Whenever certain qualitative criteria for the assessment of a product or a service are not enough to justify (or determine) its value, generalizations occur. This becomes blatantly clear in the way numbers on MySpace pages are being observed. Right now, MySpace is the most important source of information among industry artist managers, bookers, and music journalists. There are essentially three important numbers these people look for, and their meaning has become very powerful. But what can they really tell us, taking into consideration how easy it is to manipulate any quantitative measure on the internet.
The first number one looks at when checking out a MySpace page is typically the count of Profile Views. Up until now, this has established itself as the single most important measure when it comes to getting something via a musician’s MySpace presence. This seems to link directly to the attention an artist is able to generate, and thus can be used to determine their value for a company or an event. It’s a generalized measure like a currency, because no qualitative assessments of the musician’s artistic qualities have to be taken into account in order to determine this very abstract “value”.
The state of this currency in the Indie scene at the moment: Everything less than 10,000 Profile Views: not worth bothering. Between 10k and 20k Profile Views: still poor, but may have the chance to grow. 20k – 40k Profile Views: the broad midrange. 40k – 60k: the upper midrange. 60k – 100k: pretty good for Indie measures. 100k – 200k: really good for non-mainstream. Above 200k: Already a big name.
These numbers and categories evolve, of course. Older profiles have an advantage simply because they’ve had more time to accumulate Profile Views. Therefore, it can pay to keep an eye on the development of Profile View numbers. A musician with 10,000 views getting 500 new people per day interested in his music may be more worthwhile to work with for a company than an artist in the 40k-60k range attracting only 15 new views per day.
Thus, it’s also very interesting to see how often a new song the artist put on his MySpace page gets played right after deployment. But be careful: There are tools out there to manipulate this number. So don’t take it too seriously. Likewise, the number of friends (third number) an artist has are more a measure of his or her activity on MySpace than a real account of popularity. This is because many people don’t even check who exactly wants to be added as their friend, and again there are software tools out there that can automatically generate lists of people on MySpace you may want to add as friends, and you can then send them a mass mailing with an add request. Although not as manipulatable as the number of plays of a song, this does make it possible to have a huge number of “friends” on a profile that may have never heard the music.
It is going to be interesting to see where MySpace is heading in the near future. If it wants to build on its status as a keeper of the Online Musician’s Currency, it will have to take measures against inflation – and deflation, of course, which may come with a lack of attention for the platform as a whole. Although this may not be about the music directly, generating generalized “value” doesn’t have to be a bad thing, even for an Indie musician. It allows to reach across artistic and cultural borders, and find out what’s “out there” that might be worthwhile to get in touch with.