Bands and fans flock to MySpace

Web site is launching pad for O.A.R. and others

Scene

September 01, 2005|By Sam Sessa | Sam Sessa,SUN STAFF

With a new album ready to drop next month, the band O.A.R. started its promo campaign with a digital twist.

Before mailing the album to radio stations or shooting a music video, O.A.R. uploaded the single "Love and Memories" onto its page at www.My Space.com early last month. The band also paid to have the tune be the featured song on the MySpace home page for a day.

One of the Internet's fastest-growing communities, www.My Space.com offers national and local bands an online venue to spread their sound. The Web site enables users to sign up for free and create a networking Web page, which can include blogs, pictures, profiles and a list of their friends. Bands can upload tour dates and songs for visitors to hear. It is similar to www.friendster.com or www.the facebook.com, but with more emphasis on music.

Within two weeks, O.A.R.'s online friend list grew by about 3,500 people to more than 15,000, said bassist Benj Gershman. Well before the song hit airwaves, users had listened to it almost 94,000 times online, he said. The album, Stories of a Stranger, hits stores Oct. 4.

"It's a good medium for people who want to get in touch with music and also for people who want to get in touch with new people," Gershman said. "We have one [a MySpace profile] because we recognize that."

With more than 27 million members and 350,000 bands on board, MySpace is a staple site for the IM generation. Users can search for people or bands by name, genre, state or ZIP code.

The site's explosive popularity -- about 3 million new members sign up every month -- proves that young people want more options than just a Top 10 music video countdown on MTV, said MySpace founder Chris DeWolfe.

"People are really looking for choice now," DeWolfe said. "It's something they've grown up with, and it's something that they've come to expect. MySpace allows them to discover new music in a way that they haven't been able to before."

MySpace lets bands and promoters locate and e-mail fans and other bands by area and what type of music they're into. Bands can promote tours by e-mailing updates to people on their friends list and their friends' friends' list, and so on.

Voodoo Blue, a Baltimore-based hard rock band, has accumulated more than 43,000 friends without a full-length album. The band's two singles get about 800 plays a day, said guitarist and vocalist Dan Book.

Voodoo Blue had been together about five years and had not toured much, Book said. After the group started promoting itseld on MySpace, the band earned a national following. Voodoo Blue recently e-mailed venues in cities with large numbers of its fans and completed a 45-date tour in 50 days -- all through MySpace.

"It's been like a hurricane because it's so hot right now," Book said. "People are looking for bands that no one else knows about so they can be cool and know about a band that no one else knows about."

The Web site can also serve as an online store, through which bands can sell albums and other memorabilia. Local emo/punk rock outfit Silent Film has sold about 1,000 albums internationally, mostly through MySpace. The band also has a Web page on a MySpace competitor, www.purevolume.com.

Until the band registered at MySpace and PureVolume, Silent Film sold its albums mostly at shows. Back then, just getting enough new fans to a concert was difficult, said guitarist and vocalist Chad Koepf.

"Before, you would go to Hot Topic with some fliers and maybe a headset and say, `Hey, what kind of music do you like?' If you go to MySpace, you know what kind of music they like."

DeWolfe, who started the site with Tom Anderson, said MySpace plans to give three of its bands record contracts through major labels in the next year.

"There's a lot of great bands out there that never get discovered and never get the ability to get their word out on that worldwide platform," DeWolfe said. "MySpace already gives them that opportunity, and we just want to take a few bands that we really get behind and help them along."

For more club events, see Page 26.

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