Beginnings

The connection between music and social networking arguably began with the advent of MySpace. Launched in the fall of 2003, MySpace quickly became the go-to networking platform for Los Angeles-based independent musicians. Twenty- and thirty-something live music fans flocked to the site to receive updates on local show calendars and score admission to exclusive events. Teenagers also joined the site to establish a connection with their favorite independent artists. Indeed, MySpace remains the social networking site of choice among 12- to 17-year olds.

Regarded as the "funky upstart" during its first years, MySpace allowed users to share music and video clips, an improvement on its widely-adopted predecessor, Friendster. Due to a technological loophole that left profiles open to customization, many member pages began to take on the look of a "teenager's bedroom," plastered with images and streaming music. (This aesthetic continues to distinguish MySpace from its largest competitor, Facebook which limits profile customization options to achieve a more uniform look. MySpace and Facebook were the only two mainstream networking sites assessed for purposes of this project)

MySpace's potential to change the standard mode of music promotion was recognized early on. Less than two years after the site launched, in an August 2005 New York Times article, Los Angeles club promotor Keith Wilson enthused, "I conduct my entire business through MySpace [and] haven't made a flyer in years." The media establishment also became attuned to the possibility of a social networking revolution. In July 2003, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp made a successful bid for the company. Three years later, MySpace surpassed Yahoo and Google as the most visited site on the Internet.

Although MySpace has grown into much more than a bullitin board for the L.A. music scene, band traffic remains a significant componant of the site's draw. Now hosting several million artist pages, MySpace has continued to serve as the promotional platform of choice for upstart musicians. The site has also featured more than 300 exclusive album launches, and staged secret shows advertised only through the network. The site hosted its first large scale music event in October 2005, attracting more than 10,000 concert-goers to Dodgers Stadium.

The interest generated by MySpace's music component has led to the offshoot of two related entities: MySpace Records and MySpace Music. See Current Initiatives. The site's popularity has also spawned similar communities, both music-oriented and otherwise. From Facebook to [http//www.last.fm Last.fm] to artist-sponsored communities, online social networks have entered the cultural mainstream — at least among the young and connected. In the space of five years, these networks have evoled from fringe activities to a daily obsession for a large portion of teenage America. When endorsement by teens and young adults is key to generating record sales, social networking, understandably, has become the frontier to conquer for music marketers.

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