Soulja Boy’s Not Ashamed

Usually when MySpace plays a major role in breaking musicians, they are eager to back away from it — “oh no, it wasn’t MySpace. Well, maybe a little, but WE TOURED! HONEST!” It’s as though making it through MySpace cuts your credibility. So in light of that, it’s refreshing to read this interview with Soulja Boy at in which he sings the praises of MySpace and direct communication with fans:

AllHipHop: You mentioned in previous interviews that you were lacking exposure on the streets, would you say the internet is a better alternative or just as good alternative to mixtapes?

Soulja Boy: The internet is a much more productive tool than mixtapes or the streets because I was hired for shows before I even signed a deal with a record label based on internet popularity. Everyone in the club, arena or stage where I performed knew word for word all of my lyrics to my songs off the strength of the internet. I wasn’t featured on any mixtapes or radio stations.

AllHipHop: What contribution are you bringing to Hip-Hop that hasn’t been done?

Soulja Boy: I am bringing a new way of getting exposure before you are signed. Other artists are big from the streets or mixtapes, I am showing people another avenue. I came up on the strength of a myspace page. From that, I had die-hard fans that wanted to hear my music no matter what it was. For me to become a star from the bedroom of my house is definitely something big.


AllHipHop: At such a young age, how are you dealing with the backlash from haters against your style and movement?

Soulja Boy: Haters are going to hate. I don’t pay attention to haters as opposed to my fans. I talk to my fans everyday through logging onto Myspace. They also send me emails on my Sidekick.

I’ve been thinking lately about how the internet can position artists as peers of the fans, rather than above them (the Swedes I’ve been interviewing seem to be looking to get rid of the barriers between band, label and fan), so was struck by this piece of the Soulja Boy interview as well:

AllHipHop: Do you think people can relate more to you than other artists because regardless of their financial status, they can throw together something from their closet that resembles your attire?

Soulja Boy: They look at me like someone they can be just like. That is why I dress the way I do. If I come into your city, you can have on the same or similar attire that I have. I keep it really simple and my fans can be just like me.

Seems like such a nice boy.

MySpace: Where Authors Meet Fans

Over the weekend, the NYTimes had a reflective piece by author Pagan Kennedy about using MySpace to discover her fans. She talks about the usual isolation of writers from their readers and compares them to musicians:

Usually, writers don’t interact much with their readers. Even at bookstore appearances, we may not run into the hard-core fans, who often are suspicious of group activities and would rather just meet on the page. When we write, we’re alone. We stare at the computer screen, picturing our imaginary audience as we type. Mine look like this: a horde of faceless yet well-educated drones sitting in rows of acrylic chairs in an all-white lecture room that resembles one of the sets in the old TV show “Space: 1999.”

In this way, we’re the opposite of musicians, who know their audiences intimately. A drummer in an indie band might gig five nights a week. Afterward, whether he’s in Cleveland or Culpeper, he sticks around in the bar with local friends, then crashes on a sofa supplied by a fan. For bands, social networking started long before the Internet.

Then she goes into ways in which authors and fans are interacting online – playing games, reading each others’ blogs, offering advice and support. And mostly, discovering that their readers are real people:

As for me, I’m still grappling with the revelation that my readers are carrying on lives in places like Brooklyn, Oakland and Portland. Somehow I had imagined that they slept in beehive-like pods in a space station just past the moon; they awakened only when I needed them to file into the antiseptic room to hear my story. These readers, however, turn out to be just the opposite of the drones of my imagination. They sell broccoli-themed greeting cards; they carve their own rubber stamps; they are pioneering new methods of fortune-telling that involve Smarties candies. And more than a few of them have ventures of their own to promote. In fact, if you want to buy Shakespeare-themed thong underwear, I know a guy who can hook you up.

It’s hard for me to imagine that MySpace is really the best space for authors and readers to find one another, but maybe it is just on account of sheer numbers. But here we are again with the fact that the net is transforming artist/fan relationships in ways that offer new rewards for artists. It’s ironic that the internet is so often accused of depersonalizing interaction and lessening the sense of presence amongst interactants. In cases like this, there’s nothing that enhances the sense of presence as much as the internet.

And how interesting to think of rock bands as the new model for all artist-fan relationships.

Stupid Things Part 2: Elton, Meet Ramesh.

