The Bay's Top Ten on MySpace
By Ty Callister
Almost a decade ago, Napster scared the living shit out of the music industry (or at least the suits at the top of it). But those who saw the web as the perfect medium to promote music embraced the internet. Yes, it could still be used to pirate music, but it could also be used as an unprecedented tool for promoting an artist and networking with clubs and other artists, and this in turn could actually help an artist sell music.
Myspace may be even more influential in the music industry than Napster was and it proves that the nexus of music, technology and business is still intact.
A band’s Myspace is it's lifeline -- where they post songs, tour dates, band announcements, and—the most revolutionary part—provide a space where fans can post comments and see their own name and words on their favorite artist’s page. It’s also a chance for fans to get all mushy and emo with their favorite artist… in a digital kind of way.
Fans have streamed the songs of the most popular Myspace artists millions of times. But it’s not always the most popular artists on MTV or Clear Channel who are the most popular artists on Myspace. I investigated the top ten Bay Area artists per number of Myspace hits, found some artists I recognized and some I hadn’t heard of, interviewed a couple of them, and even picked some new “Myspace friends” in the process.
# 1. Secondhand Serenade
Location: Menlo Park
Best Blog Post Title: “Help Me Name My Album.”
Best Fan Comment: “All of these ideas suck.” – Brittinea, Oceanside, California
John Vesley, the singer-songwriter known as Secondhand Serenade, is from Menlo Park, California just north of San Jose. But indie record label owner Daniel Glass was blown away when he caught the unsigned Secondhand Serenade playing to a sizeable crowd all the way in Brooklyn, New York.
“I asked the people where they heard about him,” Glass explains. “And they said Myspace.”
Glass signed Secondhand Serenade to Glassnote Entertainment Group shortly after, hoping to build upon the intimacy Vesley was already sharing with fans across the country.
“He’s an artist who identifies and connects with fans,” Glass says. “It’s something he’s worked very hard for in a pure way.”
Secondhand Serenade manager, Chris Maltese, admits that Secondhand Serenade’s entire career has been built upon Myspace, and that he and Vesley spend several hours a day monitoring the page.
“It’s been revolutionary,” he says. “But I think it’s just now getting started.”
One of the only complaints artists have about Myspace is the way in which comment boards meant for the fans are instead used to advertise other bands or products.
“I think fans don’t like it,” Glass says. “It might work in other genres, but not for music. I think it’s an unfair invasion.”
Maltese also acknowledges the ephemeral nature of music industry mediums.
“If you look at the course of music history, there’s really not one format that sticks around forever,” he says. “Will Myspace eventually die out? Yes.”
But Glass points out that fans still value the artistic merit of music, no matter what the technological avenue.
“It still comes down to: ‘can the artist deliver live?’ You can’t fool people.”
# 2. E-40
Best Blog Post: “E-40 Death Rumors FALSE”
Best Fan Comment: “hit me up let's do a song.”
The Bay… er, I mean Yay Area rapper E-40 has that perfect mix of mainstream popularity and hometown street cred. With a career of fifteen years under his belt, he finally landed his most popular hit, “Tell Me When To Go,” and helped shine the spotlight on the Yay Area’s Hyphy movement.
Neither E-40 nor his homies responded to calls for comment. I guess being the number two Bay Area Myspace artist is not big news for the E-man. Or maybe he was just bitter about being second to some emo kid from Menlo Park. I would be too. (No hard feelings, E.)
Vallejo’s Sick Wid It Records, an indie label that’s had time to build intimacy with fans since 1989, is probably the driving engine behind E-40’s current Myspace popularity. Not to mention, the rapper’s Myspace page has more dope videos and fly chicks than an MTV Jams marathon.
# 3. The Pack
Best Blog Post: “The PackTV Is Here!”
Best Fan Comment: “I'm a big fan of you guy's. I love all your guys' songs! But the only problem is that I can't find the song ‘Booty Bounce Boppa’ anywhere!” —Danny, “Da No-Town,” California.
Much like Secondhand Serenade, it was perhaps the internet alone that bolstered The Pack’s initial rise to fame. The Berkeley-based rap group’s music video for the song “Vans” exploded on Myspace and YouTube far before finally landing on MTV (albeit slightly edited due to MTV’s policy against advertisements in videos. The video impressed Bay Area rapper Too Short who in turn helped score them a deal with Jive Records.
One member of The Pack, Young L, says that the reason Myspace is so popular is the fact that each person can create his or her own page where he or she is the star.
“Everyone wants to be noticed. Everyone wants to be a celebrity, a model, a rap artist,” he says. “Myspace is a way for people to do it for real, or at least look like it.”
Young L also points out that even after the fall of Napster, nefarious downloading happens on Myspace. He says that despite the fact that most artists only allow fans to stream the songs on the page rather than download them, some people have figured out a way to download the songs anyway. Go figure. But even with that going on, L insists that Myspace is important.
“It’s a good networking tool that’s giving opportunities to artists,” he says.
Myspace, like anywhere on the internet, attracts a lot of superficial garbage. Young L points out that because it’s a free medium, Myspace is saturated with redundant posts.
“I look at my picture comments,” he says. “But as for the rest, everyone’s pretty much saying the same thing.”
But L stresses the importance of a free Myspace.
“I hope it doesn’t come to the point where people have to pay for it,” he says. “It would change the whole thing.”
#4. Counting Crows
Random Quote From Their Page: “This is the OFFICIAL myspace page. Run by the band. We love you, you love us, but please don't ask… for backstage passes…”
Best Fan Comment: “I was surfing through myspace the other day and some kid has your face permanently tatoo'd down his back!”—Anne, Waltham, Massachusetts.
#5. Mistah F.A.B.
Best Blog Post Title: Ghost Ridin’ Grandma
Best Fan Comment: “kuzz yo shit slap bruh.” —K, East Oakland, California
# 6. NOFX
Location: San Francisco
Random Quote From Their Page: “What do rabbits shooting unhatched chicken babies out of their asses, Jewish people and bloody doorknobs have in common?”
Best Fan Comment: “hippie pc liberal know it all doush bags formaly known as NOFX.” –“Vandal,” California
# 7. Too $hort
Random Hot Chick On His Friends List: Julia Bond
Best Fan Comment: “your soooooo sexy when you look mean.” —Mrs. Go Getta, Michigan.
# 8. Goapele
Best Fan Comment: “I was at that concert.. haha.. Hopefully you can see my ass in the dvd. Holla!!” – Dwight, Philippines
2nd Best Fan Comment: “write me back sometime at, firstname.lastname@example.org.” -- Beau, Santa Maria, California
# 9. DJ Shadow
Location: The Bay Area, California
Random Quote From His Blog: “We had to pull some shows (see tour section). Why, you're asking? Because SOMEBODY couldn't get their passport and isn't allowed to leave the country due to...shall we say...certain improprieties in the past. (Keep it gangsta, Keak! [http://www.myspace.com/keakdasneak] We'll do it next time bruh- I got your back like a slipmat, as Nump would say)”
Best Fan Comment: “Hong Kong is starved of quality DJs.” – DJ Nipper, Hong Kong
Best Blog Post: Scweez Bobble Head
Best Fan Comment: “DAT WOULD BE DUMMii ASS KOO iiF YOU DiiD DO iiT iiN DEE BAY N AT DEE VALLEY CAUSE ii LiiVE CLOSE TAH MODESTO SO DAT WOULD BE SUPER DEE DUMMY KOO!!” –“Little One”