Battle of the Brands: MySpace (and Old School Rappers) Gets A Bad Rap


I feel like MySpace gets a bad wrap like Old School Hip-Hop.

Slick Rick_RTB 2012Case in point is Slick Rick the Ruler’s recently getting boo’d – what the hell is that about? You can’t take away someone’s legendary status just because they had a bad performance or technical difficulty. And the same thing applies to MySpace…kinda. The Digital Age has already significantly shortened the lifespan of an artist’s career, and sooner than they realize, some “Twitter stars” will be the scoffed-at “legends” they seemingly enjoy dismissing on account of relevancy.

The social sphere is so ever-changing that what was trending even a week ago is lost in the abyss irrelevancy thanks to breaking social media news.

My first introduction to the original MySpace was through a publicist friend of mine who asked me, “Are you on MySpace? It’s a cool new site that a lot of artists are on, and you can connect directly with them.” MySpace was a social media platform where the users determined the product by how they used it. And the artists, who became the super users, made MySpace what it was by creating a place to connect directly with their audiences by uploading songs, emailing users, and personally engaging with their fans.

As a journalist and a fan of music, MySpace started off as a great way to contact my favorite artists without having to go through their management teams. But it quickly became “MyWorld” instead of “MySpace.” I was spending hours a day on my profile, searching other profiles, meeting strangers, and connecting with people I hadn’t seen in a long time, and I didn’t have to leave the house. MySpace was the first of its kind to allow user’s access to their favorite artists and exclusive music, and more importantly, to become personally invested into their favorite celebrities’ success. However, many of us saw the movie, The Social Network, so we pretty much know how that story ends.

But does it have to end? No, it doesn’t have to end for MySpace – or for artists like Slick Rick who Hip-Hop tends to “age out” at a certain point. Is that really fair – to MySpace or Slick Rick? What if Jay -Z were aged out of Hip-Hop at age 40? Nobody would’ve been “Watching the Throne”, that’s what. All it takes is a little re-tooling and new user interaction for an original to maintain relevancy. How do you think Sean Carter took Hip-Hop to the White House, after all? The seasoned rapper/MySpace analogy just works. Like Slick Rick and others, are we really gonna give up on MySpace, the platform that opened the door for all of these other “bites of freedom” that allow us almost too much access into the lives of our favorite celebrities?

DJ Jazzy JeffWell, I will admit I had given up my old MySpace password for the hottest new social space as well, but all that changed when I received an invite to go to a MySpace “Feel the Music” Show recently. I, like most people, wore a side-lipped scowl, thinking, ‘MYSPACE? Who the hell still goes to these shows?’ Then, upon further reading, I saw that free Denon Headphones and DJ Jazzy Jeff, two of my favorite things would be there, so off to the show I went. Yes, I had heard of the new MySpace launch, and that Justin Timberlake had become part owner, but this still wasn’t enough to make me want to create another new profile to go alongside my Twitter, Facebook, Pintrest, Pandora, Tumblr, and various e-mail accounts I have to manage and maintain on a regular. But, to my surprise, when I stepped into the party, it was wall-to-wall packed and hot as all get out.

DenonMy first thought was, ‘Dang, are all these people still on MySpace, or are they all just here for the free headphones, too? The answer became clear as I checked out the scene. It looked like all of the subcultures you literally see on MySpace – from the cool kids to the Asian kids breakdancing in the corner, all coming to support the music. DJ Jazzy Jeff delivered a set that had everyone too “turnt up” to care that it was 110 degrees in that joint. The whole experience had reopened my eyes and made me want to check out what the “new MySpace” might have jumping off.

Clearly, the owners of the “new MySpace” are not going down without a fight – check out the recently launched Beta version of the site. I received an invite to set up my profile, and I was instantly excited to see the new site…it was FRESH! Oh, my bad, swerve, whatever! The visual is aesthetically pleasing with its horizontal navigation, and seeing the familiar face of our good buddy Tom was encouraging. Although he doesn’t work there, he is there to enjoy the new site he posts.

CiaraMySpace listened to the needs of their super users – the artists – and created something new that hasn’t existed before, by connecting various aspects of the most popular social media tools in one place – the The New MySpace, though equipped with some of our favorite social media capabilities, is all about the music. The super users who defined what the original product was about determined what the product turned into, and with the new features in place, the is positioning itself to once again carve out its own lane as the go to for music social media. The shows they host – with big names like Ciara – only help to support the reinvigorated brand.

Still in Beta form, the is prioritizing the functionality of the site to answer the needs of their super users, while re-tooling some of the old familiar functions like the Top 8, which is reserved for those top fans who are the top engagers and influencers in your network. It allows artists to track who their top influencers are for more personal engagement. “Discovery” is the most important theme of the new MySpace – discovering new music, new users, and new ways to engage utilizing social media, while connecting marketing platforms, merging catalogs, and having content connected all in one place.

The fact that the original MySpace still has 30 million classic users to this day is telling of the impact that it’s had on social media. Like Old School Hip-Hop, it never died all the way. The stars and careers that were launched by the social networking site helped make artists like Drake, Soulja Boy, and Sean Kingston a part of Pop culture history. And, the new MySpace has the capacity to open a whole new world of discovery with new tweaks that have what it takes to put it back on top.

So, if for no other reason than you gotta respect the fact that, as the throwback, MySpace set the bar for everything that followed – give it a try. They deserve the chance to raise the bar, and it appears they are on the right track to live on. Just like Old School Hip-Hop.