Hey, check out http://www.myspace.com/shareefalisongwriter, tell me what you see. Error message? Huh. Try http://www.myspace.com/radicalfolksonomy. Same thing? Good. That’s because I have officially left MySpace, I hope for the last time.
Like many, I had a personal MySpace back in 2006 before Facebook emerged as the clear frontrunner in social networking sites. Back when there weren’t really any functions, just simple friend connections and profiles. It was tolerable then, plus there were some friends I had that only used one or the other. Anyway, I deleted that profile long ago. But somehow when I started making music again in 2008, I was lured back. I’m not sure why; maybe because of the free music hosting, even though I was already doing that on my site, or maybe because I wanted to network with other musicians but didn’t know any of them well enough yet to friend them on Facebook. Anyway, things had definitely taken a turn for the worse; the site was ever more cluttered with ads and awful design, and despite my computer having gotten better it ran way way slower. But I tried to suck it up and just deal, because there was this notion that you just had to have a MySpace as a musician, as exemplified in this CD Baby article (whose opinion I tend to respect).
For at least the last year, I’d held onto these two MySpace pages, but dreaded the thought of having to deal with them, and with good reason. Every operation on the site was a huge ordeal, and I’d often spend upwards of an hour just trying to add my latest shows, tweak my bio or upload a new track. Then, in August, I changed the name of the page to something like “Shareef Ali EP RELEASE Sept. 1st w/ Mark Matos” or something like that, which people do all the time. However, months after the release, I found it impossible to change it back. At this point, I decided that having a MySpace page that would be forever promoting a show that happened over six months ago was more of a liability than an asset. So fuck it, I said. Unsurprisingly, deleting my MySpace page was a lot more difficult than it needed to be.
There is no function that MySpace performs that another free site or service doesn’t do better. I am connected with just about every other local musician I know on Facebook, and have a nice clean artist profile there. I use Bandcamp for all the heavy lifting when it comes to free music hosting as well as digital music sales. I host images on Flickr. I blog here on WordPress. And a Google search for either “Shareef Ali” or “Radical Folksonomy” easily returns the right results (nevermind that other Shareef Ali in New York, who beat me to the punch on myspace.com/shareefali anyway). The CD Baby article says that many venues and press folks will use the MySpace page over the official website–but see, I don’t want them to do that, because MySpace looks like total shit, and they can’t if there isn’t one.
There is just one circumstance that gives me pause here and makes me wonder if I made the right decision. A few months ago, an apparent stranger bought both the band’s EP and my solo demo off of Bandcamp. I emailed my sincere thanks, and asked where he heard my music, as I am frankly unaccustomed to selling CDs to people I’ve never met. Turns out he had randomly seen me perform at Bazaar Cafe right when I was first starting to play out again. He didn’t know me, but looked me up later, found my MySpace and bookmarked it. A year and a half later, while clearing out his old bookmarks, he followed the breadcrumb trail to Bandcamp and bought the albums. Needless to say, I was surprised and gratified. I’ll say this much: I’m glad I didn’t delete my MySpace before this happened. Still, I highly doubt there’s another person out there who has my MySpace bookmarked and who would have bought my music but won’t be able to now that I’ve deleted my profile. And if a similar circumstance arises in the future, I feel pretty sure that someone who looks me up will end up bookmarking one of my other online presences.
Would I ever go back? The only reason I can imagine is in order to be able to message other bands/venues etc. that only communicate through MySpace, though honestly that’s becoming less and less common, and eventually I hope it will just come to an end. It’s just so abundantly obvious that MySpace couldn’t give two shits about artists’ or any other users’ experience, so I’d really rather not contribute to them having any advertising value at all. There are venues that I choose not to deal with because of how they do business, so why should websites be any different? Fuck ’em, I don’t need ’em. At some point, artists just have to say no to incompetence.
ADDENDUM: Just one more thought. For those who would advocate keeping a MySpace profile, remember that there is an opportunity cost. There are about three thousand other things I could be doing for promotion that would probably be as or more effective and that don’t end with me tearing my hair out.