Jun 02, 2009, 06:23AM

No Seriously, We're Weird

How can bands prove their counterculture bonafides when their main forum for advertising, MySpace pages, are the product of an enormous corporate conglomerate?

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No other music website can take the place of MySpace Music. Not because MySpace Music is inherently better, or more famous, but precisely because no other music website can be as despicable as MySpace Music. While that might seem to make little sense, keep in mind that today’s counterculture is possibly the most irony-dependent ever. Almost nothing is taboo as long as one is self-aware, and no other website can provide bands the opportunity to so ostentatiously prove that they are self-aware than MySpace Music, where they can demonstrate their awareness of what MySpace has come to represent on its own forum.

So what is it that MySpace symbolizes in our culture? First, it’s owned by Rupert Murdoch, who made upwards of $30 million last year. The man is 78, thinks of all media in terms of marketing jargon, and has claimed he hopes to “tame the Internet.” He drops sound bites like, “I can go into restaurants and a whole table will get up and clap if they recognize me, because they love Fox News,” and, “I'm totally pro-immigration, though it would be nice if you could pick and choose your immigrants.” In other words, Murdoch himself represents the “man” of punk rock antagonism, the one who deserves to be “stuck to.” His NewsCorp has singlehandedly come to symbolize the corporatization of art, and even more depressingly, MySpace itself illustrates just how tacky, sloppy and corrupt that process can be.

Like the ghetto cousin of Facebook, MySpace combines social networking with overt marketing strategies, inadequately insecure servers, and over-the-top, cluttered aesthetics. While Facebook remains staunchly minimalistic and CEO Mark Zuckerberg remains (to some, frustratingly) unwilling to go public, MySpace has experimented with countless ways to sell advertisements, often at the cost of annoyance to users. This allows Facebook to gain credibility in the social networking field, but MySpace Music makes Facebook’s band pages look like a piddling attempt at competition. On any Google search, a band’s MySpace page will appear pages before the band’s Facebook page.

And it’s unlikely that Facebook will be able to keep up. Indie rock bands struggling to get a start have learned that publicists and journalists rely on MySpace Music, and not having a page is press suicide. But ironic, self-aware MySpace Music pages have become an art form, one that has become charged with the complex task of defining the band’s entire image. In fact, the art of proving that a band is self-aware on MySpace has become almost formulaic. Here are some traits of bands that maximize MySpace’s irony potential:

Messed-up formatting:
The HTML and CSS of a MySpace can be altered, and bands that are truly punk rock can place the elements of their page in virtually senseless patterns, making visitors play something like hide-and-go-seek just to find a photo of the band. It’s like saying, “It’s inevitable that you’ll listen to my MySpace, but you won’t enjoy it goddammit.” How cavalier.

Disturbing, absurd or senseless background image: Clowns, diapers, diamond skulls—these are all common background motifs for indie MySpace Music pages. If you’re suddenly absorbed in all of the naked woman legs invading the background, you might just forget you’re on MySpace.

Irreverently answered “General Info” column: MySpace Music provides bands a chance to list their influences and things that they “sound like.” You can bet that any band that says its influences are “getting sexy with finger paints” or simply places a GIF image of an erupting volcano for what it sounds like are not going to be your up-and-coming John Mayers.

Only on MySpace Music can the current music industry’s general trend of absurdism be seen so clearly. So what’s a band to do when there’s no major-label dream without selling out and not even will.i.am can be the next Bob Dylan? Break down structures, substitute them with shovelfuls of ironic Americana and be irreverent already. Because what’s more ironic than the fact that MySpace has become the forum?


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