by carl wilson

MySpace, HisSpace, OurSpace

Arctic Monkeys.

Parallax view: Music critic David Hajdu makes an argument at The New Republic for How MySpace Is Killing Music (to amp his title up a bit). If you ignore the utterly idiotic sexual-predator tangents in there, his argument is much like those against (1) blogs, and (2) the amateurist/community-oriented approach to the arts scene recently much debated vis a vis the concept formerly known as Torontopia: Lowering the barriers to entry produces a scene that's overly self-regarding and tolerant of mediocrity, which rewards conformity to in-group expectations rather than artistic quality.

Key lines: "All the bands to rise from MySpace so far, including the talented but madly over-praised Arctic Monkeys, are good, but there is not a great one among them. One cannot help but wonder if MySpace is screening out the great ones, or failing those with the capacity for greatness." And: "If many of the site's members are to a significant degree mouthing what they hope will make them seem cool, they are saying only what they are hearing (or typing only what they are reading). Once again, the famously raucous individualism of the Internet results in crass conformism." He also notes the undoubted influence of viral marketing manipulation.

(Ben Rayner has a nice, if unsurprising, chat with the Arctic Monkeys [who play Toronto, Mar 20-21] today in the Toronto Star, despite his earlier call for their death. And Simon Reynolds has made the best case in the Monkeys' favour here.)

Notice that Hajdu's general critical interests heavily favour pre-mid-70s music (folk, jazz and pop), so you can infer a distaste for What Punk Hath Wrought. And the bizarre preoccupation with pedophilism is a symptom of a Fretting-Dad POV. But he's right that MySpace is also a corporate tool (owned by Rupert Murdoch/Fox), and more interestingly not only a detour around the record labels but a way to gain an audience without ever refining your music in the crucible of live performance. Mainly, though, he's well-rebutted by the comments on TNR's site.

But if we can agree that Hajdu is being too reactionary, how does the anti-communitarian faction (if it's fair to call you that) in the local debate substantially differ? Both seem to lack a sense of proportion.

| Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, February 28 at 5:15 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (8)



I forgot to respond to the part about Torontopia.

I guess I wasn't really an opponent of the actual core of Torontopian values... I certainly don't oppose communitarianism, especially for larger cities. I guess I just think if it leads to insularity and irritating cliquey-ness... If one micro-community becomes the face of Torontopianism that's when I think it's an issue.

Myspace doesn't really have that. It's too broad. I don't really think of things as being Myspace bands. I think of bands that I like on Myspace, and then the stuff I don't.

That's one of the great things about it is that what label your on is becoming increasingly less relevant. It's more about the music (in my opinion)

Posted by Nick_S on March 1, 2006 12:24 PM



Hmmm... I think Myspace is great, particularly for marginal styles of music, and people who are living in relative musical isolation. It's a great way to try your music on an audience. It's excellent for networking with people with similar tastes. I don't think it makes mediocrity any more or less "permissable" it simply allows everyone to have a crack at developing a community, and an audience. For music like noise and improv, and other experimental music it's great. And so far it's provided me as well projects I'm involved with some interesting opportunities.

It can also serve, for bands as almost like a business card. It's concise, compact and easy to navigate. At times I think they're almost more useful than having a website.

Posted by Nick_S on March 1, 2006 12:19 PM



Daniel Vila once proposed to me a similar critique of communitarianism... except he thought the opposite. An intensely supportive and self-propelling music community will result in lots of studied, well-wrought music. Unfortunately, this makes naive, outsider music completely unappreciable. His words were, "This world will never see another Shaggs."

Posted by Owen on March 1, 2006 11:47 AM



p.s. Didn't make it clear: I like MySpace, but I miss those record stores like crazy.

