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April 19, 2023 24 mins

MySpace forever changed the way we listen to music. The social network shifted artists' relationships with their fans, and the site helped launch the careers of many huge stars, from Panic! At The Disco to Adele.

What made MySpace such an influential platform for musicians? And why did all the music disappear?

In this episode, Joanne sits down with Roslynn Alba Cobarrubias (former Head of Artist Relations at MySpace) and Josh Brooks (former VP of Programming and Music at MySpace). She also speaks to American musician Damon Krukowski (Galaxie 500, Magic Hour, Damon and Naomi), creator Scott Zakarin, and Jason Scott of the Internet Archive. You'll hear more from Jason next week.

See Also...
The MySpace Music Dragon Hoard
https://archive.org/details/myspace_dragon_hoard_2010

Damon Krukowski's Newsletter
https://dadadrummer.substack.com/

Roslynn Alba Cobarrubias
https://www.instagram.com/roslynnc

Scott Zakarin
https://www.instagram.com/scottzakarin/

Jason Scott
http://ascii.textfiles.com/

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

Mark as Played
Transcript

Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:10):
This is an iHeart original.

Speaker 2 (00:14):
We were trying anything and everything to recreate a business
that would be thriving because at that time and forgetting,
the music industry is getting a black eye. You know,
they had just come years before, come off the whole
road of the guys in Metallica attempting to sue college
students for downloading music a nap stair and so what
do you have now? You've got an opportunity for fans
and fans to work together, and that harmony has was

(00:38):
totally unique to my Space at the time, and I'd
probably argue, I don't know if there's that harmony today,
even though from great services out there, they're just much
more compartmentalized.

Speaker 1 (00:49):
I'm Joy McNeil, and this is main accounts the story
of MySpace.

Speaker 3 (01:02):
Our record label was like, you know, you guys need
to on MySpace page.

Speaker 1 (01:05):
You were like, really, that's Damon Krakowski. He plays in
the duo Damon and Naomi, and before that he was
in the bands Galaxy five hundred.

Speaker 3 (01:18):
I've been in bands since the late eighties, so that
means I started in an analog world, and by our
third record we were mixing digitally and starting to release
on CB, but it wasn't until a good deal after
that that we actually started using computers in our work

(01:40):
in any serious manner.

Speaker 1 (01:42):
In addition to music, these days, Damon writes about sound
and digital culture. Check out his newsletter Data Drummer. It's great.
He's written tech criticism on streaming services, algorithms, and distribution
of music online. But back in the nineties, Damon wasn't
online that much. He knew what the internet was, but

(02:05):
it wasn't a big part of his life. One thing
he did notice when he got online was that Galaxy
five hundred fans were converging and hang out there meeting
each other.

Speaker 3 (02:18):
In terms of music fandom. Yes, there were fans out there.
We knew that. Again, we weren't really engaging it very
much ourselves, so it was just kind of happening without
our input. But there was a mailing list that developed
that's still going. It's a Galax of one hundred fan
site run by a lovely guy in England named Andy Aldrich.

(02:39):
Andy was there kind of like keeping the flame alive,
I guess for our band without our input, even really
without our knowledge. But that crossed over into the analog
world because when we tried to get our records repressed.
It turned out that A and R people, of course,
were aware of what was going on out there, and
they checked and they were like, Wow, they're fans actually
talking about your band. Maybe it is worth putting these

(03:01):
records back in print.

Speaker 1 (03:04):
In the nineties, just as online communities were entry the mainstream,
from BBS to AOL, you could pretty much name an
artist Kate Bush, Wu Tang Clan, George Michael and find
a list serve or a message board or another online
space to meet other fans and share stories. They were

(03:24):
also sharing music online in the early nineties. This might
have been pen pals exchanging bootleg cassettes and mixtapes. By
the end of the decade, you didn't have to know
the person you were trading music with. Napster, which launched
in nineteen ninety nine, appear to appear file sharing program

(03:48):
let you trade MP three's anonymously with other users. The
fate of Napster might take another podcast to explain, but
the basic thing to know is Napster had an incredible
search functionality. People found music on Napster because they search
for an artist's name. If people didn't know who an

(04:10):
artist was, they weren't looking for that music. But there
were other music sites like MP three dot com, which
launched in nineteen ninety seven, where unsigned bands could upload
tracks and create fan pages to promote their work. MP
three dot com, like Napster, had its fill of copyright battles,

(04:32):
and it was eventually acquired by Vivenda Universal. By two
thousand and two, it was kind of a ghost town.
The musicians who had been using it were looking for
a new platform to share music. Many of those artists
went to MySpace.

