Friday, November 16, 2007

Is MySpace the new Whiskey a Go Go ???

Rapper Saul Williams

by Greg Sandoval

Could John Hammond have discovered Billie Holiday, Bob Dylan, or Bruce Springsteen by scrolling through pages?

The Babe Ruth of talent scouts, Hammond made artists and repertoire guys famous. These music-label reps have a storied history of haunting backwater honky tonks, nightclubs, and dive bars in a quest for hot new acts.

In the future, some A&R reps may be asked to forget the clubs and restrict their searches to the Web.

Private-equity firm Terra Firma, the company that acquired record company EMI in May, is now trying to attract investors by floating a plan that includes drastic cost cuts at the struggling label, according to a story in The New York Post earlier this week. The paper said that according to a "confidential investor presentation," Terra Firma is considering slashing EMI's fixed costs by $223 million.

Under the proposal, EMI would slice $58 million from its A&R and marketing budget. The savings would come from requiring talent scouts to rely more heavily on sites such as MySpace to find talent, the Post reported. The company would also use social-networking sites to promote acts. The plan is only under consideration and final decisions have not been made, a label representative told CNET

Nonetheless, this shows just how much influence MySpace has acquired in music circles.

The site is already teaming with hopeful musicians who may find it beneficial to build jaw-dropping Web pages and MySpace profiles to help them stand out.

Rapper Saul Williams, who is distributing an online-only digital album called, The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of NiggyTardust, said MySpace is helping to boost ticket sales.

"MySpace has made people more interested in seeing live performances," Williams told during an interview two weeks ago. "It's extremely exciting for me to see how the Internet is bringing more people to live shows than ever before That's one thing you can't duplicate on the Internet. You can't get that exhilaration that comes from a live performance from a computer screen."

If that's true, can MySpace really be an effective tool for A&R guys?

"It's true, you can find some interesting music on MySpace," said one music record executive, who asked to remain anonymous because he has dealings with EMI. "Yet, I look for bands with strong live followings and a strong live presence, and there's no substitution for getting out there and seeing whether someone can actually play. I don't think you're going to find the next Bob Dylan on MySpace."