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Sounding Off: Deryn Cullen

Is it time for MySpace to get down to business?

So many people trying to find, trying to be found, trying to stand out, be heard, be seen and be loved. With these dynamics, it's perhaps inevitable that manners on MySpace are often lacking, especially when the ultimate objective is fame and fortune, with music profiles often being the worst offenders. Because MySpace costs nothing to use, it has become something of an advertising mosh pit. It comes as no surprise that so many non-music users have disabled friend requests from bands — in fact, it's surprising that more haven't done so!

There are, of course, plenty of bands and musicians using the site for more noble purposes, looking to build a quality fan base and listenership, find band members, discover and perhaps collaborate with other musicians, and hopefully make friends along the way. Sadly, those artists who abuse the formula give those who don't a bad reputation and make the overall MySpace experience frustrating and messy. I refer to the megalomaniac spammers — those who mass-send thousands of identical comments consisting of 50 lines of "Listen to my songs!!!" or "Buy my album!!!" or similar. Then there are the friend junkies who use automated software to blast out thousands of untargeted friend requests at a time.

To some extent, we (my husband and I) count ourselves amongst the guilty. Although we are opposed to the mass sending of identical "Look at me!!!" messages or comments, we have tried out automated friend request software and have found it to be a useful and time-saving tool. Over the years that we have used MySpace, we have developed our own tactics for maximising its usefulness and finding the right people to add to our virtual friends list. We have streamlined and targeted our approach to adding new friends, who need to be people who are likely to appreciate our music — and people whose music we like, if they are also artists. It's still possible to target the right people using the aforementioned software, and it takes considerably less time. But, like any useful tool, it can be used for good or evil — and there's certainly no shortage of the latter.

MySpace has always banned the use of such tools, on the basis that it's strictly a social networking site, and is not intended for the promotion of business enterprises. Yet the site prides itself on the fact that it has helped several artists to launch their careers. And everyone knows that the career of a signed musician is a business enterprise. Furthermore, there is no doubt whatsoever that to generate quite so much buzz, so many plays of their tracks, and so many fans, these artists were not playing by the rules.

Another contradiction to the above mission statement is the partnership MySpace has cultivated with SnoCap, allowing artists to sell their music directly from their profiles. Is it not time for this giant enterprise to admit to being a business portal alongside being a social networking site and capitalise on that fact? If MySpace were to offer its own automated solutions to artists and/or film makers, surely it would be able to regulate the use of such tools far more effectively, as well as opening up yet another avenue of revenue generation for itself? This is by no means a novel idea — sites such as LinkedIn, Freewebs and scores of other networking portals offer both free and premium membership. By offering certain privileges to paid members, they are able to set their own restrictions on the use or abuse of these benefits and seem far less plagued by nuisance users who hijack the site with unauthorised software and code.

Instead of embracing the direction social networking sites have organically taken on the Internet, MySpace takes the rather draconian and largely ineffectual approach of threatening to ban users who break the rules. A very small percentage of these users actually get banned, and within days they return with a new profile and the same aims. We can only hope that Mr Murdoch and his formidable team will wake up and smell the espresso sooner rather than later!  

About The Author

Deryn Cullen left the Rainbow Nation, South Africa, cello in hand, for the equally colourful Leeds, where she composes, records and teaches with her husband, Dan.