Speaker 3 (04:49):
I remember using our computer to log into Napster, you know,
and figure that out, and lo and behold they were
like Robert Wyatt bootlegs that I've been looking for on there.
So I thought, well, this is cool, you know, I mean,
why not.

Speaker 1 (05:06):
Someone like dam who already had an audience with Galaxy
five hundred didn't necessarily need a MySpace page, But for
someone who was just getting started, it was a breakthrough.
Artists could connect with producers. People were getting discovered on MySpace.

(05:26):
Kate Nash, Calvin Harris, Arctic Monkeys, even Adele. She had
a friend who posted her demos to MySpace early on.

Speaker 4 (05:36):
Yeah, he put them on MySpace in two thousand and four,
and then MySpace got huge, and then I got addicted
to it by emailming and networking and finding friends and
stuff on there, and then I got signed.

Speaker 1 (05:47):
That's right, almost twenty years ago. If you were clicking
around MySpace late at night, you might have stumbled on
a super early demo of Adele singing. Countless artists use
the platform, like Sean Kingston.

Speaker 5 (06:02):
Yo, what up, it's a boy Shawn Kingston shout said
the MySpace. I must say that my Space is done
a lot for me, like it really changed my life
over just the past you know, year and a half.

Speaker 1 (06:12):
Calvin Harris was living with his parents in Scotland and
working in a fish factory when he got discovered on MySpace.
Timing was everything.

Speaker 3 (06:21):
My Space is kind of not what it was.

Speaker 2 (06:25):
I think my little window where I got signed. I
was very fortunate to join it when I did, and.

Speaker 4 (06:30):
I was kind of proactive as well as a hussled
people MySpace.

Speaker 1 (06:34):
The company recognized this opportunity. Artists on MySpace meant fans
on MySpace, fans who would continue to log in and
stay engaged on the site.

Speaker 6 (06:46):
The people that really launched my Space were the promoters
and were the DJs and of course the artists.

Speaker 2 (06:52):
Do you start with the artists.

Speaker 6 (06:55):
They bring on their fan bases, You start with the
DJs they bring in, you know, their fan bases.

Speaker 2 (07:00):
What was happening on MySpace for music was this is
the first opportunity where community was built around talent in
a way that talent could interact with digitally.

Speaker 6 (07:12):
Way we recreated before creatives. We were different than for instance,
we took off because we had the artists.

Speaker 1 (07:17):
Who was sixty that's Roslin Alba cober Ubius, who worked
as head of Artist Relations at MySpace and Josh Brooks,
the former vice president of Programming in Music at MySpace.
Roslin helped set up MySpace Music, which was a feature
of the social network developed to make it easier for

(07:38):
artists to upload songs and share them. The reason music
took off on MySpace comes back to the customizable pages.
Just like users could edit the code to their profiles
and add blingees or figure out the CSS code to
make the background pink, users could edit the code to
embed content onto their pages. Like playlist dot com and

(08:03):
early streaming.

Speaker 2 (08:04):
Apples, dot com was basically a streaming module that was
embedded in the MySpace pages at the time, and so
this allowed me to actually grab music that I want
to listen to and broadcast it out through my page,
so people can come to my page figure out what
kind of music I like is they can hear it,
or I can actually share that flee list as well.

Speaker 1 (08:24):
MySpace users would also embed the YouTube player on their pages.
YouTube had seemed to a lot of users like just
another site to scavenge for content to put on your
MySpace profile.

