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March 25, 2008


This is absolutely ludicrous. As someone involved with WFMU, you should be very familiar the fact that there is a healthy give and take between radio stations and artists, that being that the radio station itself, akin to what you refer to as the plumbing, is allowed to thrive by the content that artists give it. Everyone wins in this situation: radio stations get listened to (and their blogs get read), while the artists receive free exposure and thus album and ticket sales. Sure, there are nuances to this (some artists don't really profit from album sales, for example), but in general, the "everybody wins" idea is still there.

The situation that you are describing between social networking and musicians is virtually identical. Plumbing + content = everyone benefits. For you to claim that this is unjust would put you in the camp of those record labels who last began searching for ways to receive royalties from radio stations in general, despite the healthy dynamic that I described above. I'm curious as to whether or not you'd be willing to support artists getting paid in both situations, of the social networking situation above, and in the radio station royalty situation, which of course would have more immediate effects for WFMU and yourself.


well |, I think you sort of missed the point. Altho I had to read it twice to understand, what he's probably saying is that the 'independent music industry' or some other independent entity, might want to look into generating a social app that can present bands & music to the general public, much in the same way as MySpace, but without "direct(ing) it's audience to the webpage and the business profits by selling display advertising".

So bands are selling their Manhattan Island (the draw of fans in search of music to a webpage) for wampum beads (a built in flash player and atrocious html wysiwig editor, or whatever you would call that disaster that MySpace provides).

It sounds like a great idea, but as WFMU well knows, it's quite hard to present bulletproof servers and bandwidth for a project like this without any money. Of course MySpace prob doesn't 'make' money, but New Corp likes all the tie-ins & synergy they get out of it, so they float it. So the wampum is a little more than just the front-end.

I'd like to add that I don't think the idea that plumbing is useless without content is entirely true. ie all the 'content' on YouTube would not have existed had the plumbing not been there to inspire it's creation, or at least it's transfer from VHS. So they are least symbiotic in some cases.



Steve (hah), there is a very clear distinction between a good radio station like WFMU and a social networking business. WFMU can demonstrably prove a pre-existing audience that is seeking discovery of new music; people tune into a stream of media in order to be exposed to it. And it can't be quantified by the number of ears tuned in. They're the *right* ears.

On MySpace or any other social network currently in existence, this is not the case. They don't represent or understand our culture and see the attention that we can bring their entity merely in the form of a single stupid metric: page views.

People don't use MySpace or Bebo as they do a good radio station. I think any given band is more likely to find a new "friend" from a Google search for their name after a good show or a blog post - I don't think it's coming from within the network. Or if it is, it's from the page of another good band, who could accomplish the same effect with a link from a REAL webpage.

And regarding the costs to self-sustain a social software application, it's not as expensive as some would think. Get a good Ruby in Rails programmer on contract or look at Drupal. Or Ning. I think it's entirely worth the trouble.

To both Marcus and Takakao:

You've both made correct comments about differences between social networking sites and radio stations, but none of those difference are relevant to the point I made. Yes, WFMU caters to an audience that already existed (as Steve argues), and radio may (or may not, I don't really care to debate this point) have more power to determine an act's fame, but that those truths still don't go against what I said earlier: that the interaction between radio stations and social networking sites are similar along the point of a structure in need of content, where the structure is virtually useless without said content, and the joining of both those elements produces a mutually beneficial arrangement where it would be naive for artists (in the case of social networking) or record labels (in the case of radio stations) to being to demand royalties that have never been there. I appreciate your points, and I apologize for the tone of my first comment (reading back, it does seem pretty rude), but I maintain that you guys haven't actually said anything pertaining to analogy I've put forth.

On a somewhat separate point, inspired by kr's comment, I'd also like to point out that Marcus/Billy Bragg's claim--that artists are losing money through social networking sites--assumes a zero-sum game, that any money made by the social networking sites (or those who advertise on it) is tantamount to money lost by the artist. I'd say this isn't quite true. The social networking sites and their advertisers are making money that the artists never would have made (or lost, however you choose to look at it) had the "plumbing" not existed in the first place. Just because Myspace makes money doesn't mean that artist has lost money. It's like claiming that artists should get paid by advertisements on the radio because the radio is making money off of the artist. If anything, you could say the artists benefit from the exposure (aka album sales), a place to easily host mp3s without paying, etc.

