This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending (half of) Podcamp Pittsburgh 4, an "unconference" on blogging, podcasting and social media. One of the sessions I sat in on dealt with the use of social media in music marketing; it was moderated by Michael Sorg (of, among other things, Western Pa Juggalos) and featured input from Ryan Cassidy of hip hop locals Basick Sickness and Walt Ribeiro, "the Internet's music teacher."
One of the ideas that was set forth early on -- to no one's surprise -- was that Myspace, while not dead, is on the way out. It's passe, nearing obsolescence. The panelists pointed out the numerous other social media sites they use more regularly at this point to promote their work: Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, etc.
The question I began thinking about after the session was: if we accept that Myspace is -- or soon will be -- no longer viable (because fans aren't logging in, and therefore aren't getting updates from the bands they like), what's next?
Myspace is, as anyone who's been in a band can tell you, the killer app for music promotion: It hosts music files for streaming (but not download). It allows you to show (in a few different ways) what other acts you associate yourself with. It lets you post videos and photos of your band. It allows you to send bulletins to your fans when you have a show coming up or an album coming out.
I'm not defending Myspace, of course -- there are a load of reasons people are moving away from it. But it's fair to say, I think, that in moving away from Myspace as SM site of choice for musicians, we're taking a step backward. While there are programs to help you streamline the process with regard to your use of SM sites (updating your Twitter and Facebook at once, for example, and feeding your Twitter into a widget on your Myspace page) but overall, it's a lot harder to keep up with one's online presence when it's become so diffuse.
Where one used to have to just log into Myspace, upload a few photos and maybe a video, and make a quick bulletin letting folks know the band had a show coming up. Now with the entire set of sites oriented toward specific media, it's more like: Log into Youtube, upload video. Log into Facebook, upload photos. Make Facebook status update calling attention to new video on Youtube. Make Facebook invitataion for upcoming show. Log into Twitter, Tweet about video, tweet about upcoming show. Maybe go back to Myspace to send out a bulletin too, for the hangers-on over there. Head for last.fm to upload a few things there, too.
As social media becomes more diffuse, then, is online promotion becoming more of a full-time job? Is the ease of promotion that came with the Internet age disappearing with the proliferation of sites with a narrow focus? Will another site come along to take Myspace's place as the killer app for musicians, or will musicians have to start hiring PR people specifically for online promotion (and/or will this become the new province of the increasingly vestigial record label)? (Or, contrary to both of these options, will bands be able to "crowdsource" their PR work more in the form of ad hoc online street teams that start and maintain fan sites?)
Comments/ideas from musicians and/or promotion and/or social media types?