All Gareth David wanted to do was find a few friends. And if they were into indie rock, so much the better. He had just enrolled at Cardiff University, and he didn’t know anyone at all. Fortunately, he had just discovered Myspace right before heading out to university.
“[Myspace] had a really amazing ability to search for bands,” he remembers. “So just searching for people with Pavement in their profile who were online. It just seemed like such a cool thing to be doing. It didn’t seem strange, or like there was any ulterior motive to trying to meet people, you literally did just want to talk about bands and trade recommendations and that sort of stuff.”
David ended up making plenty of friends who shared his taste in music. Some of those friends formed Los Campesinos!, a band that had a Myspace page before they had any songs. He eventually talked his way into singing for them. After posting a demo to their Myspace page, Los Campesinos! were flooded with offers from record labels around the world. Their official debut Hold On Now, Youngster… would arrive in 2008; several more albums and world tours would follow, and more than a decade later Los Campesinos! have become a reliable source of anxious, energetic indie pop. Not too shabby for an outing that David admits might have just been a summer fling if not for Myspace.
“We had no ambition. We didn’t think what we were doing would be popular, we didn’t do it to be popular. We really just kicked on with the band because we had friends who were in bands and would see them playing gigs and having so much fun, and I think we thought that we could do it a bit better,” he says. “I cannot imagine us sending demos to record companies. Myspace did all that work for us. We wouldn’t have dreamt of booking a gig in London. That just wouldn’t have happened. I think I can say, hand on heart, that without Myspace, we definitely wouldn’t have had the career we’ve had. We owe everything to Myspace.”
He’s far from alone in that sentiment. Like white belts and orange cans of Sparks, Myspace so thoroughly defined the way the ’00s looked, sounded and felt that it was probably destined to not make it out of the decade alive, even if, technically, a website continues to exist at the www.myspace.com domain. But at Myspace’s height — roughly 2005 through 2008 — the website changed the way artists and fans found each other and how record labels and buzz-seeking blogs found fresh meat. Artists like Panic! At The Disco, Arctic Monkeys, Soulja Boy, Lily Allen, and Colbie Caillat would become pop stars in part because of their presence on the site, whereas artists such as Los Campesinos! or Nicole Atkins would eventually settle into cult careers after navigating through the sudden, unexpected attention the site could often generate. But not every artist found world-beating success through the site. No matter how hard they tried.
It came to light that Myspace’s new owners “lost” all of the music it hosted from its inception in 2003 through 2015, 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. What’s more, it took the company months to own up to their negligence, writing in a statement that “As a result of a server migration project, any photos, videos and audio files you uploaded more than three years ago may no longer be available on or from Myspace. We apologize for the inconvenience.” That no one even noticed that all their old songs were gone for months feels like yet another death rattle for a company that can’t stop dying. (The internet archivist Jason Scott discovered a collection of more than “490,000 MP3 files from Myspace.com,” noting that “There is no other information about the origin of this collection at this time.”)
But there was a time when Myspace was very much alive, and very much the center of many people’s lives. As a new decade begins, it seems worthwhile to look back at the website that defined not just the previous era, but the way we continue to consume and discuss music online, in order to contemplate both how we got to our present moment and what we have lost along the way. In Stereogum’s oral history of Myspace Music, twenty artists and former Myspace executives discuss their experience both using and working on the site, living through the bubble years, and why it couldn’t last forever.
(The following quotes were lightly edited for concision and clarity.)
Credit: Gareth Davies/Getty Images
2003: A Space Of One’s Own
For better and for worse, social media has become a foundational element of modern life. So much so that it feels strange to remember that it was only 17 years ago when most people first heard the term “social network.” There were a few early precursors in this arena, such as the late ’90s networking site SixDegrees.com, the punk and indie-rock centric hook-up facilitator Makeoutclub, and profile-driven online dating services such as Nerve. Friendster, generally considered the first major social network, debuted in 2002 and quickly amassed three million followers within a few months, as well as widespread media attention. Additionally, the rise of file-sharing services such as Napster, the slow spread of music-centric message boards, and the proliferation of upstart music publications such as Pitchfork and this website began to ease the stranglehold that MTV and radio had long exerted over popular music listening habits, setting the stage for a new generation of artists to rise to prominence.
In August of 2003, several employees at the internet marketing company eUniverse set out to create a more streamlined and user-friendly answer to Friendster. Chris DeWolfe, Myspace’s first CEO, and Tom Anderson, Myspace’s first President, completed the initial launch of Myspace in 10 days, and used eUniverse’s 20-million user mailing list to gain early notice. They were flanked by a team that included Chief Operating Officer Josh Berman, Chief Technology Officer Aber Whitcomb, and Senior Vice President Of International Corporate Development Colin Digario, amongst others. (Through various back channels, both Anderson and DeWolfe declined several interview requests for this feature.)
Users could arrange their top eight friends in whatever configuration they felt best represented their personal aesthetic; since all users were automatically linked to Anderson, he became known as Myspace’s First Friend and the photo of him grinning against a whiteboard became one of the most recognizable images of the ’00s.
Initially, DeWolfe was planning on charging users a fee, but eUniverse founder and chairman Brad Greenspan nixed this idea, arguing that a free model based around advertising would be more successful. Over the next few years, Myspace steadily increased in users.
Credit: Erik Freeland/Corbis via Getty Images
COLBIE CAILLAT [ARTIST]: I never went on music websites. I really wasn’t on the computer much. We lived in Southern California and we were more outdoorsy, like hiking and going to the beach. That whole Napster thing was going on and that’s how we — unfortunately, I hate to say it — were hearing about new music.
JOSH BROOKS [MARKETING AND PROGRAMMING CHIEF FOR MYSPACE]: Before Myspace, the digital ecosystem was essentially Napster, which came on the scene, quickly upturning the music biz. As a result, artists were frustrated that they weren’t getting paid, the labels were irate and went as far as to start suing college students. The US government was trying to figure out what the hell to do with it all. But none of that stuff was happening on Myspace. Instead, Myspace was building one of the first digital communities where people could connect around common things that they loved.
FRANK IERO [MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE]: The good thing about Myspace is it was super user-friendly. It seemed foolproof, and I was definitely a fool when it came to that kind of stuff. But I remember the things right before all of that. I remember super early on going to a Makeoutclub party in Boston, and I think we played a show for that, and for me it was like, “Oh, this is for people that just want to fuck each other.”
NICOLE ATKINS [ARTIST]: All my friends were hooking up with dudes with white belts on Friendster. But Myspace was the first time I ever posted my demos. I put them up and all of a sudden I had people from Spain writing to me about my music. I got a message from Mark Lanegan from Screaming Trees, and he was like, “I can’t get ‘Neptune City’ out of my head.” And I was like, “What the fuck?” It was crazy.
MICKEY AVALON [ARTIST]: Friendster came out and I thought it was a pretty lame idea. Then everyone was going to it like crack.
JOSH BROOKS: At the time, Myspace was the incubator for features that would one day become synonymous with SoundCloud, Pandora, Facebook, Spotify, Snapchat, Match, and Evite. That’s why Myspace worked — it was the only place where all these features existed in harmony. Plus, it was the first time and place where bands were communicating directly with their fans. That never happened before, except maybe through an email list or fan club.
