About a year ago a guy named Elvis Proctor started a record label called Pint of Happiness. The idea was simple: a record label for the masses; a way for underground artists to get their music to their fans without going through the hassles of dealing with traditional music labels. The idea was great. Execution has been another story. In a year, the label has sold only 1 CD and one digital album.
There’s a couple of problems facing Pint of Happiness: First is they have some great artists like Ronnie Hymes and the Phil Davis Band, but then they have some, um, not so great artist. When you open the barn door wide to all takers, you can have the problem of the weeds choking out the grass. Just because you have a guitar, microphone, and a few songs, doesn’t mean those songs deserve to be considered by the masses. Nothing replaces hard work, dedication, and sacrifice that many underground bands have put out in tireless touring, and thousands of dollars on recording to get their music out there. Artists also must be able to take heavy handed, constructive criticism like this, and use it to their advantage.
But the second problem, and maybe main problem facing Pint of Happiness and many other underground projects like it is that their main marketing arm was MySpace.
I have been chronicling the decline of MySpace and its effect on music for some time. But MySpace is declining no longer, it is dead, and its devastating effect on independent music can only be described as awesome. If I could find a way to string together a conspiracy theory of how corporate music has purposefully destroyed MySpace, it would make perfect sense because of the degree of negative effect it has had on independent/underground music. But really, corporate music is not to blame, it is the fickle, fleeting consumer.
It makes me sick to my music stomach to think that there are great artists and bands trying to come up through the ranks right now that will not have the opportunity MySpace afforded other bands just a couple of years ago. MySpace evened the playing field for so many talented artists. You still had to have good music, still had to have the drive. But you no longer needed corporate radio or labels to get your music to the masses.
We have de-evolved in the music world. Because consumers with short attention spans and no eyes on the big picture have followed whatever new social networking fad that has been dangled in front of them, years of growth and expansion of underground/independent music is melting away to worthless chirping on Twitter, and ugly voyeuristic pointing and laughing at your ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend’s outdated hairdo on Facebook. I thought it was all about the music?
And though you can find many websites that will quote you statistics on how MySpace is declining, virtually nobody is talking about the cultural impact such a decline is causing. Accessible technology was the tool that was going to deliver us from the evil control of corporate music. And it did, until . . .
The worst part has been the breakdown in communication. You used to be able to get the word out and get everybody moving in one direction with a common purpose so easily on MySpace. Today, you have to hit half a dozen different platforms to get to the same people, and it is still an uphill battle against apathy.
I know MySpace has it’s warts, always has. This really isn’t a Facebook vs MySpace argument; it is more an argument of what role we want art to play in our lives. I don’t give a damn who owns MySpace, I care about the bands it brought to me and the friends that I made through the music that feel like family now. You just can’t laugh that off, or disregard it as a fad.
So when someone mentions MySpace to you, don’t say “That’s so 2008.” Say a prayer, and thank it for all the great music, and great people it has brought into your life. And hope that someday, something, weather it is a resurgence in MySpace or something else, gets us all back on the same page, under the same tent, around that same campfire again. Those were good times.