The online social community MySpace is a two-year-old wunderkind, boasting 40 million plus members and 11 billion monthly visits. What's made it so sexy is that its influence on the music biz rivals the pre-legalized version of Napster. A half-million musicians have MySpace homepages with streaming music clips, but it's not just crappy cover bands and derivative strivers--it's also Madonna, R.E.M., Beck, and Coldplay, sometimes previewing their new albums. Even the whole iPod/iTunes juggernaut doesn't have as much industry juice.
So when MySpace inked a deal to start its own label in partnership with Interscope, expectations were high, despite the irony of MySpace, model of the new music-biz realities, moving offline for the quaint pleasures of the allegedly nearly extinct CD.
Though it's not being packaged as such, MySpace Records, Vol. 1 is basically a so-so emo sampler, which fits in well with the teen- and college market the mega-site cultivates. Interscope provides name recognition with known entities under the Universal Records umbrella, resulting in good recent offerings from Fall Out Boy, Dashboard Confessional, and Weezer, all cunningly sandwiched in the middle of the record. It can't be a good sign when a Fall Out Boy outtake is one of an album's highlights, but so it goes. The established bands here at least know the formula: desperate lyrics with sweet vocals on the verses, chanted/shouted choruses done over heavy riffing. In contrast, the surrounding bands are still finding a sound for themselves that isn't linked to Blink-182. As such, a little formula deviation and extra tunefulness goes a long way: Waking Ashland's Elton John worship, Socratic's self-deprecating goofiness, Hollywood Undead's new wave-meets-white rap.
But in the end, the O.C. franchise provides much of the same and in a more interesting mix, and purevolume.com capped its comp with dozens of extra MP3 files. If this is the best CD MySpace has to offer, their 'net competitors may have less to worry about than they think.
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