KATE VOEGELE [ARTIST]: One of my fans, of which I didn’t have many back then because I was just starting to write songs and play shows, sent me a note that said, “You should make a Myspace profile.” I’m trying to remember if the fan even maybe made my profile for me. I was really excited because it just wasn’t something that existed. There wasn’t a Myspace before where you could share your music online. I literally just had a publicist that was emailing my stuff to A&R guys before that.
GARETH DAVID [LOS CAMPESINOS!]: Back then I probably was most into Pavement, Neutral Milk Hotel, Modest Mouse. If somebody had those three and then a fourth band, I’d be like, “Oh, who’s that? Who are the Decemberists? I have to listen to them,” that sort of thing. So yeah it was really great for that. I guess there was an element of posturing to it, because you’d have a list of 50 odd bands that you wanted everyone to know you liked, but it was also really organic and fun as well.
JOSH BROOKS: Listen, back in those days you would also have a “webmaster,” which is the only way you could have a website. Now, even the word “webmaster” is nutty. But with Myspace, the web was more accessible through drag-and-drop templates. Unknowingly, people learned basic HTML because they would put in code. The next thing you know, they’re dropping in a YouTube video, then pasting a Playlist.com player — all by copying and pasting code. And suddenly, the average person could communicate with a whole network of people, who also listed that their favorite band is the Arctic Monkeys, and their favorite movie is Airplane!. People could start going through the rabbit hole of Myspace and find other people across the world with similar interests.
NATE HENRY [SHERWOOD]: Our guitar player figured out that he could open up several tabs and send messages to people who were friends of other bands. So we started doing some of our own guerrilla marketing, just like, “Hey, you like the band Copeland, check out our band.” And to this day, we joke that we sort of hacked the system with Purevolume. They reset their charts at midnight every night on their top 10 bands. So we would go to every computer in the college library and get our plays going so we would creep up on the top of the charts, and then we would stay number 1 all day long because people were like, “Oh, I’ll check out this band.” There wasn’t a ton of bands on there, so all you have to do is give yourself a little head start and you’ll stay in the top. At the time, Purevolume was our bread and butter, and then we kinda started supplementing some of our promotion with Myspace.
JOHN NOLAN [TAKING BACK SUNDAY/STRAYLIGHT RUN]: I think that was kind of the beginning of what we have now, where bands are just expected to have a social media presence and are pretty accessible to fans. That was the first step towards that. At the time, I was like, “Oh, this is just the thing everyone is doing. I guess, you know, I’ll get on board with it.”
NICOLE ATKINS: Oh God, I remember feeling like I had to say just the right thing. Like, “Who are your top eight?,” OK, let’s show my musical influences with these top eight people. I think it was the Brian Jonestown Massacre, the Avett Brothers, My Morning Jacket, and Mark Lanegan, and Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. Something like that.
FRANK IERO: I think the first time we really recognized the power of social media was right around the time Thursday was being signed, Midtown was signed. Basically, all our friends from Jersey and Long Island were getting record deals. And My Chem had really just started. We recorded one song because that’s all we had the money for at that point. And we put it up on Myspace immediately and were like, “Hey listen, we’re gonna do a record soon once we get the money. But this is like a sneak preview kind of thing,” and once we put that up, there were literally major label A&Rs calling the practice studio. How they got the number for the practice studio, I have no idea.
NATE HENRY: Some of the guys were like, “Hey, do I enroll for classes next quarter or do I not enroll for classes next quarter, what are we doing?” So Myspace became this thing where we could promote the band 24/7. If somebody didn’t have class that day, they could go to the library for three hours and message people on Myspace and try to get the ball rolling. I think we were so eager to tour and thought that we could make it happen so much faster because we had this tool.
MICKEY AVALON: I didn’t really use many dating sites, that wasn’t my style. I’d meet chicks in real life. But then I was living in a sober living house and just lonely and bored I guess, so I talked to a bunch of chicks on there and ended up cheating on my girlfriend. My chick got all bummed out, so that sucked. And then Myspace came along.
MAURO REMIDDI [SUNNY DAY SETS FIRE/PORCELAIN RAFT]: My first band back in London, which was called Sunny Day Sets Fire, one of the members of the band, Onyee, was taking care of all the internet stuff, and I remember her being like, “You have no idea, there’s this new platform called Myspace,” and I just didn’t care. When the band ended and I started my new project, Porcelain Raft, I just thought, you know, it would be a good idea if I put my music online, but I had no expectation at all. My idea was to find gigs, not even labels or stuff.
KATE VOEGELE: I started to see people were connecting with me and writing me messages, and that they could become my friend and they could tell their friend and I could see the viral aspect of it. That’s when I started to ramp up more and really use it. I was still in high school too, so I was a full-time student, playing shows on the weekend or whenever I could. When I really started to connect with fans on Myspace was my first year of college, right around when Myspace was probably at its height.
FRANK IERO: I never, ever, in my life had a conversation with another band like, “Oh, what’s your social media presence like?” You’d sound like a fuckin’ narc.
PATRICK STICKLES [TITUS ANDRONICUS]: I used to write a lot of Myspace blogs. You won’t find that anywhere now. Thank God. Probably some cringe-worthy teenage feelings on there.
Credit: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images
2005-2006: Boom Times
Just two years after launching, Myspace was one of the most popular websites in the world. According to NPR, it had “outpaced online giants such as Yahoo and Google” in traffic by 2006, at one point adding 250,000 new users a day. Facebook launched in 2004, but its user base was limited to college students until 2006. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg met with DeWolfe about an acquisition deal in 2005, but DeWolfe walked away from Zuckerberg’s $75 million offer.
Viacom, the multimedia giant that owns, amongst other entities, BET Networks, MTV Networks, and Paramount Pictures, attempted to purchase Myspace in the summer of 2005, but was outbid by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, which purchased the website for $580 million. In response, Viacom’s stock value dropped by 20%, and the company’s chairman Sumner Redstone fired CEO Tom Freston for his failure to acquire Myspace.
In 2005, the new video player YouTube became available to use on Myspace, and users quickly began embedding their favorite music videos onto their page; it became very common to visit someone’s page and have several different videos play simultaneously. Worried about the threat to the nascent Myspace Videos service, Myspace banned YouTube for a brief period before reinstating it.
With the ability to upload songs, videos, and blog posts, young bands such as Taking Back Sunday and My Chemical Romance started finding large fan bases on the website, while total unknowns such as Lily Allen and Arctic Monkeys earned industry attention after their songs went viral on the site. Recognizing their influence and the importance of music to their users, Anderson founded Myspace Records, an initiative to foster the careers of artists that were developing a following on Myspace Music. Myspace Records was a partnership with Interscope Records, and some of the artists on the label, such as Kate Voegele and Mickey Avalon, would go on to be upstreamed to Interscope.
LILY ALLEN [ARTIST]: I probably took [the sudden popularity I found through Myspace] for granted. I didn’t really think of it as a special thing that was happening to me. I kind of assumed it was happening to everybody else as well.
JOHN NOLAN: One thing was the way that Taking Back Sunday came up, we still had an element of a DIY kind of ethic to the band. The first demos we put out, we were literally burning CDs and doing the artwork ourselves and printing it and doing everything by hand and having friends print our t-shirts. So I think that was part of that scene, and I think there was something that maybe translated a little bit to Myspace. There was already that mindset in that scene.
