A love letter to… Myspace
My first Myspace wallpaper was green with white polka dots. I remember settling on it after spending hours scouring layout sites for the HTML code that really represented me. I was relieved to have finally found the patterned background that would communicate my personality in exactly the way that I – a precocious 12-year-old whose sense of self was wholly based on the fact that I bought NME every week – wanted to be seen. It was 2005; another world, a lifetime ago.
I signed up to Myspace after attempting to make profiles on other proto-social media sites like Piczo and Bebo, but my interest in them never really stuck. People at school said Myspace was more fun than the others, and also that, crucially, it gave users the option to add music to their pages. I was, to understate my feelings, very interested.
Myspace’s relationship with music sketched the template for much of how we consume culture on the internet. This is why the news that Myspace recently lost all of the music which had been uploaded to it before 2015 came as such a disappointment to so many who’d found their love of music via the site. Not necessarily because we still use it, but because it felt like a significant piece of both the internet’s history and our own personal narratives had disappeared.
“Myspace’s relationship with music sketched the template for much of how we consume culture on the internet”
Music was one of Myspace’s major selling points, both for artists and fans. It occupied a unique place in the music-internet ecosystem in the 00s which hasn’t really been replicated. At its most pervasive cultural moment, however, the site offered bands a way to get their work into people’s ears without the interference of the music industry, and gave music lovers a chance to engage directly with new releases before SoundCloud rap or Instagram stories were but a twinkle in the eye of some Silicon Valley tech developer.
Because of the timing (I was on Myspace in my early teens, when lots of discovery tends to take place for most people), and because I used the internet pretty much exclusively to hear music and socialise, Myspace feels like it was necessarily intertwined with the growth of my entire identity. In my mind, the site will be forever enshrined alongside two other internet mainstays of the past, which also influenced my development as a fan and a person.
First there was MSN Messenger, the chat programme that I sat on for hours every night after school, exchanging songs I liked with friends (close your eyes and say the immortal words with me: “What’s your addy?”). Secondly, LimeWire, the p2p download software that I’d trawl almost nightly, searching for bands I’d been recommended or read about in magazines – and destroying the family desktop with viruses in the process. Together, MSN, Myspace and LimeWire formed the basis for my early tastes, which are still fundamental to my choices about the culture I consume now.
“The site offered bands a way to get their work into people’s ears without the interference of the music industry”
On Myspace, I discovered artists like Uffie, the scene queen who made icy, directional pop-rap a decade before Charli XCX, and I heard Emergency by Paramore while sat in the bedroom of a school friend who played the song from their page, essentially introducing me to this genre called “emo”. I also found out about another, little-known group who were supposedly making some noise. Within a couple of years I’d go from being one of the hundreds of fans clamouring to hear the demo versions of their songs uploaded to Myspace music profiles, to watching them play an open air show at a cricket ground in Manchester, such was the heft of their early viral fame, fuelled and enabled by the site (they were called Arctic Monkeys).
More than anything, Myspace encouraged the thrill of discovery; the excitement of digging around, finding something new, and wanting to hear as much of it as possible because it sparked interest somewhere in your belly or your brain or your legs. And while it’s sad to think that many of the songs which delighted us so much – and which many people uploaded as teens starting out as musicians – have now vanished, Myspace’s most powerful musical legacy is the love of music that it helped to foster inspired in millions, as a crucial part of seedling internet culture. That, I’m sure, will not be so easily lost.