Posted by john on March 1, 2006 11:20 AM



I just found out that my hometown, Kalamazoo, Michigan, a college town with a big state university and an old small private college, with a population of 80,000, doesn't have a record store any more besides Best Buy. When I was growing up, there were 2 local, independent rock-punk-hippie-jazz stores. I was friends with the people at the smaller of the 2 stores, and they steered me toward which Mingus and Dolphy to explore when I was in high school. There was also a classical-only store where I bought a 3-record set of Ives's complete symphonies. A small town an hour west of us on Lake Michigan, South Haven, had a record store too. I found a multi-record box of Anthony Braxton orchestral works there. How that box ever got to that small town, I'll never know. But that culture is gone. I'm psyched about people being able to post and sell their music on the internet.

Posted by john on March 1, 2006 11:18 AM



Dave M., complaining about the currents of fashion -- I've done it too, but it's like complaining about the tides.

Carl, I agree that playing live can teach writers and players about how their stuff is working, but recording-making and playing live are separate arts.

Posted by john on March 1, 2006 10:15 AM



This is the subject of a post I've been meaning to write for the past couple of weeks, Dave. Will try to get to it before the weekend. I think you're right, except: First, I think there are precedents of that scene being more open, which should be built upon. Second, to my ears *most* of the accusations of insularity aren't rooted in this kind of critique, at least not in any meaningful or specific way, and sound a lot more like Hajdu's rant.

I don't think the parallel is entirely wrong, in that Hajdu was talking about the same *kind* of in-group within MySpace that those people are talking about within Toronto. He didn't seem to be looking at the whole spectrum.

But you're right, MySpace is more diverse, as a function of its size and the fact that it takes no interaction to join it. Its whole range is probably more like a city than a scene. But I'd guess (though I haven't researched it) that MySpace is equally self-segregating, divided into "friends" groupings that do not meet across styles, cultures, sensibilities very often. Even where they do meet, again, it's far easier to click your way to integration than to live it.

Posted by zoilus on February 28, 2006 7:54 PM



wow, that was the most appallingly unreasoned article ever. get one blog.

hajdu ham-handedly implies that bands like fallout boy are popular because kids on myspace are more interested in interacting with them and their fans than listening to them, which is a laughable assertion -- if blink 182 became huge, why not fallout boy? besides, socializing is a factor in the popularity of all bands, not just the ones who've gotten label deals through myspace. but where the comparison to torontopia (i'm going to keep using the word because i can't think of a substitute) falls down is that myspace is incredibly diverse, while torontopia is a very narrow slice of the things going on in this city.

like Hajdu with MySpace, the temptation for torontopia-haters is to assume that because they don't like the bands falling under that banner, the scene around those bands must be propping them up, when in truth the scene is based around bands of a certain style that not everybody is going to like.

my critique of torontopia (gonna call it that because i can't think of anything else) is that it isn't nearly as open as you'd allege, because if you don't like the kind of bands who play at those venues, it's tough to be a part of the scene. really, you're never going to see rappers or latin bands or whatever at those shows. The Boat and The Bagel and Wavelength are great, and so is DIY-ness. but it's frustrating that those initiatives have the power to draw tons of people, possibly because of their narrowness of focus, yet someone who can't stand most of the music feels utterly isolated by it.

same with torontopia's non-musical aspects. i am loath to criticize something that brings people together in activism or intellectual pursuits, but again, it's tough when other causes that are equally worthy struggle to find a constituency because they're not connected to the right cultural currents, musical or otherwise.

a person in this city can, and i suspect many of them do, spend their entire cultural life within the confines of torontopia-affiliated projects, but because it's so focused around a specific taste usually kin to people of similar cultural backgrounds, i'd say that cultural life would be a pretty narrow and limited one. not that torontopia was ever intended to form a complete cultural diet -- my point is that although it's great that these things are being done, and done with a sense of pride, no less (a feat in itself), many many people in this city are being left out. and it could be made more diverse, but the people putting on these events generally throw up their hands and say that it's not their responsibility. ok, it's not, but then you have to suffer the slings and arrows of those who rightly accuse you of being insular.

Posted by Dave M. on February 28, 2006 7:04 PM




Zoilus by Carl Wilson