GARETH DAVID: With a lot of bands, you had a Myspace page before you had a song.
MICKEY AVALON: My mom ran [my Myspace account] for me at that point. She probably saw a bunch of weird shit that she didn’t need to see.
NATE HENRY: When we would tour, on our off days we would go to malls and sell records. We’d go with headphones and CD players and we’d walk up to kids who look like they went to shows, they had Converse shoes on or they had a band shirt, and we’d be like, “Hey, we’re in a band from California, do you wanna check out our band?” And we would sell sometimes anywhere from 20-50 CDs within a couple hours and we would get kicked out of malls all the time because security would catch on to us. We went to the Mall Of America on a day off in Minneapolis and I wanna say we sold like 80 CDs in four hours there. And to this day, people still message us on Facebook like, “Met you guys at a mall in 2004, been a fan ever since.” [Laughs] If we would have written better songs, we wouldn’t have had to force our mediocre songs onto people.
JORDYN TAYLOR [ARTIST]: My mom was really the one helping out with Myspace. A lot of people don’t know this, and they’re gonna be probably shocked to hear, but she was my social media manager. She would respond to a lot of people. A lot of people who thought they were talking to me directly were talking to my mom who was, at the time, probably in her early 40s. But she was cool! She was on it. And obviously they ran everything past me, but I just didn’t have the time. At the time, I was still going to school, I was trying to write music, I was going to dance rehearsals.
COLBIE CAILLAT: I think it was the end of 2005 and one of my high school best friends told me about the website. He was like, “Let’s put your songs up on this website called Myspace and people can hear your music and you can start growing a fanbase.” And I thought that was a bizarre, out-of-this-world thing. I think by the end of 2005 my friend put a few of my songs up on Myspace, including “Bubbly,” and that was my introduction to that website. I was 20.
JOHN NOLAN: By that point, your Myspace page was basically your website. That had been a huge thing at the beginning of Taking Back Sunday of like, “You gotta get your website together. That’s super important.” Then, gradually, that was almost starting to become antiquated. We came up at such an odd time that even the concept of the band’s website being a thing that everybody has to have and is a very important part of their existence was not that old by the early 2000s. And then you’re talking like seven years later, there’s this whole other thing. It seemed like it all moved very fast and I don’t know if it actually did or if it just felt that way ’cause I was older and not on the forefront of it.
MAURO REMIDDI: I started to receive calls from labels in America like, “Why don’t you play CMJ?” So, I went to CMJ just because of Myspace, and I think within a week I got signed with Secretly Canadian and had my booking agent. It was just completely unreal. A matter of fact, within a year I was supporting Blonde Redhead and I didn’t even have an album out.
GARETH DAVID: They had a Myspace before I was even in the band. They were Los Campesinos but without the exclamation mark. [Laughs] And that was with a different guy singing. They chose the band name; they took a candid picture on a really crappy old phone camera. And so I think we were all individually on Myspace but at that point, Tom [Bromley] for example, started the band before I had even met him. That was like Tom and Neil [Turner] and Ellen [Waddell] at the time. And then I heard the demos they recorded on the phone in the bedroom jamming and thought they were really good. And then I told Neil, “You’ve got to get rid of the other guy that’s singing because I’m gonna sing in your band now.” And it worked out! One week, the other guy couldn’t make the practice so I showed up with a glockenspiel.
JORDYN TAYLOR: When people were able to put songs onto their own pages, that’s when it really skyrocketed. “Strong” is a song that teenage girls could get into. It was a break-up song but kind of had some girl powerness to it. So it spoke to a lot of girls at the time.
JOHN NOLAN: What I would do personally with Myspace was periodically write these updates to fans and that would be a little more personal than what you’d put on a website update. I let people know how I was feeling on that tour or at that moment, if it was going well or if I was like worn out or if I was having a great time or whatever. I was always a little uncomfortable getting too personal, but I would get a little more personal than I would have otherwise.
COLBIE CAILLAT: I was replying to people that were saying they like my music, but I honestly had no idea what the website could do or that I was genuinely growing a fanbase. I wasn’t paying attention to it that much. My friends were so involved in the social media world, and they kept telling me, “Look how many followers you have,” and, “Look how far you’re starting to chart on the Unsigned Artists chart.” So they kinda made me aware of it and then once my parents were aware of it they were like, “Something might be happening and we should get you a manager to prepare you if your music takes off,” which honestly, I thought was the most bizarre thing. I had never played any shows besides like two acoustic shows and school talent shows, and I really didn’t expect that I could get a career from this website.
JOHN NOLAN: I always liked having the personal interaction with people, but what’s distracting, and I think less positive, was being able to see every person’s feedback when they weren’t talking directly to you. They’re critiquing a song you just put out or an album, and you’re able to read the thing. Everybody’s got opinions about everything you do. That was something I had to eventually just learn to ignore and not even look at. When that first started, it was very hard to not look at everything everybody was saying about you, because it was kind of a new fascinating thing that you could even do that. And there was always a ton of positive things, but you tend to always zero in on the one negative thing that somebody said.
COLBIE CAILLAT: Once I started seeing myself on the top of the Unsigned Artists chart and I kept getting higher and higher, I didn’t even know what to think. It was really exciting and really fun, and I loved getting all the messages of people saying they liked my songs from different countries all over the world, and watching how many plays my songs were getting, and then, once I hit #1, my manager instantly got calls from record labels and we had bidding wars. Honestly, it’s so hard to even explain because I wasn’t prepared for any of it; it just happened. I was this 20-year-old. I wasn’t out looking for record deals or hoping to get signed, I just wrote some songs for fun and I felt very lucky that this happened.
FRANK IERO: That’s the thing, every band that put their songs up on Myspace didn’t end up doing great career things. So, it didn’t happen for everyone.
COLBIE CAILLAT: It made it more difficult for me when I did get signed and I did go on tour because I wasn’t prepared in any way. I had major stage fright and I never imagined wanting to be an entertainer. I really liked singing privately and I liked writing songs because it was therapeutic. I didn’t want to perform, I didn’t want to do TV performances. I didn’t know how to talk to people in interviews because I was too quiet. I wish I had the desire years before, because I could have been preparing myself and getting myself ready for that situation. But instead, I had to learn in the spotlight which was bizarre and terrifying.
NATE HENRY: 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: 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: 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 Activity, Saw, 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.
J SCAVO: Myspace at the time had all the music and data any record label would ever want as far as what’s happening, what was hip, and what bands were breaking off there. They got a first look at some of the data.
JOSH BROOKS: There’s a video I have where Skrillex talks about finding Zedd on Myspace. Drake did his first online interview and spoke to how he used Myspace as a platform. And Scooter Braun found Justin Bieber’s mom on Myspace.
J SCAVO: I was able to give away the first album on the internet with Pennywise. Christina Milian was an existing personality that was out of a deal and one of our A&R guys brought her in. Kate Voegele was a singer-songwriter doing well on the platform. [Tom Anderson] was really into Sherwood and a bunch of emo or pop-punk stuff. I’d say Tom really liked pop music. Sometimes that took the form of four guys with guitars, sometimes that was more traditional pop. So I wouldn’t tag him in that only, but he was definitely rooted in that pop-punk/emo scene. At our later stages, we were in the race with the majors who had a lot more cash than we did for some great artists like Temper Trap and Ellie Goulding. There was a number of artists who went on to be super successful that we were battling with the big checkbooks. The only reason we got a seat at the table was passion and we had this platform that, at the time, was the place to go for great bands.
