Can Be Only One
Egghead business think-tank Jupiter Research sent one
of their MBAs to look at music promotion today, and the guy
affirmed what I’ve been suspecting for a while: MySpace is
the only thing that matters. For those of you who don’t have
teenage kids and/or reside under a rock somewhere, MySpace.com
is the wildly popular social-networking site where anybody
can put up a site for free. Last I heard it was getting more
hits than Google. Kids have sites, bands have sites, they
intermingle, and webs and groups and circles are created and
I’ve been telling every band I work with to focus on MySpace
for a while now. One indie musician described working the
MySpace angle to being at the South by Southwest festival
24/7 every single day—and it is. And it’s not limited to kids;
a modern classical composer recently put up a site and reported
that he’d had 60,000 hits on his page in one month. Suffice
it to say most modern classical composers don’t get that many
real-world looks in their entire lives.
Many bands give away at least one song on their page; all
of them (as far as I’ve seen) have a music player on their
page where surfers can at least listen to some of their material.
I encourage bands to give away or song or two—what’s better,
10,000 free copies of your song on iPods around the world,
or selling a measly 100 copies for 99 cents?
Getting back to the Jupiter Research guy. He looked at online
activity for the Black Eyed Peas on four music-related sites:
MySpace, Yahoo! Music, AOL Music or MTV.com. The BEP’s MySpace
page had hundreds of thousands of “friends” of the band, and
millions of hits and song plays. In contrast, mainstream music-media
sites registered similar activity only in the hundreds.
There’s been talk about MySpace’s demise. Part of it is the
inevitable backlash that will follow unqualified success;
part is the fear that Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., which just
bought MySpace from its originators, will screw it up. Inertia
is a pretty heavy thing. And there’s not really room for more
than one of these sites. How many eBays do you need? How many
Amazons? How many iTunes stores? How many MySpaces?
In some unrelated news, torture architect and U.S. Attorney
General Alberto Gonzalez met privately last week with representatives
of the major Internet-service companies (AOL, Google, Microsoft,
Comcast, and Verizon) and told them he wanted them to retain
all of their user data for at least two years, to help the
government in the “war on terror.” The subtext for this type
of meeting is “do it, or we’ll pass a law that requires you
to do it.” Sort of like how we got parental-guidance stickers
on CDs. It’s called governance by intimidation.
Internet companies generally only keep user data (temporary
Internet addresses, e-mail, instant messages, and Internet
phone logs) only for as long as necessary to deal with billing
and customer service issues. Then the info is dumped.
Gonzalez, of course, wants the data retained so he can look
at it, data-mine it, and track whatever whoever he deems to
be dangerous has been doing online. As you probably know,
we’re recently found out the Feds have quietly been doing
exactly this sort of thing with your telephone company’s records
for while. And this kind of snooping is of highly questionable
legality, just like warrantless wiretaps. And torture.
What makes this all the more perturbing is the administration’s
flip-flop on this. Until about a month ago, officials had
dismissed the idea of requiring Internet companies to keep
user records as legally problematic. Then a month ago, Gonzalez
started talking about the need to keep records as a tool for
fighting online child porn and stalking. Now, all of a sudden,
it’s important to fight all them nasty evildoers out there.
In your town. On your street. In your house!
Of course, the whole child-porn thing was a Trojan horse.
Without minimizing the problem of child porn or its effects,
notions of civil liberties, burdens of proof, and repaying
one’s debt to society tend to go flying out the window when
kids’ well-being is at issue. So you kick the door open with
child porn, and while everybody is standing there thinking
about it, rush the door with a trumped-up terrorism rap.
All of this is happening because we’re letting it happen.
Polls continue to show that, since 9/11, the majority of people
in this country have assumed a “that’s OK, I wasn’t using
my civil liberties anyway” attitude toward government snooping,
and I suppose that’s only natural. And the government knows
this all too well, and is willing to keep chipping away at
basic freedoms we’ve long taken for granted because nobody
has been able to stop it. Which leaves us with this Ben Franklin
quote: “They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary
security, deserve neither liberty or security.”
C. Rapp is an intellectual-property lawyer with offices in
Albany and Housatonic, Mass. He teaches art-and-entertainment
law at Albany Law School, and regularly appears as part of
the Copyright Forum on WAMC-FM’s Vox Pop program. Contact
info can be found at www.paulrapp.com.