MySpace: Spam or Opt-In Marketing?

I appropriated Kelly’s MySpace page as my own. Now, news reports may give you the impression that MySpace is a place where teenage girls post embarrassing pictures of themselves, and pedophiles find victims to prey on. For myself, however, it’s become an excellent way to keep up with bands I like.

For years, I’ve been on the mailing lists for my favorite venues, as well as for a few bands. But it was never perfect. I missed a Stan Ridgway concert when he played at Cafe du Nord, a teeny venue whose mailing list I wasn’t on. But as fanatical of a music fan as I am, I’m not fanatical enough to check the websites of all the area venues and my favorite bands on a regular-enough basis. And bands’ own mailing lists can get garbage-y, such as when Cake sent a letter they’d received from a whiny, self-centered, p.c.-indoctrinated teenager to all its fans and asked for suggestions on how to answer it.

MySpace is the answer to this: I become the MySpace friend of bands I like, and I only have to look in one place to receive announcements of upcoming appearances, as well as new songs and other fan tidbits. None of the bands has been overbearing with their announcements, and if I was eager for more details, I can go to the band’s MySpace page, which (if well-maintained) will have not only the announcements they sent me, but blog postings, music, videos, pictures, and fellow fan’s comments. I even became a MySpace friend of two authors whom I might like to see at a reading or book signing tour.

Since my MySpace page is set to “private,” I thought it only worked one way, with me sending an interest of inquiry to a band or person I wanted to get information from. So I was suprised when a few weeks ago, I received three MySpace friend requests. None of my real-life friends are on MySpace: they’re all of legal drinking age, which I think exceeds the average demographics of MySpace.

I looked carefully at the requests: one was from a midlist author who wrote mysteries, and two were from bands. Thanks to the design of MySpace, it was easy to check them out before accepting their requests. To my surprise, I didn’t feel like I’d been spammed at all. Both the bands fit neatly within my musical tastes: I could have just as well discovered them myself on my Pandora radio station, or as an up-and-coming band article in Spin. Instead, through some MySpace database, they’d found a new fan, instead of a new fan having to find them. Both bands got added into my MySpace friends circle. I wasn’t that interested in the writer’s work, but when I looked at it, his request wasn’t offensively off, either. I did sign into the Dresden Files group, after all. I denied his request, but there’s no insult in that.

I have held off on commenting, afraid that I’d just witnessed the beginning of a spam-y onslaught. But I haven’t gotten any new requests, and if I do, I suspect they’ll be correlated to my tastes. I have no objection to carefully-targeted marketing, and according to MySpace, once I’ve denied a MySpace user’s friend request, they can’t send me any new requests. And if one of my MySpace friends becomes obnoxious, I can always delete them from my MySpace friend circle. If I do get untargeted spam, I can complain about it to the powers that be (would that be, er, Tom?) at MySpace.

As a marketing tool, especially for bands and midlist authors, I think MySpace is brilliant. It’s just too bad the built-in audience is largely teenaged.

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