There’s a video I have where Skrillex talks about finding Zedd on Myspace. Drake did his first online interview and spoke to how he used Myspace as a platform. And Scooter Braun found Justin Bieber’s mom on Myspace.
JON PIKUS: We [Myspace Music] had a top artist chart that was segmented into major, indie, and unsigned. So if you were an A&R person, you could just look at the unsigned top artist chart which was the top 100 and anyone could look at that and see. It’s one of the reasons I believe Myspace Records was dreamt up in the first place, because we wanted to take advantage of the data that Myspace was generating and find artists that way, but also, of course, make sure they were great. I believe when that chart launched and A&R people started checking it, it changed by the hour, it was a real-time chart. What’s cool is the front-facing chart was of the top 100, but if you were a Myspace employee with admin privileges you could look at the back side of that chart, it went down to at least the top 1,000.
JOSH BROOKS: Not sure many folks know this, but YouTube got started on Myspace. People were embedding video content at a feverish rate to their profile pages. There were a lot of questions about if we should allow this. In the summer of 2006, DeWolfe and Tom blocked YouTube on Myspace for a short period of time — but decided to allow it back after a few weeks. The users spoke loud and it was the right thing to do.
JON PIKUS: If you were friends with another band, you could get them to put you into their top eight. In the early days of Myspace, being in a popular artist’s top eight was a real badge of honor and so that would give you great visibility because you were right there on their homepage. Another factor was Myspace Music, the music marketing division of Myspace, had an editorial staff that did features on the Myspace homepage and if they decided they loved an artist and featured them, they could cause all sorts of interest in that artist overnight.
Credit: Chris Weeks/WireImage
2007: Top Of The World
By 2007, Myspace was at the peak of its popularity and influence. It was valued at $12 billion, and had made serious inroads into the entertainment industry, sponsoring premieres for films such as Jackass Number Two and An Inconvenient Truth as part of their “Black Carpet” program. Even as the site grew, Anderson remained deeply involved in the site, especially when it came to selecting which artists to promote.
One of Myspace’s distinguishing features was that it allowed users to tweak the HTML coding of their page to customize it to their liking. This often resulted in garishly colored pages crowded with more graphics, songs, and videos than was prudent, rendering many pages unnavigable. As News Corp tried to monetize Myspace, the service began taking on more and more advertising, and also launched a number of applications and services, including karaoke features, a classified section and an instant messenger service. Some of the new services, though, were rushed to market and were consequently filled with bugs, which, combined with the increase in ads, made users’ pages slow to load. Phishing and malware were also quite common.
Credit: Michael Loccisano/FilmMagic
NATE HENRY: Dude, Tom was super cool. He was a little shy, a little reserved. I think he’s a pretty moral dude. He would debate stuff with us and make sure that we were thinking things through and had a good vision. But he was a really nice guy and he didn’t come across corporate or too cool for us or any of that. He seemed like just a normal dude who made a website that blew up and he was along for the ride.
KATE VOEGELE: It was just wild to me that Tom was even a real guy. He kind of had this Wizard Of Oz vibe where he was your first friend, but you’re like, “I don’t know if this is a real guy or if this is just a stock-photo picture of some dude,” you know?
JON PIKUS: Tom had this large office that he was never in because he preferred to work in a cubicle amongst all the coders. So if you ever wanted to talk to Tom, he’d be in his cubicle which was known as “The Bunker.” Oftentimes, he and I were the two people who were the last people to leave the Myspace office at night. Frequently we would stay until 11 o’clock at night. And oftentimes he’d be there later than me, so if I left at 11, his car would still be there. He had great taste in music. He certainly loved Weezer and that was one of the first things we bonded on, our mutual love of Weezer. He definitely loved the poppier side of alternative/indie rock.
SOULJA BOY [ARTIST]: I was recording music and burning CDs and passing them out at schools and through the city and stuff like that. I had a song called “I Got Me Some Bathing Apes” and I put it up and it got like 4 million plays in a week or something like that; something crazy. And then after that, I think I uploaded “Crank That” and a couple more songs.
JORDYN TAYLOR: Once we signed to Interscope, we kind of branded that I was the “Myspace Princess.”
GARETH DAVID: On the 29th of June we recorded the four-track demo in the local community center, which I think cost 100 pounds to record four tracks and mix them all in the space of eight hours. We recorded “You! Me! Dancing!,” “Death To Los Campesinos!,” “It Started With A Mixx,” and “Sweet Dreams Sweet Cheeks.” We went home, and I think Neil uploaded them to Myspace and I think Tom posted them on the Drowned In Sound message board. Within 24 hours, we had been offered a deal in Australia by a reputable Australian label. And within a week we’d received at least ten UK-based record labels, trying to be like, “Can we come and visit you? Do you have any gigs coming up?” And at that point, we didn’t have any gigs. Recording that demo was kind of the last thing we did before everyone went away for summer to work jobs, go on trips, things like that. I was working as a refuse collector on a garbage truck, and I would get phone calls from Tom. He was like, “Wichita got in touch with us,” and I was like, ‘What bands are on Wichita?’ And he said, “Bloc Party, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.” It’s like, “Holy shit, wow.”
JON PIKUS: Each artist that we signed, we had to run by Tom because Tom had to love it, and in the two-and-a-half years or so I was there, I was able to get about 10 artists signed and around 10 employees hired. Myspace Records was an incubator for Interscope, but it was also a standalone indie label with Fontana Distribution, which was Universal’s independent distribution arm at the time. We were autonomous until Interscope said, “Hey, that one’s good, we’ll take that.”
NATE HENRY: They [Myspace Records] weren’t very smart with the money. They would just spend money and sometimes we were just like, “Man, that’s stupid. But we’ll take it.” They had so many opportunities that record labels didn’t have. They got us free sponsorships, we had free cell phones for four years, on those Helio phones. They got Slacker Radio to buy us a tour bus. We got sent to Europe four times. We went to Japan. They gave us $50,000+ to make a record and then they would spend, you know, anywhere from $300,000 to $500,000 promoting the album. My only regret is they didn’t take one of our songs to radio. We had a song on our second record called “Song In My Head,” and at the time it’d sold like 50,000 downloads just on iTunes and for some reason, they didn’t pull the trigger on radio. I don’t know why they didn’t do it. I think they thought they were gonna be around a while. So they kind of slow-played us and some other bands. And then Facebook just kinda creeped out of nowhere and just killed it.
KATE VOEGELE: I was in college for about a year and a half. I was in my dorm and I got a message from Myspace Tom. And I thought it was for sure spam or something ’cause by this time, there were a bunch of people sending weird messages on Myspace, spammy type random stuff. But I opened it, and he was like, “Hey, I love your music. Are you signed yet?” I was like, “On the off chance that this is real, I’ve gotta respond, you know?” But I didn’t really think anything of it until I got a pretty prompt response back. He was like, “Well, I really want to have you come out and showcase for my new record label.” And literally a few weeks later, I was here in Santa Monica at their offices talking to Tom and his A&R guy who was a guy who had heard of me when I was in high school showcasing in New York. So it was this insane — I don’t wanna say overnight, but it was this unbelievable series of events within a couple of weeks.
