Shout Out to Myspace

AP Photo/News Sentinel, Jeff Adkins

Instagram and Twitter get all the glory, and the name Myspace elicits eye-rolls or shivers of embarrassment, if it gets any reaction at all. For those of us who lived through its heyday, Myspace is shorthand for the past, but you can’t underestimate its impact. For the music site Stereogum, Michael Tedder produced an epic oral history to document Myspace’s rise and fall, and more importantly, its myriad achievements in the musical sphere.

Back when Myspace launched in 2003, it was novel. People flocked to it to find music and friends who shared their musical passions. Bands like Sherwood and Taking Back Sunday used it to post demos and others, like Arctic Monkeys and Lilly Allen, used it to build their audiences. Some bands found major label contracts this way. The site connected people and changed the way the world shared and listened to music. Then the world changed and the site got usurped by the next new thing. Myspace tried in vain to resurrect itself.  Its new management made some egregious errors in the process. “It came to light that Myspace’s new owners ‘lost’ all of the music it hosted from its inception in 2003 through 2015,” Tedder writes, “reportedly misplacing more than 50 million MP3s from upwards of 14 million artists, in essence completely erasing a significant part of this century’s cultural canon.” But, he points out, “there was a time when Myspace was very much alive, and very much the center of many people’s lives.” Maybe one day enough time will pass to warrant an oral history of Stereogum and the other so-called music blogs that changed the landscape in the early 2000s. For now, this oral history is a fun long walk down memory lane:

Nate Henry [Sherwood]: I think I still have it on video somewhere, we’re on tour and we got a message from Tom from Myspace. Myspace had featured us on the front page. Back in the day they used to have a band on the corner when you logged in to the website. Someone texted me, “Dude, you’re on the front page of Myspace,” and I logged in and then shortly thereafter Tom from Myspace had messaged us. He was like, “Hey, I see you guys are climbing the unsigned charts on Myspace.” We thought it was spam and then we look and it’s like “No, this is the real Tom.” So we started booking some shows through LA a couple months later, and then we went through there and hung out with Tom and everyone at the label, and Tom kinda takes us on this Myspace tour and he was like, “I wanna sign your band.”

Dan Epand [Nico Vega]: I remember Sherwood had millions of followers, yet outside of Myspace nobody knew who they were. And just being like, “Well, that doesn’t feel authentic.” We didn’t want to do that. It never felt like it translated to real fans.

Jordyn Taylor [Artist]: As we continued, after “Strong” took off, we got the interest of Myspace Records. When I met with Myspace, they were offering a development sort of deal. But we were kind of past that. I had my fanbase. They were like, “Hey, so there’s not much we can do on our platform for you, but let’s send you up to Interscope.” So me being naive to the music industry — my dad was managing me — they had us set up a meeting with Jimmy Iovine and we’re like, “Who?” which is the fucking craziest thing now.

Nate Henry: We were, at the time, talking to several smaller labels, and we were just like, “Man, there’s nothing like Myspace, why wouldn’t we?” Looking back, I think it was a bad association. It’d be like a band getting signed to Coca-Cola Records. It’s just in the band’s best interest to keep the corporate part of it out of there, so I wish we would have negotiated, “Hey, we’ll release a record, but let’s not call it Myspace Records.” I think, at the end of the day, people look to bands and arts and music, they want it to sort of be … I don’t know if punk rock is the right word, but they don’t like it when it’s corporate. But we were young and hungry and we also didn’t wanna tell Tom “no” because at that time he had 200 million friends. So we took the good with the bad, but I think the bad was that we were gonna be lumped in with the Myspace brand from then on out, and when it died, we were gonna go down with it.

J Scavo [General Manager, Myspace Records]: The site was clearly music-focused. Tom was a music fan at heart. And he wanted to sign bands and use the platform to really make the case for being the major spine in record campaigns. He had a big forum that was at the time to help promote and develop these artists, and give them opportunities that they wouldn’t have elsewhere. He was our de facto head of A&R.

Jon Pikus [Senior Director of A&R, Myspace Records]: Any good A&R person evolved as technology evolved. Myspace was absolutely a valuable research tool and it only became better from 2006 to 2008. It became the go-to place to look for new artists. I think maybe up to 2005 or so, it was definitely a place you’d go to look, but not maybe the place. But it became the place by the time I was there.

J Scavo: In the ’90s, I managed bands and then I went to Hollywood Records to run their artist development department, and then I sort of saw the digital revolution on the horizon and I sought out a job that would give me some experience in that realm. And I got the job to be the General Manager and run Myspace’s joint venture label with Interscope. It was housed at Myspace, all the employees were Myspace, but if and when things went well, Interscope could upstream them. And they did upstream a few of the artists we worked on. Myspace Records was an idea that Tom had, I think at the urging of Interscope. When I got there, there was one employee who was really just an admin person. I think there were some artists that were signed. But there wasn’t much action ’til I got there and built the staff.

Josh Brooks [Marketing and Programming Chief for Myspace]: I was managing Queens Of The Stone Age and the Distillers and Melissa Auf Der Maur. But when my company was acquired by the Firm, I reconnected with two friends at Myspace. I knew Josh Berman and Jamie Kantrowitz, who grew up in the San Fernando Valley with me. And they showed me, “The one thing that’s connecting everyone here on Myspace is music, and we need someone who gets it and who has those relationships.” All my bands were already using Myspace, and all the people I knew were using the platform as well. Musicians were organically building their own audiences. So, when the opportunity came to be a part of that connective hub, I said, “Great!” I built out that group from just a handful of folks to about 25 by the time I left four years later.

Jon Pikus: I was at Interscope doing A&R for a little over two years and then my dear friend and mentor Nancy Walker brought me to Columbia Records and I had a good run there for eight years. I never really wanted to leave Columbia Records. What happened was the regime changed and all the people I was working with left around 2005. It was time for me to move on and I was trying to find a new opportunity and this Myspace thing came up. Basically, my manager said, “Myspace wants to start a record label. They don’t have any employees yet. It’s a joint venture with Interscope” — he knew my history with Interscope — and he said, “You’re the guy for this, but you have to go interview with Tom and get him to say yes.”

Josh Brooks: I joined Myspace about five months before the News Corp acquisition. The first year really was a honeymoon phase. It was great because we had access to some really interesting creative projects, and there was nothing in the market like us. Within News Corp, it was an eye-opening experience; social media was just starting, but the sharing of media, clips, music was something marketing teams were just beginning to grasp. The film studios were quick to use Myspace to launch film franchises like Paranormal ActivitySaw, and Borat. As time went on, financial targets and ad supported programs were prioritized, and that’s where the squirreliness of a big media company relationship comes into play.

Jon Pikus: I went to the old Myspace office in Santa Monica before they moved to Beverly Hills and sat with Tom. What I thought would be a quick half-hour meeting turned into three hours of him and I sitting together behind his desk surfing from one artist’s top eight to another. And he said, “I’d like you to be the guy and start this label.” So they hired me and pretty much gave me a laptop and a cubicle and said, “Start the label,” [Laughs] with no real parameters.

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