Even the Arctic Monkeys aren’t a MySpace Band. Honest!

To follow up on my posting the other day, here’s more on the Arctic Monkeys’ use of the internet to rise to fame. And, oh yeah, massive protestations against the notion that MySpace had anything to do with it:

It is on the internet, too, that the implications of the Arctic Monkeys’ success seem most profound. It appears to invert the music industry’s long-held fears of free-music-based, web-led meltdown. Instead, internet file-sharing and discussion built a grass-roots movement of fans for the Arctic Monkeys’ music. This practice has been institutionalised, and perverted, by MySpace.com, the massive website where individuals and bands such as the Arctic Monkeys accumulate “friends”, who support and debate their activities. Rupert Murdoch’s buy-out of the company shows the way this briefly democratic set-up is likely to go.

The implications of industry-bypassing channels seem enormous. Most commentators see the Arctic Monkeys’ hit as its first above-ground eruption, the main reason their success this year is so crucial. The band themselves, however, beg to differ. In fact, they find the idea appalling.

“Somebody said to us, ‘I saw your profile on MySpace,’ ” sniffed drummer Matt Helders to US website prefixmag.com. “I said, ‘I don’t even know what MySpace is.’ [When we went to No. 1 in England] we were on the news and radio about how Myspace has helped us.

But that’s just the perfect example of some-one who doesn’t know what the f— they’re talking about.”

Just for the record, I find MySpace too ugly to look at and don’t spend time there if I can avoid it, but it’s more than a little interesting to see the conflation between the internet and MySpace, and also to see a band that has benefited from the net so much nonetheless seek to distance themselves from it.

Use MySpace, Get Your University in Trouble with the NCAA!

You’re on MySpace. You’ve got fans. They contact you through your site. That’s the point, right? Unless you’re a high school basketball star, that is. Then it’s a NCAA recruiting violation:

“Fans are not allowed to interact with recruitable student athletes,” Kentucky athletics spokesman Scott Stricklin said Wednesday. “We had to report that to the NCAA.”

“Not a MySpace Band:” Internet fans are the new 13-year-old girls

When I was 13 and in love with a lot of pop bands, I would occassionally read interviews with them where they said things like “at least we don’t appeal to 13 year old girls” or “we want to appeal to more than 13 year old girls.” I got the message — REAL bands didn’t have fans like me. When I met the internet, one of the first thoughts I had was that if it had been there when I was a 13 year old girl, I’d have been so empowered as a music fan by being able to hide my age. I’d have passed for an older teen at least, and would have been respected in ways I couldn’t be in person.

But now I see that the new ’13 year old girls’ are internet users. What’s worse than having 13 year old girl fans? Having… INTERNET fans. Yep, if that’s where your hype begins, then you’re really suspect. Witness this article in which Canadian band Hawthorne Heights responds to the charge that they are “a MySpace band.”

Bucciarelli’s agitation seems warranted, as most people who bash Hawthorne Heights claim that they’re a “MySpace band” who only got popular via the internet:

“It might account for a fraction of our success,” Bucciarelli reasons. “It seems that every interview we do we get people asking us about MySpace and it being the reason behind our success, and to do that is to completely ignore that we toured for three straight years.

Note that getting popular through MySpace is constructed as a charge that merits “agitation” rather than, oh, pride? How about “yeah, we’ve been really good at combining MySpace with touring. It’s worked great for us.”

Now I have nothing against Hawthorne Heights, I haven’t heard them but kinda like their Bronte-esque 19th Century name (or is it the name of a gated community somewhere in a Neal Stephenson novel?). I choose it as an example of a phenomenon where people assume there are two kinds of fans (1) the REAL ones that you earn through [fill in form of traditional fan-garnering here] and (2) the internet ones. As though they were two distinct sets of individuals.

Last spring I noticed a lot of backlash against The Arctic Monkeys, word was their rise was based entirely on “internet hype” — what could be more suspect? This article from Boston.com outlines how the internet drove their success:

No packaging. No pitching. No payola. The notion of a band finding a fan without the machinations of middlemen inspires utopian visions of art uncorrupted, a power-to-the-people model of music making and consuming. But while Web-generated hype may be more credible than the carefully crafted fluff coming out of boardrooms, it isn’t without its pitfalls.

The pitfalls? Online fans can… CLICK ELSEWHERE JUST AS EASILY! Which, as the article points out, makes them pretty much like the record labels. And as I might add, suspiciously similar to those mythic “offline fans.”

And who are the offline fans these days? How many fans who pay no attention to a band’s online presence are left? I would like to see some real figures on what percentage of people who see live music and buy cds are true “offline fans” getting turned on to music only through the timeworn networks of radio, tv, record stores and friends. Cuz I’m guessing that just about every band who makes it these days is picking up a seriously healthy chunk of their listeners through the internet. Maybe dissing them isn’t such a good approach.

Director Kevin Smith loves his online fans

Here’s an interesting article in the Washington Post by Desson Thomson about Clerks II director Kevin Smith’s online interaction with his fans:

No other filmmaker has made it his business to nurture, kibitz with, heckle and engage his fans on such an intimate, day-to-day basis.

How many artists of any stripe have? His webboards have well over a million posts: http://viewaskew.com/theboard/, he’s got a blog: http://www.silentbobspeaks.com/, he’s got 30,000 friends on MySpace, and he’s on Flickr. Now there’s someone who’s making the most of the web. But missing entirely from the article is any mention of money. Is this all a labor of love? A quest for self-validation? Or is it also part of a web-savvy business model?

The article focuses on the support he receives. On webboards:

‘So at 2 in the morning, if I wake up and I’m, like, I suck, and I’m alone in the world, I can jump on there and have somebody be, like, I like what you do, and sleep better?

On MySpace:

“Who knew that I would be so desperate for friends that I would spend at least two to three hours every day approving friends?”

The article also addresses the willingness to hear criticism and flaming that his approach entails. I was particularly interested in his solution to the flaming:

He also now charges a lifetime fee of $2 to post on his Web sites. (The proceeds go to a rape counseling organization.) It seems to have done the trick, he says, and allowed him to do what he loves best — with less turbulence.