue to serve a practical function as a music and movie center long after today's Facebook bandwagoners have moved onto the next social networking phenomenon. Or, hey, maybe Facebook will never be dethroned; maybe it will rule the internet from now until the first Facebookers are in retirement homes. After all, there's always a new generation ready to fill our college campuses. But we also graduate, become adults and move onto other social classes and networks. One thing that doesn't seem to change: interest in entertainment mediums like music and movies. In that realm, MySpace is still king.

'NITES, A Blog For Austinites :: Supporting local live music in Austin, Texas ::


Westy said...

But just wait. It's highly possibly MySpace's brand new Twitter-ized redesign will ruin its utility as an artist-generated developing music wiki.

Marshall said...

Excellent article, very interesting take on the differences between the two giants. I enjoyed it very much!

Aaron Robert Hall said...

Great read! Very realistic viewpoints on the matter. Myspace's SEO reins king.

@westy - What?

fmcampers said...

Very well put, sir.

A couple of notes:

At least for my band, facebook requires you to UPLOAD A PICTURE OF YOUR DRIVERS LICENSE to be allowed to upload your own music. Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck that. No way. We put links in the forum section with external mp3 links and, obviously, to myspace.

Now, I am patiently waiting for a replacement for myspace, where I can consistently hear any band I want to check out, for one simple reason: very often when I try to play some music I get the "song not currently available" message, for no discernable reason. Quite annoying. Their player sucks. But, you are right, it is a wealth of information.

I'm not sure they've realized yet what you are saying though, because they certainly don't make it easy or obvious to sign up as a band/director/entertainer... it's a small, out-of-the-way link when signing up, miniscule when compared to signing up for a personal page, and very easy to miss.

But as it stands, Myspace is king, for band/entertainers/media.

Thanks for this blog. I enjoyed it. Keep up the great work.

Anonymous said...

Yo, Ajay, you must have been Googling, Binging and banging all night long on this blog. :()

I use MySpace to check out bands, their music and performance dates.

Twitter is my favorite because it short and sweet but can provide valuable information.

Personally, Facebook has become the new twitter and it's annoying.

If social media has taught us anything, it's that being King is a temporary postition. Don't know who or what's next but just watch the horizon.\m/

Ian Morales said...

Myspace is the information portal of choice for music and entertainment lovers. For music there is nothing better right now. People who are active on Myspace are people who want to seek or receive information on music or their favorite bands with a social aspect of Web 2.0.

Although many Facebook snobs may think Myspace is dead or done, they couldn't be more wrong. Those classist bastards are just upset that they don't know how to create a Myspace page that represents themselves well, so they hide behind that ugly ass template Facebook gives everyone. Facebookers are the biggest babies about Facebook too. Every time Facebook changes something, they start a page about it and cry. It is effective, but spoiled behavior none the less. I learned html on Myspace. Facebook didn't teach me that. Facebook is a great social portal, I will always be on Team Myspace. I just wish they'd be more active on Myspace Latino with music again.

jen said...

ajay i'm on the same page as you. your perspecive is right on.
i prefer myspace 'cos my interests are less about knowing what someone is doing minute-to-minute, & more about who's creating what. sometimes the advertising-at-each-other aspect is annoying & leaves me a little hollow, but honestly, show me what you've created, don't tell me you just had a great muffin or are about to put on a cold 'cos your cold. myspace anyday.

jen said...

ajay i'm on the same page as you. i think your perspective is right on.
i prefer myspace 'cos my interests are less about knowing what someone is doing minute-to-minute, & more about who's creating what. sometimes the advertising-at-each-other aspect is annoying & leaves me a little hollow, but honestly, show me what you've created, don't tell me you just had a great muffin or are about to put on a coat 'cos your cold. myspace anyday.

fmcampers said...

Looks like they might be getting the message. The just added a way for bands to see the demographics of who is looking at their profile, as well as a graph of hits and plays over a month period.

great starting point.