You Are What You Look Like On MySpace
by Anne Freeman,

MusicDish Network Sponsor
Yes, I have a MySpace page. And one activity I enjoy immensely is roaming MySpace in search of good indie music. But with so many options, how do I choose whose music site to visit? I check three things:

1. Photo/graphic
2. Band Name
3. Photo/graphic

Make no mistake about it, the first thing I do when confronted with a list of potential bands is look at their photo or graphic. The second thing I do is look at their name. The third thing I do is look at their photo/graphic one last time prior to clicking. That's it, period.

What does or should that say to indie labels and band/artists? Be very careful about your photo/graphic selections and, if you're just starting out, pay attention to the name you choose if you have a band. You must catch a potential fan or music industry professional in a few seconds, unless the myspace scanner is a preteen or teenager with gobs of time to spend roaming.

So what should you do? What kind of photograph or graphic should you use on MySpace, or any other similar social networking site? Use one that best communicates your primary artistic sensibility. Let me give you a few examples of bands and artists who have communicated their primary artistic sensibility in just a photograph and/or their band name as examples:

This is the photo that led me to the band The Pink Spiders. It actually is the photo for band member Matt Frixtion (vox/guitar), but his site led me to The Pink Spider's band site.

I absolutely love this photo! It is eye-catching, the colors are terrific, the pose is perfect, and it oozes mock coolness with a casual playfulness. I had to find out who this guy was. I figured that he had to be a musician from the photo, and that his music was most likely going to be fun. His picture works, as do all the other photos, graphics and the text on The Pink Spiders's site: they got me to their site!

When I arrived at www.myspace.com/thepinkspiders, I was greeted by an alter of Pop Glory in all of its Pinkness! Their look is a perfect match for their pop/punkish music. Everything on the site contributes to their look and sound. Yes, they are signed to Geffen Records, but you don't have to be signed with a major label be as effective as The Pink Spiders with your MySpace site. You just have to intend to be as effective by making smart choices and sticking to a theme that is based upon your primary artistic sensibility when designing your site.

The next example is a graphic that caught my eye for the band Creech Holler. My decision-making process that let to a visit to Chreech Holler's site followed the formula exactly as I described it above: I saw the graphic and was intrigued - read the band name, which confirmed the intrigue - and took one last look at the graphic, then click! I was on their site, exploring. Why did I visit their site?

Their ominous graphic first caught my eye because it recons back to the old snake handlers of the deep South, a small Christian religious cult whose leaders handle rattlers or cotton mouths snakes without being bit I can't remember which as evidence of their protection by the Holy Spirit.

Just from their image I knew immediately that the band had to be Southern, and I guessed that their music was probably blues-based or Southern folk-based. A quick look to the band name, Creech Holler, well what else could they be? I like that kind of music, so I was prompted to pay them a visit.

Their site did not disappoint me. It was what I'd hoped for full of the ominous, dark mysteries of Southern mythic traditions. The graphics on their site are simply terrific, especially against a grey background. The band's photos are also appropriately black & white. And, their music is steeped in old, Southern country-folk blues. Creech Holler's music is actually more traditional folk-based than I anticipated though with plenty of blues groove - which was a nice surprise.

Creech Holler could use a good producer, as their vocals are difficult to hear. But I really enjoyed their musical style and artistic sensibilities. They've effectively married their music with their look and style. Good job! www.myspace.com/creechholler

My next example, above, is the band Rodeo Clown (www.myspace.com/rodeoclown2005). Their photo was so dorky that it made me laugh, and it looked like they were laughing when the photo was taken, too.

When someone demonstrates that kind self-deprecating humor, I am immediately interested in who they are. Their photo worked for me although it may not for everyone. (I happen to be a person for whom "dorky" works.) As there was actually no direct connection from their photo to their name, my visit to their site was completely based upon their photo. The fact that their name and photo didn't jive was a weakness on their part, because someone else may not be so generous with their time as to visit a band's site simply on the photograph.

When I clicked on Rodeo Clown's photo, I landed on the site of a self-described punk/rock/surf band whose site is mostly in Italian. It is a modest site, but they did the trick of getting me there. Their music is fun, but I didn't get a strong sense of musical or artistic direction with Rodeo Clown. It was a fun visit, but they would benefit greatly by making some decisions about who they are and how they want to present themselves. In other words, I didn't get a sense of their primary artistic sensibility. And that would be a killer for many bands if a music industry professional were to visit their site.

Probably the bigger challenge on a site like MySpace is for the individual artist who is trying to stand out, and this is especially for artists in acoustic-based music. Individual artists have a much more difficult time of it when trying to establish a presence. Carie Pegeon is an example of an acoustic-based artist whose photograph worked very well.

Carie Pigeon's photograph is an excellent example of creating an eye-catching image. It is a terrific shot. I saw indie, strong female, probably acoustic-singer/songwriter with a harder, confessional edge. Her photo is well composed and interesting to look at, and it convinced me to take a visit to her site.

Carrie's website states that her influences are Melissa Etheridge, Sarah McLachlin, and Alanis Morissette. You can definitely hear those influences, and they are a good match for her look. Carrie's photo nails who this artist is perfectly. And, her music is very much reflects that genre. While Carie needs to do more work to her MySpace site so that her personality shines through as beautifully as it does through her photo, she accomplished the most important first step: she got me there.

It is important to note that my reactions are not everyone elses' reactions when confronted with the many choices on social networking sites. But what is also important to note is that we all must base our decisions whether or not to visit a site on the same two pieces of information: your graphic and your band name. What artists, managers and record labels must think through carefully is how you use those two portals to an artist's site, whether the browser is a fan or a music industry professional.

Who do you want to attract to your site? What are you doing to get them there? How does your photo or graphic and name contribute to motivating someone to visit your site? You must be very clear about your primary artistic sensibility to ensure that every decision you make for your site contributes to your cause. If each choice is not actively contributing to your site, then it's actively detracting from you as an artist. There is no neutral ground in this game.

Finally, congrats to all of the above artists for getting me to their sites. Now take another look and listen at The PinkSpiders myspace site and learn the lessons that they can teach you. Good luck!

Provided by the MusicDish Network. Copyright © MusicDish LLC 2006 - Republished with Permission

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