In Paul Levinson's chapter about Myspace, he discusses the effect the site has had for a number of recording artists. This made me recall my experiences with the site as a band member and what those experiences were like.
In January of 2007 I joined up with a few friends who had already started a band a few months earlier. They had just played their first show and had a few more scheduled. The band was already on Myspace, an account that was created before any music was already recorded. They used the page to create a buzz about the band - mostly adding friends and other local bands just to get word out. Right before they put some music up, they posted a few messages (bulletins, comments on friends' pages, etc) saying that music was on the way. They then used the site to connect with some people to get some shows. Once I joined up, I was given access to the page as well and helped out a lot on the page.
Using Myspace as an independent artist is definitely a lot of work. I remember us going on guerrilla adding campaigns, looking for people both near and far who might have any interest in our music. We had recorded and posted more songs on the page and were using the site daily to add anybody who we thought might be interested at all in hearing us. Even if they weren't, we added em anyway. Why not, right? We added other local bands. We added national bands. Bookers, promoters, labels, magazines, anything. Pretty soon we amassed a few thousand "friends" on there. We did get some feedback on the music and a bunch of people did seem to be interested. We then used the site to try to get more shows. For this we used a number of methods. We posted bulletins on the site saying we were looking to play. We also emailed bands we knew and had become friends with and tried to hop on any spots with them. We also put together shows of our own and used the site to get people to play with us. It helped us get the majority of our shows and allowed us to touch base with a number of fans.
Once the music got out we definitely did everything we could to spread the word, using those same tactics. We once again added people, posted bulletins, sent out messages to our friends, posted comments, you name it.
So what happened to the band? We recorded a demo that we distributed at our shows. We played a few shows throughout the year, but scheduling conflicts made it hard for all of us to get together and practice regularly and even play shows. Eventually conflict led to the demise of the band and we disappeared without even much of a whimper.
So how helpful was Myspace then? Honestly, I think it was a tremendous service to us. It allowed us to reach out to potential fans instantly and with minimal effort. All we had to do was browse aimlessly and add anyone we thought would be interested to our friends. Bulletins took minutes at the most to publish, and they for the more part were helpful. We were able to make fans, get shows, and promote those shows entirely through Myspace. We never got a record deal, and the only big show we played we had to pay to get on the bill. We probably really weren't that good either, but we just put in a lot of effort. We would've survived without Myspace, definitely. Maybe made our own website from scratch. Or maybe just relied on word of mouth. But Myspace was most definitely a useful tool for us.
We benefited too because this was right around the peak of Myspace. Facebook had not yet allowed open access, so Myspace was still the place to be. Had we used the same techniques today, would we have been successful? Probably not, as Myspace has pretty much fizzled out and the majority of people who even use it now seem to basically use it for promotion. I don't go on there much anymore, but when I do the majority of the messages and bulletins I receive are from bands not much unlike mine three years ago, trying to accomplish the same things we were. Only now that message falls on a lot more deaf ears than it did a few years ago. Granted, we knew that almost everything we posted was ignored and the majority of our friend requests were just accepted blindly (the best was "Uh do I know you?" - dude we're a band just add us). But we basically figured we would throw as much as we can out there and see what stuck, and for a while a decent amount of it did.