Speaker 2 (08:39):
There was a big controversy I want to say maybe
two thousand and six ish where we actually removed the
YouTube widget from MySpace pages and it created a huge
controversy and Chris and Tom ended up making a decision
to put back on there. But we were the only
means of traffic for YouTube at the time, and so
it was pretty amazing that now, I'll you know, what

(09:02):
a behemo of a machine that is now, but it
literally had its start on MySpace as a profile.

Speaker 1 (09:06):
That on coming up after the break MySpace Brings Music.
The concert dubbed Operation MySpace, was hosted by comedian Carlos
Mencia to the Troops in two thousand and eight. MySpace

(09:28):
Stage is sort of USO show for the ed Hardy
generation in Kuwait for members of the military stationed overseas.
It was called Operation MySpace.

Speaker 2 (09:41):
It really started off as just like a scene of
an idea saying, look, I remember the Bob Hope style
shows in Vietnam, so used to go into hot zones
and actually bring music in entertainment.

Speaker 1 (09:53):
That's Josh Brooks again, former vice president of Programming in
Music at MySpace.

Speaker 2 (09:59):
And I'm thinking to myself, I know just through friends
of friends that tons of troops use MySpace as a
communication tool of their family around the world. So if
you're stationed in the Middle East, you're using my Space
to communicate back with your family and friends. And so
you know, since we were doing so many innovative shows
in the music and comedy, we said, all right, So
I actually cold called the Pentagon and found that I

(10:20):
spoke to I think it was an undersecretary about like
health and Human Services or sort of more of the
obscure secretaries. And then I got a meeting about a
month later, flew to the Pentagon, met with their team
and they have essentially like a USO like group that
kind of works with US and the idea was, we
want to do a live show in a hot zone
where we know the troops are going to love it,

(10:41):
where we know we could stream it around the world
with bands and comedians that resonated with MySpace as well
as these people. So at the time we had Carlos Vincia,
Jessica Simpson, the Pussycat Dolls, the band filter that disturbed
everybody else.

Speaker 6 (10:58):
I did say Pussycat Dolls because it's a lot of
dudes in the Army like yeah, like like how they
used to bring marily My Rold bring the Pussycat Dolls.
But I was like, yeah, hot girls like that are amazing,
and pay them what they're worth. A million dollars done.

Speaker 1 (11:09):
That's Roslyn albat Cobarrubius again, who worked as head of
artist relations at MySpace, And this was the Pussycat Dolls
at Operation MySpace.

Speaker 7 (11:23):
Operation MySpace.

Speaker 2 (11:25):
We are the pussy Cat Doll and We're away.

Speaker 1 (11:29):
They were a huge hit. Nicole Scherzinger, the lead singer
of the Pussycat Dolls, pointed out why my Space was
important to the troops and a dedication she made during
the set. We also want to thank Chris and Tom
at MySpace.

Speaker 8 (11:45):
We're putting on this whole operation my Space.

Speaker 5 (11:49):
Your time.

Speaker 2 (11:53):
And for being the lifeline, the connection to all of
you and to your families and loved ones back home
through MySpace.

Speaker 6 (12:02):
We want to thank them.

Speaker 2 (12:04):
Yeah, there's a few other folks. And we did a
live show from Camp Heuring, Kuwait, which is probably like
ten miles away from the Iraqi border, on a military
based live stream. It was incredible and more than anything,
you heard the relevancy of this, like oh my god,
I use my Space to connect or oh my god,
this band, this music I found. So everything you think

(12:27):
you know about your consumers all sort of came together
at that one moment, which is incredible.

Speaker 1 (12:31):
It even ended up as a reunion for the band Filter.

Speaker 2 (12:35):
We wanted to actually fly some of one of the
band members from Filter, this band. He had subsequently left
the band, became an army sergeant, and so we wanted
to fly him like a troop carrier or something out
to the venue, but he ended up just coming on
normal means of a commercial flight instead.

Speaker 1 (12:53):
My Space Tom was there by the way, he was
signing autographs. Another reason music was popular in MySpace was
the file size was just within reason for someone to
add access and share through a less than robust by
today's standards internet connection.