MICKEY AVALON: I don’t really remember, to tell you the truth, how I got on Myspace Records or anything. What happened was, I had a manager at the time and I got a deal with Interscope and what it was really supposed to be was Interscope and Myspace working together and then I would’ve been the first artist. I just think the model didn’t really work out right. And then for me, instead of having two companies working together to help out my career, it was two different companies each thinking the other one would do the work [Laughs], so no one was really doing anything.
JON PIKUS: The Top Artist chart of Myspace started to really reflect pop sensibilities, not just emo or indie rock. So, I mean, you might remember the top unsigned artist on the Myspace chart was probably Tila Tequila [Laughs]. We didn’t want to sign Tila Tequila to a record deal, but there she was at the top of the chart. It was a reflection of what was popular. She might have been more popular for her photos than for her music, but still, it was popularity.
NATE HENRY: We were actually kinda a YouTube channel before YouTube was a thing. We made a parody of the Full House intro when we were recording that first album for Myspace in San Francisco, and Myspace put it on the front page for a week. I wanna say it got like 10 million plays or something. And then a couple years later, YouTube started having YouTubers do that. So we were kind of ahead of that too, but we weren’t building a YouTube, we were building a Myspace following. Unfortunately, we didn’t think that YouTube was gonna be around in 20 years and not Myspace.
JON PIKUS: Myspace had a vertical — Myspace TV — to compete with YouTube, but it just didn’t have the same level of attraction and engagement that YouTube had. We could see graphs of YouTube video popularity taking off throughout that time, certainly.
JORDYN TAYLOR: I was hosting Myspace Music Feed was while I was starting with Interscope. Initially, they brought me on to do the “pop culture, what’s going on” thing. So what they ended up doing is they would take the video and they would embed it onto the front page of Myspace so it got views. It got plenty of views. I think the best interviews were the terrible ones. Ashley Tisdale was the most unpleasant person I’d ever met in my entire life. We met her at Hollywood Records and we were setting up for an interview and she just had an attitude from the start, towards my mom even. Thank God for our editing team, because they made it look somewhat like I wanted to be there, because she had an album coming out called Guilty Pleasure and I was like, “So Ashley, tell us a little bit about your album Guilty Pleasures coming out” and she was like, “I’m just going to stop you there, it’s called Guilty Pleasure without the S, do you want to start again?” I don’t know how we got through the interview.
JOSH BROOKS: We were growing super fast and were probably an inch deep and a mile wide in a lot of stuff. We probably didn’t need an Evite product. We probably didn’t need karaoke. We probably didn’t need a Myspace Skype product. But we started building all these products that we thought were going to be accoutrements to the experience. But slowly we started watching what Facebook was doing, realizing that they were hyperfocused on offering a clean, almost sterile community experience. And in contrast, Myspace’s customization appeared noisy and visually chaotic. History shows us that less people were interested in that, and started looking at Facebook as a cleaner communication tool.
GARETH DAVID: We knew this was a once-in-a lifetime opportunity, so we had every record label come visit us and take us out for dinner [Laughs] and bring us gifts. We had different managers show up, one guy came from London and brought a lookbook with him, illustrating how he’d have us dress and stuff like that. I wasn’t in that meeting, but Tom and Neil were. He took them to Subway and told them we were gonna be wearing leather jackets, that sort of thing.
MICKEY AVALON: It was kind of a trip, I guess. It was all happening pretty fast. I kind of took it with a grain of salt; it never really got to my head or anything. I went from not having any money to having a little bit of money, so that was cool, obviously. I could pay my child support and get an apartment.
COLBIE CAILLAT: I didn’t enjoy performing. I remember almost canceling every show right beforehand because I was on the side stage crying, because I didn’t wanna go out there. Singing in front of people, I didn’t know how to talk to them, so it’d just be awkward silence in between each song. It sounds so bad to complain, but it wasn’t anything I set out to want. And my childhood dogs died when I was traveling, so I didn’t get to say bye.
DAN EPAND: Myspace was this much larger company that’s not necessarily dependent on the income that they’re getting from record sales. So in a way, it seemed like a really cool opportunity. I mean, major labels were closing down and firing staff. I’d have friends who were on major labels and their A&R guy would disappear before the record was done. Things were chaotic in the music industry at that point and nobody knew what the right answer was.
SOULJA BOY: Man, I got so successful. I couldn’t believe it, I thought it was fake. It caught on because I was young, new, I had that swag. I had that look, the girls liked me, all the dudes was rocking with me. [The Superman] was a new dance for everybody to do. It was something fun that everybody wanted to do, like, “Man, how’d you do that dance?” When I got my first record deal, that was crazy. Seeing Beyoncé do my dance, that was crazy. Do you know how long I’ve been listening to Beyoncé? I couldn’t believe it.
NICOLE ATKINS: By the time [my debut album Neptune City] came out, that’s when you could buy an ad on Myspace, that’s when they started monetizing things, and that was a pretty big deal. I think they had like, “Myspace Presents,” and more things that were curated by Myspace, or quote-unquote “curated,” where, really, your label paid a bunch of money to put you up there. And then that was going on for a really long time, and I think that was what blew it. It stopped being about a place of discovery and it became what’s the biggest pop star in the world right now? That’s the only thing you’re gonna see on this platform.
SOULJA BOY: Basically, I got really famous without being an official artist, you know what I’m saying? Not having a record deal, not being on the radio, not being on TV, but everybody knew who I was in the streets. All the kids in schools and colleges knew who I was and wanted to see me on TV.
COLBIE CAILLAT: I would try to be like, “You know what, this is too much, I need to tone it down a little bit,” and then everyone would tell me, “You can’t, this is your first album, you have to do all the promo, you have to go to all the radio visits, you have to do all the shows, and after this it’ll get easier and you can do less stuff.” I always wished that I could have given it to someone who would have maybe enjoyed it more.
JOSH BROOKS: The other thing is that there wasn’t a tech company that was having fun the way we were having fun. For our second anniversary party, we convinced DeWolfe to let us throw a big old party, and I hired Kevin Lyman who does Warped Tour, and I said “Let’s build a show at Dodgers Stadium parking lot.” It had Dashboard Confessional, it was maybe Mickey Avalon, Hollywood Undead, and Criss Angel, remember that magician? Again, like, people were coming out of nowhere to come to this show and it was awesome.
DAN EPAND: I talked to one girl, I forgot where she worked, but someone in the industry, and she was just like, “Myspace is never going anywhere.”
Credit: Chris Weeks/WireImage
2008: What Goes Up…
By 2008, Facebook had replaced Myspace in Alexa’s website ranking. While Myspace had a dedicated user base of teenagers and 20-somethings, Facebook proved to be more adept at attracting a user base of adults and, eventually, elderly people.
Murdoch reportedly became frustrated when instead of the $1 billion in revenue projected for 2008, Myspace “posted revenue of about $600 million,” according to Fortune Magazine. Former AOL chief Jonathan Miller was brought on board to right the ship, to no avail. Eventually, both DeWolfe and Anderson would leave the company they founded. At this time, Myspace began losing users rapidly. By 2011, the site had fallen to just 37.7 million users, according to The Wall Street Journal, despite changes made to the site’s design that were intended to make it easier to use. (A fall 2010 rebranding is when the ‘S’ in Myspace became lowercase.)
