Brandon Drury: Is Myspace a piece of junk that bands should avoid? Why or why not? Does Myspace imply “unprofessionalism”?
Derek Pearson: Myspace is whatever you make of it. It obviously can be the single greatest marketing device we have as of right now, and if you don’t take it seriously it can give everyone that hears your band’s name a horrible first impression from which you cannot recover. The major record labels now look at your Myspace activity as important as the quality of your songs, recording, and live performances. Myspace is a vehicle which you can gain exposure with thousands of people instantly when used properly, and I don’t see anything unprofessional about it if it’s used that way.
Brandon: Could you have received the same success with promisetoburn.com as you do with myspace.com/promisetoburn? Why?
Derek: Absolutely not. I’ve ran a dotcom to promote a band before, and it did not have the capacity to promote that myspace does. As an internet amateur, I didn’t have the experience and ability to turn my website into the promotion machine that myspace inherently is. My website was basically just a bulletin board with some sound clips that was there for people who were actively seeking it out. My Myspace is something that I can use to seek out people within a targeted demographic. Whether that demographic is a geographic area, fans of a genre, an age group, or whatever you can exposure yourself to them easily without extensive internet knowledge or experience. None of that is possible with a dotcom without a tremendous amount of online expertise.
Derek as Dante From Blind Lion
Brandon: Why do the kids flock to Myspace?
Derek: Well kids flock to any place they can interact with one another. When I remember back to high school, kids used AIM or MSN or ICQ to interact with each other from their homes. And that was during the times that we weren’t attending some high school sporting event or driving around town meeting up in some parking lot or party. Myspace now is the one “location” where every one of those kids can meet up with each other and get to know each other. And one of the things that kids do to relate to each other is share their interests and find other people that have similar interests. Music is definitely one of the major interests of kids, and it’s one of the interests that they use to identify themselves the most. So it’s easy to see how Myspace combining kids interacting with music promotion was such a natural pairing. Kids love to be the first to discover a new band and claim it as their own to all their friends. That makes Myspace a very receptive atmosphere to up-and-coming bands who are trying to be discovered by as many people as possible and gain a following.
Brandon: Could you compare your music marketing strategy in the pre-Myspace years with your current marketing strategy?
Derek: Before Myspace our marketing strategy was about the same as bands have been using since the 70′s. We had to win people over with every show, we put out tons of fliers, did more radio spots, and wait for word of mouth to spread the word about your band. With that band it took about 6 months of playing regularly to get the same turnout at a show that Promise to Burn had at the first show. And Promise to Burn didn’t put out a single flier for that show. All of the promotion was done through Myspace. Now we can promote shows better than we ever could then without ever leaving the house. Using Myspace, other social networks (such as Facebook), and mass text messaging, posting YouTube video fliers, people are informed of the show two or three different ways very easily with minimal effort and time. Plus it’s all free. We’ve had last minute shows we’ve thrown together in a few hours before we went on, sent out one Myspace bulletin, and filled the venue to capacity an hour before the show started. That kind of thing just wasn’t possible pre-Myspace.
Brandon: What are the biggest strengths of Myspace from a music marketing standpoint? What about the flaws of Myspace?
Derek: I think the biggest strength of Myspace is that your a part of a this huge network full of people who are using Myspace to look for music. You’re preaching to the choir. It’s just an easy sell when you have a network people who are looking for what you’re providing. Also the other strength is that it’s a pretty level playing field for all bands. There are similarities between every single band’s page on Myspace; you basically all have the same layout, information, and options to promote yourself. You actually get judged on your sound, songs, and look and not just by the bells and whistles of your profile.
There are plenty of flaws. Anybody familiar with it experiences the programming glitches Myspace is infamous for. Whether that’s due to the unexpected exponential growth in the Myspace community in the last two years or the programmers decision to give users the flexibility to modify and personalize their profiles in so many different ways, I’m not sure. Also in the year, the amount of phishing and spamming has lessened the effectiveness of genuine band promotion. It seems in the last few weeks a lot of those things have been cleared up somewhat, but it’ll be interesting to see how long it will take the spammers to adapt to the updated programming.
Brandon: What is the magic of Myspace that old people seam totally oblivious to?
Derek: The magic of Myspace is the same thing that old people always have an aversion to: change. It’s not a fad that is big for now that will quickly go away. Myspace has completely changed the music industry. It’s conceivable that Myspace will eventually be outdone by a more efficient, slicker competitor. Regardless, it is not the same environment anymore. The rules are completely different. And it will never be like it was again.
When something like Myspace comes around and makes promotion so much more efficient and practical, it makes it impossible to revert back to the old promotion tools which would consist of starving in a van for a year at a time as you drive across the country playing to 50 people a night. Myspace has eliminated the need to ever do that again. It’s now possible to advertise your band to a geographic area for months before you ever get there. And if you market yourself properly and have a product with appeal to that market, you will have a following when you play there the first time.
Older people might not ever realize the true magic of Myspace because the bands they grew up with and loved were discovered with out it. They have this mentality that you should be required to “pay your dues” and earn fans one at a time through live performances. To use Myspace or something similar is cheating to them. Whether that generation as a whole will ever accept Myspace as the breakthrough in promotion tools that it is, and use it to it’s potential is yet to be seen. As with any major change in an industry, the fact that older people are less receptive to that change makes the environment more profitable and beneficial to those of us who embrace the change and learn how to use it to accomplish our goals and musicians, businesses, or whatever else. The only thing we can learn now is that as our generation gets older, there will undoubtedly be another huge change in the industry. And when that happens we have to be quick to embrace it and not be left clinging onto our preconceived notions of how business should be done while the younger generations do what comes natural with youth, and they adapt to the change.
Special thanks to Derek Pearson of Promise To Burn for sharing some insight into why he thinks that Myspace.com is the single most powerful marketing tool bands have.