“Do You MySpace?”

Note that the story here isn’t about MySpace. It’s about how a something moves from the underground to the mainstream – without mass media’s help. It’s a great example of the “Tipping Point” in action.

New York Times: Do You MySpace?:

…Created in the fall of 2003 as a looser, music-driven version of www.friendster.com, MySpace quickly caught on with millions of teenagers and young adults as a place to maintain their home pages, which they often decorate with garish artwork, intimate snapshots and blogs filled with frank and often ribald commentary on their lives, all linked to the home pages of friends.

Even with many users in their 20’s MySpace has the personality of an online version of a teenager’s bedroom, a place where the walls are papered with posters and photographs, the music is loud, and grownups are an alien species.

Although many people over 30 have never heard of MySpace, it has about 27 million members, a nearly 400 percent growth since the start of the year. It passed Google in April in hits (emphasis mine – Karl), the number of pages viewed monthly, according to comScore MediaMetrix, a company that tracks Web traffic. (MySpace members often cycle through dozens of pages each time they log on, checking up on friends’ pages.) According to Nielsen/NetRatings, users spend an average of an hour and 43 minutes on the site each month, compared with 34 minutes for facebook.com and 25 minutes for Friendster.

“They’ve just come out of nowhere, and they’re huge,” David Card, a senior analyst with Jupiter Research, said of MySpace. “They’ve done a number of things that were really smart. One was blogging. People have been doing personal home pages for as long as the Internet’s been around, but they were one of the first social networks to jump on that. They’ve also jumped on music, and there’s a lot of traffic surrounding that.”

“And,” he added with delicacy, “I think a lot of their traffic comes from the pictures. I don’t think there’s anything X-rated, but there are lots of pictures of college students in various states of undress.”

Even the founders seem taken aback. “I don’t want to say it’s overwhelming,” said Tom Anderson, 29, who created MySpace with Chris DeWolfe, 39, “but I see these numbers coming out, I keep thinking, it must be a mistake. How can we pass Google? I mean, my mom knows Google, but she doesn’t know MySpace.”

…Mr. Anderson’s idea was to expand the social-networking model into a one-stop Web spot, incorporating elements from other sites popular with the young: the instant-message capabilities of American Online, the classifieds of Craigslist.com, the invitation service of Evite.com and the come-hither dating profiles of match.com. The founders spread the word about MySpace through friends and anyone they happened to meet in Los Angeles at bars, nightclubs or rock shows.

“Since we’re telling people in clubs – models – suddenly everyone on MySpace looks really pretty,” recalled Mr. Anderson, who with his trucker hat and sideburns looks as if he could be gigging in a club himself later on. “That wasn’t really the plan. It just kind of happened.”

The soft-spoken Mr. DeWolfe, wearing a custard-yellow embroidered shirt and jeans, added, “It’s sort of synonymous to how you start a bar.” He has a master’s degree in business from the University of Southern California and oversees the money side of MySpace.

From the beginning, independent filmmakers, actors, aspiring comedians and, particularly, unsigned rock bands have used the site to promote themselves – so many that MySpace became known, not quite accurately, as a music site (an impression reinforced now that acts like Weezer, Billy Corgan and Nine Inch Nails introduce albums there).

…”MySpace ruined my life.” “They’re doing pretty awesome actually,” Mr. Dickerson said. “I’d say, as far as a cultural phenomenon, MySpace is as important, if not more important, than MTV.”

Like MTV, it is starting to create stars that glow brightly within its own universe. The band Hollywood Undead, which did not exist three months ago, has achieved celebrity thanks to MySpace. “We were just a bunch of loser kids who sat around our friend’s house all day, and we started making music and recording it on computer,” one of its vocalists, Jeff Phillips, said.

About two months ago the group posted a page on MySpace decorated with pictures of all seven members disguised in hockey masks and other forms of concealment. They also included a few original songs, a fusion of heavy metal and hip-hop. “In a matter of weeks it got huge, and it kept on getting bigger and bigger,” said Mr. Phillips, whose left earlobe was splayed open enough to accommodate a hollow ring the size of a wedding band.

“It’s been maybe nine weeks, and we’ve had over a million plays. We have 60,000 people who listen to it every day. It’s crazy. If you look at our page, it’s like we’re a huge band that’s toured a hundred times.”

…”We get to keep doing what we’re doing, and have more money to do it,” Mr. Anderson said. “We’re not moving over there, they’re not coming over here. We just kind of go talk to them once a month and let them know what’s up.”

He said that as he meets with bands to sign up for the new label, he keeps hearing the same question: “How are you going to get me on MTV?”

“They don’t quite get it, and I’m only starting to get it myself,” Mr. Anderson said. “We’ve got our 26 million, with a lot more people logging in each day.”

He added, with a shrug, “It’s kind of like, who cares about MTV anymore?”

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