News Corp put Myspace up for sale. It was eventually purchased for $35 million by the internet advertising company Specific Media. Specific recruited Justin Timberlake and attempted to relaunch Myspace in 2013 as a more traditional pop culture website, although one with a feed that scrolled horizontally instead of vertically. It also announced the new era with a couple of Ryan McGinley-directed commercials featuring partying musicians like Pharrell, Sky Ferreira, Trash Talk, Charli XCX, Schoolboy Q, and Mac Miller. But Myspace 2.0 failed to catch on in an increasingly crowded field of online entertainment coverage. In 2016, Time, Inc. purchased Specific’s parent company Viant for $87 million. In turn, Time was later bought by the Meredith Corporation in 2018. Today, Myspace aggregates news stories about the world of music and film from sites like People and NME, and features artist hubs that haven’t been updated in many years. In The New York Times, writer John Herrman posited that “Myspace.com is still online, but that doesn’t mean Myspace didn’t die. It’s best understood as undead: existing in some corporeal form, with nothing left behind the eyes.”
Credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images
LILY ALLEN: I just assumed, “Oh, Myspace is gone but something else will take its place,” and it hasn’t.
J SCAVO: I think it was a couple things. One, they weren’t growing their ad sales numbers at double digits or whatever, just because the numbers were so big and I think that sort of soured some of the environment. I think the other thing is, and I tell people this all the time, I think it was two existential bets. There was Myspace, who’s the first and the biggest. Their bet on the world was that everybody wanted to customize their online experience and decorate their bedroom that was their Myspace page in the way they wanted it and they did everything they could to fuel that creativity from a product standpoint. And then you had Facebook, who was coming on more quickly, and I think one of their bets on the world was as long as it’s stable and always on, everybody’s happy with the blue and the white. And their product was, I guess, tighter or more refined, or concise I should say, than Myspace.
NATE HENRY: I remember being in the studio making QU. Dan, our guitar player, made a Twitter for Sherwood and he sent out a bulletin or something — you could send out bulletins on Myspace, they were kinda like status updates — and he was like, “Hey, we’re on Twitter,” and then we immediately got an email from Tom like, “Hey guys, pretty bummed that you put this out on Myspace.” And I think he was very self-conscious at that time that other social media networks were winning, and he’s a smart guy so he knew that the writing was on the wall and then here’s one of his bands like promoting Twitter. I was using Facebook way more than I was using Myspace and I just remember going, “Shit, if I’m using this website, then everyone else is too.”
JOSH BROOKS: The audience on Myspace evolved similarly to Facebook’s. Our once-high school audience was moving on to college, and then into young adults and 30-somethings. But Facebook’s audience continued to grow even older. These days, Facebook clearly has a bigger problem reaching the 20s and 30s than they do with the 40s to 60s.
PATRICK STICKLES: I wouldn’t have picked Facebook to be the ones who outlasted Myspace. I was a late Facebook adopter. I said, “What do I need to be on this site for? I got Myspace already.”
JON PIKUS: It’s very hard to police or chaperone everyone’s behavior when you give everyone such customizable options. There can be pages that load so slowly because the graphics were too big, or had nudity or profanity and doesn’t get caught quickly enough by the team that’s supposed to catch that, so it was kind of messy.
DAN EPAND: We just went on tour after tour. We signed the deal and one of the benefits of going with Myspace Records is that people want to do partnerships with Myspace, and in exchange they’ll pop this baby band on some big tour that we otherwise would not have gotten. And that stuff just didn’t materialize because in that short time it had just kind of lost the cachet.
NATE HENRY: We were just about done with the record and we were getting emails from our management that were like, “Hey, so-and-so from the record label’s quitting. We’re gonna start to try to formulate a plan, maybe we can move this record somewhere else or something,” kinda talk. I think Myspace was kinda die hard, they were like, “Nah, nah, we’re still gonna be able to do something,” but then the general manager of the record label quit, and we were like, “OK, uh-oh.” So we were bummed. The last thing we did was a radio tour with Myspace. They paid for us to fly all over the West Coast to radio stations and promote a song off that record, but that record was a little bit different than our previous album and the economy had taken a crash in 2008. It didn’t matter what label you were on, everyone was like, “Man, the shows are like less than half of what they were a year ago.” I think a lot of the fans of bands in that scene got their money from their parents and there was just no disposable income. It was a really rough time to be in a band.
JOSH BROOKS: I think I was at Just For Laughs, a comedy festival up in Montreal, and talking to people in Canada about working at Myspace. We had 125 million monthly active users, there wasn’t anything bigger than us. But, Canada, from my own experience, was my canary. My conversations with a wide range of folks all yielded a similar sentiment: Nobody uses Myspace in Canada. It felt like “Really? You guys are all on Facebook? Nobody uses Myspace?” This is strange, and a bit disconcerting — at a time where Myspace was bigger than Yahoo and Google in the US based on Comscore numbers.
JOHN NOLAN: I was just surprised how quickly the Myspace thing died out. I don’t think I was aware of how quickly Facebook was growing, but I just remember being shocked because it felt like literally two years on from “Myspace is the thing that every band uses, it can literally break bands,” that no one cares about it anymore. And that’s still shocking to me. I don’t really understand how that happened.
NATE HENRY: The album did come out, but it kinda felt like an afterthought.
JOSH BROOKS: I was not feeling Myspace at that moment anymore. It was clear to me that dark days were potentially ahead. Not too long after I left, DeWolfe left, then a new regime came in. The team and the timing that made Myspace happen was no longer there.
SOULJA BOY: Myspace was over, goddamn, when Tom got out of there.
NATE HENRY: All of a sudden there was just a billion places to find music and there was a billion different new websites coming out and Myspace just wasn’t the place to find music anymore. We had a hard time connecting with our fans that we connected with on the first record, because we could just tell Tom like, “Hey, send a message to 150,000 people.” And then all of a sudden those kids weren’t on Myspace. They were on Twitter or they were on Facebook, or they were reading music blogs. Even Absolutepunk at the time was not as potent as it once was. There used to be some rules, like, “Oh yeah, if you just do this thing, people will know about your band.” And then all of a sudden it’s like, nope, no one knows about your band anymore.
JORDYN TAYLOR: You can see your numbers dwindling down. Then probably in the middle of 2008 I was just like, “This isn’t doing anything for me.” And I also noticed that it was hard, maybe because of the age of a lot of those followers, to turn those plays and those views into sales and it was hard to convert those into real paying customers.
MICKEY AVALON: I ended up leaving Interscope just because it was taking forever to get my second record out, because they were going through a bunch of shit. I don’t understand a lot of things, like I don’t understand how there could be something called Words With Friends that’s essentially Scrabble, but it’s not illegal, you know what I mean? So I don’t know how Facebook was able to do exactly what Myspace did and bury it essentially.
I just assumed, “Oh, Myspace is gone but something else will take its place,” and it hasn’t.
NATE HENRY: It’s kinda like what killed the electric car the first time around. A hundred things killed it, you know? There wasn’t one thing that really you could point to and say, “That did us in.” It was just everything kinda shifted and changed at once and we were kinda caught in the middle of it all.
JOHN NOLAN: It was 2009, and I put out a solo album and I made a Myspace page for that, and when I made that page it already kind of felt obsolete. I think by that point it was already starting to feel like a ghost town.