Speaker 2 (13:14):
Music was much smaller in size than film and TV, right,
So films that you're talking about a heavy file of content,
where music is a smaller bit of content, which you know,
the Internet needed a minute to catch up, right, And
that's the pipes weren't strong enough at the time, but
they were coming along quickly.

Speaker 1 (13:32):
But MySpace was expanding into video content. In two thousand
and seven, the company produced a series called Artist on Artist,
matching musicians with comedians Zach Alfanakis with Fiona Apple Maynard,
James Keenan from Tool with patent Oswalt.

Speaker 2 (13:52):
Hey Mike An.

Speaker 7 (13:56):
My brother hey.

Speaker 1 (13:58):
Man, That's Mike Patton with Danny DeVito. Other video programs
MySpace produced included a Jackass inspired kind of stunt series
and a show called Roommates. It's hard to find clips
of these programs now, incredibly hard. We'll find out why

(14:19):
after the break.

Speaker 9 (14:26):
A big problem back then was bandwidth. Bandwidth in general,
but very much band within my space. And when I
would bring it up, when I suggest maybe the pages
are too thick because people are having problems downloading, they said, no, no,
we have no problems downloading. I'm like, because you are

(14:47):
in my space building, you know, do it at home.

Speaker 1 (14:51):
That's Scott Zacharin, who made Roommates, one of the television
programs that my Space produced.

Speaker 9 (14:58):
Before.

Speaker 1 (14:59):
I forget. If you have some clips that you could
share with us, we'll have to go through like the
licensing of them.

Speaker 9 (15:05):
But I have very little. Have you guys seen my reel?

Speaker 1 (15:09):
No, I haven't, but you have some clips in the
reel from Roomates.

Speaker 9 (15:15):
There is very little in the dist Okay.

Speaker 1 (15:18):
It's a problem that's come up very often in my
research for this podcast, all the experiences happening on MySpace
and the activity, the profiles people created, the messages they
sent one another, the testimonials posted, or who is in
someone's top eight, There's not much left of it, and

(15:40):
what little archives are around continue to be a very
fragile resource.

Speaker 7 (15:46):
Social networking website MySpace is apologizing to users after the
company revealed it's lost all of the platform's content uploaded
before twenty sixteen. A statement published on MySpace blames a
server migration project.

Speaker 1 (16:00):
In twenty nineteen, a reported twelve years of music and
video uploads had been lost in a server migration process,
and tellingly, it happened at least a year earlier than that,
but no one had really been on MySpace to even notice.

(16:20):
There was a post on the subreddit tech support in
twenty eighteen someone asked for help downloading old tracks from
MySpace and shared their exchanges with MySpace customer support. Longtime
blogger Andy Bayo found this thread, and due to the
whims of Internet virality, the issue grew to mass attention.

(16:45):
The MySpace data loss was reported everywhere, from BBC to
CNN at local news.

Speaker 8 (16:53):
The MySpace data loss is something that I always put
in air quotes. I have no faith that this was
done accidentally, like there was a cake of data being
transported from one room to another and a waiter tripped.
That's not how data works. That's not how a place
like MySpace would work. What MySpace really stands as is

(17:17):
an example of how long you can coast with user
data and an early two thousands website and just do
the minimal amount of work until it's not worth it.
And MySpace was one of the few early social media
websites where the users had incredible amounts of access to

(17:42):
change the look and actually inject HTML and images so
that you could really have a unique experience from page
to page. This wasn't a whole set of you know,
unified monoculture pages that had your name and who you
know and nothing else.

Speaker 1 (18:01):
That's Jason Scott.

Speaker 8 (18:04):
My name is Jason Scott. I am the free rate
archivist at the Internet Archive.

Speaker 1 (18:09):
Jason was able to gather almost half a million tracks
that were lost.