I guess my main point is that if you're prepared to agree with Billy Bragg's argument that social networking is robbing artists of money, then you'd better be prepared to see radio start shelling out royalties for every song it plays, because the dynamic in each scenario (a mutually beneficial coalescence of plumbing + content) is much the same.


rawk onn

Wow... Steve Albini is really upset, Marcus. For shame. Listen, you both raise some interesting points. While I mostly agree that social networking sites like MySpace owe a great deal to those who are willing to share their music for free, no promises were made and nobody was holding a gun to the artists' heads. As long as MySpace allows external linking, it exists as a gateway between the consumer and artists' official websites.

I disagree with your assertion that there are more folks "actively engaged with music" than there are participants in social networking experiments. It would depend entirely on your definition of "active engagement." Most iPod-toting kids flip through the same 250 songs every day, and will continue to do so for the next ten years.

But Steve's comparison of social networking sites to radio stations is equally absurd. Ask any band who uses MySpace to promote, and they'll tell you that what little money they've made from the site went to the graphic designers and CSS coders who've helped them along. MySpace has made a couple of people famous, sure, but not many. By contrast, radio still has the power to make or break an act.

Artists on MySpace are like trading cards, but bands performing live on a radio station to promote an upcoming show... that's like watching the warm-up before a ballgame.

indie myspace band

Good points Marcus (and others). Being an artist on myspace our band has seen our sales go up in digital downloads. We use Snocap on our band page to sell digital downloads + provide outgoing links to our iTunes store pages. Being in a band that has not released a new CD in 6 years, promoting ourselves on MySpace and offering a few free tracks (and on our website as well) and offering links to buy our material our monthly figures have increased by hundreds of dollars.

I believe it 'helps' artists to have a MySpace profile.

If we are underselling our own worth, then I wonder why we, and a large handful of other artists we know have furthered our promotion through MySpace, as we once did with

Great post, but incorrect in some of your assumptions. A walled garden would only be correct if we could not bring in 3rd party scripts to sell music, provide outgoing links and embed content. We can do all this on MySpace, and now on Facebook with an assortment of widgets.

I write this anonymously because I don't want to promote my band here, conflict of interest as I am one of the hillfolk of the FMU tribe.

The Contrarian

MySpace is just a cluttered, buggy collection of horrific web design and scripts and even worse grammar. I don't know why so many bands are desperate to have a presence there.

And as much as I dig Billy Bragg's music, who began forcing bands to post their music on MySpace? If you don't want to haggle over creative control of your music, don't use the thing.

kim galibert

a social music site (they refer to it as a 'massively multiplayer music discovery game') is coming together nicely at

:thecontrarian -'cluttered, buggy, horrific' - that's spot on, at best it's a necessary evil for a band.

(disclaimer: my band has done very well on thesixtyone)


Agreeing with rawk onn: The beauty of MySpace is how much they permit the out and out hacking of their CSS. Of course you have to know how to do it, or have the money to pay someone who does. But it's still useful.

I also agree that I think Marcus is underestimating the aggregate power of social networks. It's a lot of work to maintain presences on MySpace, YouTube, Facebook, etc., but many of them require far less effort. It's a clunky ecosystem to be sure, but it's an ecosystem, not any individual site.

Unless you've got a kick-ass site for your band and know what you're doing in regards to search and *then* you drop all that in favor of the social networks, the wampum beads analogy just doesn't make sense.


I heard one Fugazi song, liked it, visited their MySpace and decided I liked the other songs I heard, and went out and bought a Fugazi cd. That web presence made them money. My own band gets exposure and networking for potential future gigs and customers through MySpace. Its effects go beyond the immediate content of the webpage.

Business Plan Writers

Web 2.0 websites build businesses strong. You have shared good point that making MySpace page help Fugazi to increase their fans and on the other hand, it will help both to communicate with each other. On the other hand, in last, you mix or missed some points. You mixed radio station and social networking business. There is a big difference between a good radio station and a social networking business.
I like your site I have already bookmarked your blog. I can see that you are putting a lot of time and effort into your blog and detailed articles! Keep posting like this in future too.

Business Plan Writers

Granite Tiles

He's cool for having a myspace page :)

Miami Business Blog

Myspace is one of those useful social networking site to have.

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