DAN EPAND: Almost overnight the cachet of Myspace had gone from progressive and cool to a little bit yesterday’s news.
NATE HENRY: I mean it sucks ’cause as a band you didn’t appreciate the times when your band was as big as it was gonna get. We had done a couple headlining tours and we had sold a couple shows with like 500, 600 tickets and [I wish] someone would have pulled me aside and said, “This is as big as your band’s gonna get, enjoy this moment.” So many bands, they don’t get that, they just kinda think, “Oh, it’s just gonna keep getting bigger and bigger and bigger.”
JORDYN TAYLOR: A couple months later we asked to get out of the contract and (Jimmy Iovine) was very understanding, he graciously paid us a backend on it, which he didn’t have to do. And then I got approached by a Japanese company. They flew us out and we signed with a small label out there. So we toured hard with them. I had fifteen-year-old Japanese girls and forty-year-old Japanese men, which is a really great combination. It kinda ended becoming, “This is a girl from California who wants to be Japanese.” They cut straight across bangs on me, I wasn’t allowed to tan, they had me lose a lot of weight. I never had body issues until Japan, they really got into my head with that. There was just a couple months being miserable. I’d never been starved before, like, I love food.
COLBIE CAILLAT: I never intentionally stopped going on Myspace, it’s just that whole two-year tour, I didn’t have a computer with me on the road and it was just something I never ended up going back on because I was never around to do it, I never had time to do it. And then all of a sudden, years go by and I was like, “Oh my God, what happened to that page,” and, “What happened to those fans that I used to interact with?” It was a weird thing, like never getting to say goodbye to something and the next time you’re back, you go back to it and it’s completely dead.
NATE HENRY: We did the Hanson tour, it was great, but literally, our managers were quitting, our booking agent was kind of moving on, the label was falling apart. And we were out on that tour with Steel Train — that was Jack Antonoff’s band before he blew up. Over the course of that tour, we lost everything that we had built over the course of six years. That was a really hard tour, but I met my wife and that was the high point of that tour.
JOSH BROOKS: I don’t think these things live forever. And I do think many media innovations are cyclical. So do I think Myspace could have lasted longer? I’m sure it could have lasted longer, if we didn’t focus on some of the second- and third-tier experiences that were not nearly as important to people. Chris and Tom were fast first movers. The team was scrappy, and hyper-focused on making incredible user experiences. Expanding globally, and becoming a digital asset to News Corp changed the priorities that Myspace was first built on.
NICOLE ATKINS: I remember a conversation I had with a friend that I wanted to find on Myspace, and being like, “Oh I want to go back into Myspace and find it,” and then I didn’t even remember my password. And so I just never used it ever again.
DAN EPAND: People would say Myspace was buggy and you’d get these friend requests from strippers. But at the end of the day I think people just were ready for something different. Even before Facebook won, you just had a sense that in this new internet reality, the new thing was the thing.
COLBIE CAILLAT: You’d go back and look and you’d see that no one is on there and nothing is active. It’s like a graveyard. It’s really sad, for something that changed so many people’s lives 10 years ago.
JOSH BROOKS: At inception, Myspace introduced us to digital music and wrapped it in community. But at some point it just became a place where people wanted to amass as many friends as possible, which felt counter to the creative canvas it started out as.
Credit: Chris Weeks/WireImage
Epilogue: Space Was The Place
Two years ago, when Zuckerberg was called to testify before Congress for his site’s failure to curb hate speech and the dissemination of false news as well as the site’s aggressive collection of users’ personal data and possibly helping swing the 2016 election in Donald Trump’s favor (to name just a few of the many crimes against humanity Facebook has been accused of), Jeremy Gordon of The Outline mused that “Myspace Tom beat Facebook in the long run.”
With the increasing sense that social media, in its extant state, is designed to be as addictive as possible to users while also polarizing society further into fractious bubbles, as well as the pervasive feeling that the algorithm-approach of streaming services and the top-down consolidation of online media is leeching the fun out of music fandom and online life in general, there has been an increasing sense of nostalgia for Myspace’s glory days.
Myspace certainly had its problems, and it certainly isn’t wise to attribute much idealism to a corporate entity that was at one time a page in the portfolio of Rupert Murdoch. But the pain from the old wound persists nonetheless, and Myspace now seems like a symbol of a time when the promise of the internet had not yet soured. As the site slowly died, we slowly lost something. Something unnameable. Something we dearly miss. And none of us know how to get it back.
Credit: Chris Weeks/WireImage
MAURO REMIDDI: Oh my god, it feels like millions of years ago for so many reasons.
SOULJA BOY: Myspace, bring back my old pictures, bring back my old videos, bring back everything I had on my account. I know y’all got it on the database on a computer somewhere, bring that back.
J SCAVO: For them to try to come back was a valiant effort and one or two of the people who worked at the label were there at that time and they were making a go of it, but it was just a skeleton team trying to make one more run. I think the body was too cold by then, the paddles didn’t work, so to speak. Like that change should have happened earlier. Getting new people to attach and pay attention is so hard.
LILY ALLEN: It’s interesting how Instagram is obviously visual, Twitter is about words, you would have thought that Spotify would’ve enabled artists to communicate with their fans, and they haven’t. I think that people know that that — the musician to fan relationship — can be incredibly powerful.
FRANK IERO: I think [Myspace] was just the moment in time. It was the cool place to go and have a profile. It was new and … we didn’t have any of these other things. There wasn’t Facebook, there wasn’t other sites like Bandcamp and all that shit. Everyone was kind of centralized in this one social platform. So you know, you were there and you put your profile up and you found out about bands through that, and it just happened. The audience was there and the bands were there, and you could just click through and find out about bands that you liked. Now I just feel like there’s so much shit everywhere. There’s too many bands, there’s too many sites, there’s just too much. It’s hard to get through.
MICKEY AVALON: I mean, I never had that huge breakout hit or anything, so I never filled up 60,000 seaters. I guess I’m doing pretty much the same as I did in the beginning which is a fine living, you know what I mean? I don’t know. Really the only time I think, “Fuck, I wish I had more money,” is like if I want a particular car and then I think, “You know what, at the end of the day, if I had all that shit, there’d be so many more headaches to go along with it.” So maybe I don’t have some crazy bank account and when we go out on tour, we’re not in a fancy bus or private jet or anything, but I can walk down the street no problem. The people that come up to me that want to take a picture or whatever, they’re pretty cool and it’s pretty painless. I ain’t got paparazzi outside my crib or anything.
J SCAVO: There was never any place and has never been since a single destination where almost everybody in the world went to find out and interact with music. It’s a lot harder now, right? So then when it was working, you really just had to try to get your feature on Myspace at the right time and that could really change your career. Like that can move up the size of clubs you were playing or get you on radio, it could be a meaningful part of the story to some tastemaker, whether that’s on the press side or the radio side or the sync side. Now you don’t have that. You have YouTube numbers and Spotify numbers, but the river turned into a bunch of creeks and succeeding in the world of the creeks is hard.
JORDYN TAYLOR: I would say around 2012-2013, it just fizzled out and I needed something new and I needed something that required no brainpower or creativity. So I did auto shows after for two years and then met my boyfriend through Twitter, and moved out [to New York] and he was very gracious, like, “I don’t want you to do something you don’t want to be doing, so take a minute and figure out what it is you love, find a career path, something you can do forever,” and I found real estate out here. High-end real estate, which is amazing in the city and the prices are frickin’ ridiculous, they blow my mind. But I get to be really nosy and go and see how the other half live, and see these epic apartments. And I have so many connections that I wracked up through music and through Myspace, and I don’t take that kind of blessing lightly.
