Long before it became a cesspit of inspirational mum-memes, endless spicy takes and a photo album of salads you’ll never get the chance to eat, social media was an integral part of music discovery. The MySpace years – a period of time in the late 00s which saw the Tom-helmed network rule the social networking roost – were huge for music, kickstarting the careers of some bands who quickly went supernova. Even outside of those success stories, though, MySpace was essential, offering an easy-to-use platform for anyone to upload and share their music.
Whether it was you and your mates holed up in a shed, recording direct to a laptop’s dodgy in-built microphone, or a more professional, studio-led operation, MySpace levelled the playing field, offering everything the chance to share their wares long before Soundcloud or Bandcamp came along.
Now, though, they’ve been lost to the ages. The social network revealed this weekend that, due to a server malfunction, years of music has been accidentally deleted from the platform, with “over 50 million songs” uploaded between 2003 and 2015 lost to the ether. Of course, the bigger hitters of the MySpace years will have their music available elsewhere – long gone are the days when that little grey box was the primary method of having your music digitally beamed into eager ears. But for thousands, if not millions of young bands, early demos, long-forgotten releases and more, this spells the end of their availability.
It might seem irrelevant – a digital spring clean for one of the internet’s most readily forgotten social networks. But the end of the Myspace music era is worthy of note, if only for the death knoll it rings for an entire generation of upcoming artists. Some of them may have gone onto arenas; others fell by the wayside faster than you can say ‘nu-rave revival’ – but MySpace was an essential component of a number of bands and sounds. Music wouldn’t be the same without it.
Don’t believe the hype
Undoubtedly MySpace’s biggest success story, Arctic Monkeys’ rise ran concurrent to that of the once-ubiquitous social network. While Alex Turner and co. played their first show two months before MySpace was even founded, it was only when a fan-made Monkeys page was set up that they truly exploded. Domino Records soon caught onto the hype, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Now selling out arenas worldwide (and shooting to space for the campy sci-fi epic of last album ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’), the rise of Britain’s biggest band would be nothing without their decidedly humbler MySpace origins.
Let’s get emotional
Outside of music, MySpace became the go-to for the late-00s’ emergent emo subculture. Mirror selfies, swoopy fringes and chequerboard Vans shoes were the go-to uniform for any MySpacer worth their salt – of course, the music ran alongside it, everything from pop-punk to metal offshoots like ‘crabcore’ being birthed from the site.
The ‘fourth wave’ explosion of MTV emo was spurred on by MySpace, the likes of Panic! At The Disco, Paramore, You Me At Six, Fall Out Boy and My Chemical Romance owing a huge debt to the network’s proliferation of emotional teens. Fanbases formed and bloomed on MySpace – having a well-populated profile (and carefully-curated Top 8) was as integral to your scenester standing as the ticket stubs and band shirts you’d amassed.
Grime’s early days
Long before its more recent second explosion, grime found a space on MySpace, too. The DIY ethos of social media was the perfect match for grime’s homegrown talents. JME used the platform to distribute the Boy Better Know t-shirts that still remain a festival mainstay a decade on, while he’s also (debatably) pinned with coining the phrase ‘dun know the MySpace’ – an expression which went on to become the title of an early Kano track.
Raves, too, became MySpace gold dust, with the short-lived messages that populated the ‘bulletin board’ (think a cross between blog posts and Instagram stories) the perfect place to post up details of the underground, often illegal gatherings, away from the prying eyes of the police.
Glowsticks and neon
Of course, it also proved a testing ground for some decidedly short-lived sub-genres, too. Most notably, ‘nu-rave’, the indie-meets-electro mash-up which burned bright and fizzled out quickly. Day-glo sportswear, glowsticks and neon lighting were the aesthetic tropes, while the sound Frankensteining the guitar-heavy world of British indie and rock to the piercing electronics of house, drum ‘n’ bass and EDM. Bands like Klaxons, Hadouken and emo-mergers Enter Shikari were all comparatively massive in the MySpace years, with the latter its only real survival story.
The breeding ground for megastars
Those more niche sub-genres might have seemed prime for the clique-y nature of early-days social media, but Arctic Monkeys weren’t the only huge band to survive its glory years. Lily Allen owes a lot to the platform, after uploading a bunch of demos to the site as a means to get out of a shitty early-days record deal. The gamble worked, with the internet quickly boosting her profile and forcing her then-label to buck its ideas up, rush-releasing an instant sell-out vinyl pressing of ‘LDN’ and sending her into a studio with Mark Ronson to finish up that debut album.
Calvin Harris was signed off the back of his MySpace success, the once-gorky electro nerd turned uber-hunk-megaproducer’s early works like ‘Acceptable In The 80s’ exploding on the platform. Even then, though, it seemed to be losing its sheen, Harris telling NME back in the day: “It’s a bit tragic, being signed due to MySpace.”