Usually I’m slow to pick up on new fads and fashions that are sweeping the nation.

I was one of the last people at my primary school to pick up on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, for example, and I’m sure I was one of the last to move on to the next big thing.

These days, things are no different. The glorious world of the blog site myspace.com opened up to me in this summer, about two years later than everybody else.

Many of you will have a myspace page I’m sure, but for those who don’t, it is essentially an easy way for people to put a page together about themselves so they can meet new people. It works on a "friends" system, where people that you add or who add you can comment on your page. If this sounds a bit boring, then that’s because it is.

It’s the extras that the site offers that give it its appeal. Bands can set up their own myspace pages, on which they can post songs to stream or download. These days, there aren’t many major bands without myspace pages, but they offer little extra than their own websites. With smaller or unsigned bands, however, it gives them a free website with an easily accessible audience, a way to get their music noticed almost instantly.

For music fans, it’s like being a kid in a candy shop where all the sweets are free; a brilliant way to discover new music without having to fork out four quid for a music magazine.

It was my brother that put me on to myspace last summer. I had been aware of it for a while, but had no interest in starting my own page.
“It’s great,” he insisted, showing me the list of friends on his own page. “Bands keep adding me and most of them are ace.”

Slowly, I started to take a greater interest in myspace, even starting my own band and putting out the songs through the site. www.myspace.com/sarahandthejohnsonauts if you’re actually interested, but don’t expect the next Coldplay. We even got a song on a compilation because of it, which was a nice surprise.

For many bands, labels and artists of all kinds, myspace is becoming a great promotional tool. It’s free, and you can easily find an audience or make important contacts.

Rachael Neiman, a 21-year-old Lancaster student, has just started her own label, Cherryade records. She has found that her myspace page has helped her establish the label a lot quicker than she expected.

“It’s probably the best way of networking with other bands, labels and music lovers from all over the world,” she said. “It really does break down boundaries and the bulletin boards and facilities for sending messages and comments make it really easy to promote releases and events to lots of people at once. I’ve met lots of really nice people through My Space, plus people interested in buying our releases, fanzines and radio stations from around the world showing an interest in promoting our releases.”

She also hosts her own radio show on Lancaster University’s Bailrigg fm, and has found myspace just as useful for seeking out new music for her play lists.

“I’m constantly unearthing new music,” she explained. “The internet generally is a great medium for that but My Space makes that process even easier.

“As far as I can see it’s just going to keep growing and growing, it’s great for bands without the time or know-how to put a website together and even fairly well-known and well-established bands are using the service so I imagine that it’s been a great boost for bands’ profiles.”

But not everyone quite sees myspace in such a positive light.

“I hate myspace,” growled Karis Hanson, 15. “When I was new on myspace and had no friends, I especially hated it. Basically, I think myspace is just lots of people who are only judged on their pictures and the hot people get all the adds. Which might sound a bit silly, but it’s true.”

Hot people aside, there’s a real danger that the bigger myspace gets, the more it’ll be used as another way of getting ahead in the music business.

The site has really started to blow up this year, with articles in mainstream magazines and at least one high profile band, Test Icicles, getting a record deal off the back of their myspace page.
This means that the advantage of myspace’s promotional power could also be its downfall, as more bands join as a means to make a name for themselves.

“The same things that make Myspace good are also the reasons why it’s bad,” explained Jason … the man behind Peel favourites the Secret Hairdresser. “Anyone can contact anyone, and so it's not really a barometer of anything other than ‘who has the most time to add as many "friends" as possible’. It doesn't mean these people or bands are actually as popular as they'd like to believe they are.”

The Secret Hairdresser has a myspace page and Jason admits that there are those who use it genuinely to meet people and discover new bands. But there are many who don’t use it for the right reasons.

“I'm a gig promoter, and I normally get to hear about the good bands by word of mouth before they've even got in touch or sent a demo to me,” he said. “On the other hand, the rubbish bands hassle you like mad, as that's what they think is the norm. That's the only way they can get a gig anywhere, and so that's what they're used to doing. Some of these bands get ridiculously pushy, and it's the same on Myspace. Some people have blocked bands completely from being able to add you to their friends list; I understand that completely.”

Whether myspace will continue to give small bands a leg up or be swallowed by its own hype remains to be seen. It is worth getting as much use out of it as possible before the myspace backlash. Though the backlash may already have started; I won’t be aware of it until it’s almost over.



Mypace users give their views of the site:

It’s very useful-its very easy to click on or search for a band you haven't heard before and to stream their music without having to pay or download anything. By looking at people who have music taste you like you can search for bands in their "music" list or who they are friends with. It has become almost necessary for bands to get myspace.

‘Ella’

Due to the "friend" structure of myspace I can find good music by looking at the friend's list of people who I know to have good taste and then access the music of the bands immediately. Therefore, there exists a quality control, that is, the tastes of my "friends", and instant access.

‘John D Traynor’

Where do I start?! I'll give you the biggest problems. It's down all the time, at least 2-3 times a week. I get messages that the server is full several times a day. They allow stuff, language and subject matter that I would consider inappropriate in an all-ages forum; they need to make an adult area, like Yahoo does. I belong to several sites that have many members under 16, and they are seeing this.

‘Phill’







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