Speaker 8 (18:14):
As it turned out, people were doing research on MySpace
in the late two thousands, and multiple sets of researchers
were downloading what they called social network maps to download
everybody who knew everybody else in some sort of confined
space so they could analyze it how do human beings

(18:36):
deal with computers and sharing their information? And along the
way they had downloaded well over four hundred thousand songs
from all sorts of artists and creators. And when I
made a big noise in my capacity as activist about
this loss, I had some researchers come to me and say,

(18:59):
you know, we're sitting on a hard drive full of
these songs, would you like them? Don't tell them where
came from, please, And I said sure, And so hundreds
and hundreds of gigabytes of MP three's low quality MP
threes came to us, and I didn't want to just
dump it up there, so I had a volunteer create

(19:24):
a search engine that was specific to the MySpace songs,
and I called it the MySpace Dragon Hoard, and the
searching agent was called Hobbit.

Speaker 1 (19:35):
You can explore the MySpace Music Dragon Hoard on the
Internet Archive, and.

Speaker 8 (19:41):
It basically, with a little slowness and a little bit
of shankiness, kind of looks like a MySpace audio player
and lets you very vaguely search for album or band
or song names, and if it's on there, it'll let
you play it. And I'll tell you I've had bands

(20:04):
come to me and say that was the only place
this song was and you have it, and you rescued
our song. Thanks for that. Not many, but enough to
have made it worth it, beyond even doing it for
the sake of it.

Speaker 1 (20:17):
One of the bands I looked up in the archive
is called the Blinking Underdogs, a SKA band. Jason Scott
told me about them.

Speaker 8 (20:32):
The Internet Archive has one of the early albums from
the SKA band from the nineteen nineties, and in the
notes it says, yeah, our lead singer Oscar is going
off to Juilliard, but he'll be back. He says, we're
going to do some more music. They never did any
music because Oscar was Oscar Isaac and he's gone off

(20:56):
the other things. So you know, we have Oscar Isaac's
early ska band that was only on the internet because
we don't know where these things are going to lie.
It's a museum exhibit of a time long past. For others,
it's literally their childhood.

Speaker 2 (21:12):
Well, I always say that MySpace has been the biggest
music site in the world that's not a music site,
And what I mean by that is people come to
MySpace to socialize and they sort of hear music while
they're doing that.

Speaker 1 (21:23):
The MySpace music Dragon Hoarde is an enormous chunk of
MySpace history, but it's not everything. MySpace was just too
big and in its current state, which we'll get into
in later episodes, is the opposite of robust. In December
of twenty twenty two, the original reddit user updated their

(21:47):
post to say, I still get comments on this post
four years later and feel I should give an update
for folks that are trying to retrieve lost MP three files.
MySpace released a statement a few years ago stating that
any old content that you're unable to play or download

(22:07):
was corrupted in a data migration and is unrecoverable. Unfortunately,
there's nothing anyone can do. It sucks and I'm sorry
to all of the people that land on this post
looking for answers and how to retrieve lost files. Music
from local bands, pictures of friends in the moment, deep

(22:29):
in the oughts. When social networks were new, it might
not have seemed crucial to have a backup of these files.
But now that's a past, a precious history, places you
can't get back to people who might not be around anymore.
But our digital footprint isn't only a receipt of memories.

(22:52):
This is data that can be evidence of tragedy, painful
life events, even crimes. More on this in the next
episode of Main Accounts, The Story of MySpace. Thanks for
listening to Main Accounts, The Story of MySpace and iHeart

(23:12):
original podcast Main Accounts. The Story of MySpace is written
and hosted by me Joanne McNeil, editing its sound design
by Mike Coscarelli and Mary Do. Original music by Elise McCoy,
mixing and mastering by Josh Fisher. Research and fact checking
by Austin Thompson, Jocelyn Sears, and Marissa Brown. Show logo

(23:36):
by Lucy Kentania. Special thanks to Ryan Murdoch Grace Views
at the Head Frasier. Our associate producer is Lauren Phillip,
Our senior producer is Mike Coscarelli, and our executive producer
is Jason English. If you're enjoying the show, leave us
a rating and review on your favorite podcast platform Sadly,

(23:58):
my MySpace page is no longer around, but you can
find me on Twitter at Joe mick. Let us hear
your MySpace story a check out my book Lurking main accounts.
The Story of MySpace is a production of iHeart Podcasts.
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