JON PIKUS: The spirit of discovery is something that’s a little bit lacking these days, I feel.
NATE HENRY: It’s sort of the wild west and when we put our new record out, I was just more appreciative. I almost wanted to send a message to all the Myspace people like, “Hey, thank you so much for all those years ago when I was a young kid who thought he deserved all that, I was probably a little bit forward when things didn’t go my way exactly how I wanted them, but thank you. Thanks for busting your ass for our band ’cause now we’re in this twilight zone where nobody cares.” I mean, you think about, when we signed to Myspace, Tom said there was like six million different band profiles. So if you think about the odds of our band, a bunch of kids from college who — I wouldn’t say we had this crazy raw talent, we just had the desire to do it — and we actually got to do it and play our songs overseas. We were on a couple Billboard charts a few times and we had songs on MTV. There’s so many bands who would give their left testicle to have that experience. It’s easy for me to go, “Man, we sold 100,000 records, we could have sold a million records, shit that sucks.” But I look at it and I go, “I mean we got to sell 100,000 records, that’s insane.” The music business, it sort of produces very unhappy artists. It’s this business of comparing. If you’re a solo artist, you wanna be John Mayer, and until you’re John Mayer, your life sucks. And that’s just a horseshit way to look at it, I think.
J SCAVO: I think everybody bemoans the world where there were only big funnels of information, so whether it was when TV dominated because it was the only thing people could get in their home, or radio, right, it was the one pipe you could get in your home or in your car, and when those giant pipes were at their height, they could really make or break bands because there was no options. Myspace was the only tech equivalent of that, where it was the giant pipe that a bunch of stuff was going through. If you’re the owner of the pipe, having a one-pipe world is great. If you’re a user, you want options, you don’t want everything to come through one place. Now people miss that, where there’s not one place to go on the web to go find out what’s happening in music, there’s a hundred places to go. In some ways, that’s great because each one of the places is more niche. You have your specialists in hip-hop or pop or metal, or whatever. Myspace was really for a wide swath of music, like the one place you could go and reliably get information and contact bands that you loved. I don’t think it’ll ever happen again and I think it’s sorely missed.
MAURO REMIDDI: I think at the time we were so unaware of the potential of certain platforms and so there was no string attached. It felt more naïve. Right now, you sign into Facebook and you start thinking, “Who owns the right of my photos?” Back then, there was no such thing. There’s nothing that would’ve touched my privacy.
NATE HENRY: I’m in a place where I can be happy for my friends. Jack Antonoff went and blew up after that Hanson tour. Now he’s writing Taylor Swift songs. It’s weird to have been sharing a green room with people where we’re like eating Hanson’s food to try to save money, and then a couple years later, they’re getting a Grammy. That can be hard, but even then, it is what it is. But we have so many friends who’ve gone on and they’ve totally blown up, but sometimes when I talk to them I can still see that it’s really hard to be in a band even when you’re really successful. And part of me is a little bit like, “Man, I wish that was what happened for us,” but then a lot of me is like, “I don’t know if I want that life.” I don’t think people really realize how hard it is to do music day in and day out. It’s a tough life.
NICOLE ATKINS: With Apple Music and Spotify I hate the fact that I don’t make money off album sales anymore. It’s detrimental, but it’s the way that it is. And I spent many, many years grumbling and being pissed off about it and it doesn’t really do me any good to be grumbly and pissed off. You say yes to everything and throw it at the wall, and eventually if you do it long enough it’ll stick so you can have a career, and only have to Uber sometimes.
JORDYN TAYLOR: I wish I had dived all the way into music at that time. Because I really think we could have done something special. I wish my mind had been in the right place. That’s another thing that’s kind of been a theme about music, everything happened too easily where I don’t feel like I ever appreciated how rare and how spectacular these moments were for me, which I guess was a blessing and a curse like. “Congratulations you got everything laid out on a red carpet for you,” but the lack of work really held me back from appreciating and realizing this isn’t an opportunity that happens to most.
NICOLE ATKINS: I’m hoping that it kind of regresses into where blogs become popular again.
J SCAVO: There’s a bunch of people who’ve filled the void, it’s just that it’s literally a hundred different companies that have filled the void at once.
PATRICK STICKLES: The kids of today will look back on their Instagrams and Tumblrs and stuff in the same way that I’m sure I do now Myspace or the people do with their LiveJournal and Xanga. Same stuff, right? It’s just the domain names that change.
COLBIE CAILLAT: If you want all your fans to see all your posts you have to pay for those [Facebook] boosts for everyone to see what you’re posting. Now it’s just been so strategically controlled that there’s not that freedom or natural progression or organic factor to it, so it seems impossible for anyone to get their music out there because it’s really so controlled. But I think it’s just hard for anyone to promote themselves out there because there’s so much clutter. Everyone is promoting something and it really starts getting exhausting.
GARETH DAVID: We would not stand a chance today. Regardless of the fact that musical trends have changed, but coming out with those tracks now, they wouldn’t be looked at twice.
KATE VOEGELE: In some ways, there are a million new, exciting resources out there and then in some ways it feels just so crowded sometimes that it’s overwhelming. There’s so many platforms, like everyday it’s a new thing. It’s a lot of work to be like, “OK, what’s my Snapchat story like? Okay, what’s my Instagram story like? OK, am I posting at the optimal time? Well, my Twitter analytics say this. Okay well now Pandora says this and Spotify …” like oh my god, you know? It’s really, at the end of the day, an incredibly cool time to be an artist I think. It’s like Myspace paved the way for all of this exciting, new technology and these new platforms that allow us as musicians to take out the middleman and talk to our fans and engage them.
LILY ALLEN: I think Myspace was really important and I really miss it. Especially in this day and age, one of of the big problems with Twitter is trust and we live in the age of fake news and we can’t trust our media, we can’t trust our politicians. Throughout history, we’ve always really trusted the musicians and ideas that can be born from music, and people find common ground around music. Myspace was the first time when an artist could speak to their fans without having to go through journalists. I think there was real power there. I think that’s why Rupert Murdoch wouldn’t support it and ran it into the ground, because I think he was scared of the power.
JOSH BROOKS: I think what I miss about Myspace is, it just felt like the one place where all the stuff came together in a way that I could digest it.
JORDYN TAYLOR: Tom is phenomenal. He’s just living his life now.
JON PIKUS: Now Tom’s a fantastic landscape photographer with an amazing Instagram page and he lives part-time in Hawaii and sometimes in California. He travels the world and takes really great pictures. He’s living the dream and he’s become really good at photography.
GARETH DAVID: There was a period where I kept trying to log into my old Myspace and the band’s old Myspace and it just made it impossible to do so. There doesn’t seem to be anything left over. If you go onto Myspace and click onto the music tab it’ll try to have you listen to 24K Magic by Bruno Mars. I just couldn’t imagine what anybody would use it for.
NATE HENRY: I mean, looking back on it, I wish we spent more time writing better songs than promoting what we had on Myspace.
SOULJA BOY: Shout out to Myspace, man.
[Lead illustration by Sophie McTear. Follow them on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.]