The other day I posted a long rant about Voxtrot leader’s anti-internet rant. Now Elton John wants in on the internet-slagging action. According to The Sun Online, Sir Elton

…claims it is destroying good music, saying: “The internet has stopped people from going out and being with each other, creating stuff.

“Instead they sit at home and make their own records, which is sometimes OK but it doesn’t bode well for long-term artistic vision.

[...]“I mean, get out there — communicate.

“Hopefully the next movement in music will tear down the internet.

“Let’s get out in the streets and march and protest instead of sitting at home and blogging.

Same rant applies. Key points:

(1) There is no evidence that people who spend time online spend less time communicating with others. To the contrary, research strongly suggests that people who spend time online are MORE likely to spend time communicating with others than people who avoid the internet.

(2) Marching in protest is not mutually exclusive with blogging. Bloggers also march in the streets. People can do both. Indeed, the internet and blogging are being used every day to organize physical protests and marches and even… parties! If he has a beef here, it’s with digital music production, which is a separate issue from the internet.

(3) If you’re worried about the spread of bad music, quit making it!

Has anyone seen any studies about live music attendance since the dawn of the internet as a music-oriented space? I’d love to see some stats that support claims that it is suffering on account of the net. My guess is that if it’s suffering at all, it’s on account of the insane ticket prices people like Sir Elton demand. My sense is that smaller local shows are attended as well as they ever were. Certainly the hot acts sell out around here.

How NOT to market your new CD

The Smashing Pumpkins are taking a lot of rightly deserved heat for their 4-versions-of-the-same-CD release strategy. As Pitchfork writes in a story headlined Smashing Pumpkins to Fans, Indie Stores: Fuck You:

Billy and company would like you to know that they fully support the extinction of the American independent record store at the hand of large, faceless, little-guy-crushing big boxes. They also support bleeding their fans dry. How? By releasing FOUR different versions of Zeitgeist.

Best Buy and Target each get a version with an exclusive bonus track. So does iTunes. Like, a different one for each. Everybody else gets the regular version with no bonus tracks. So if you want all of the bonus tracks, you have to buy an album at Best Buy, an album at Target, and an album at iTunes.

corgan money

All one can really conclude from this is that it’s going to result in hardcore fans doing a lot of illegal circulation and downloading of the extra tracks. It’s very hard to imagine any fan being excited about this or thinking it’s anything other than an effort to rip them off.

As far as I can tell, the Smashing Pumpkins have not had any press/net coverage that thinks this is cool. Instead response ranges from annoyed to livid. It’s hard to read it as anything other than a scheme to make more money for themselves and the big box stores at the expense of fans and independent record stores.

Seriously not cool. Goodbye indie credentials.

How to relate to your fans online

The band Wilco have been exemplars of how bands ought to relate to fans, providing a great model for the ‘new social rules of Internet fame’ that I wrote about yesterday. Today their new record is released, months after it’s leaked and been widely distributed online. At the end of last week, they emailed their fans what they titled “a modest proposal” (no baby-eating required):

[...] We continue to make lots of music available free to all in the road case, continue to allow taping/photos at shows, and basically just try to keep the things we do charge for of a quality that make you feel like you got a bargain. You know, mutual respect and all that. We like the way it works… a lot. We really do believe in trying to keep as much of it as free and open as is humanly possible. That seems pretty obvious… but somehow it remains a slight novelty in the modern day music business. So much so that people continually mention it in their stories when they write or speak about the band or the somewhat sad state of the music business.

Anyway, what we’re getting at here is that right now we need you to participate in a way that is part of what has made this nice little story work. We’re actually asking you to please go out next week and do the right thing for Wilco. That is, vote with your feet and prove the band’s faith well-placed and buy the record. [...]

Okay, enough campaign speeches. You get the message. And we trust that you’ll act on it as you always have. Other things on this week’s extremely busy agenda…

They trust their fans. They give to them and they assume that their fans will give back. They treat them with respect. They have been remarkably good sports about having their albums leaked over and over, they’ve all-but-outright encouraged fans to tape and distribute their concerts, they’ve made extras available online, they’ve streamed their music before releasing it, they send nice letters to the people on their email list regularly but not excessively.

They have every right to expect that their fans should reciprocate, and I love that they’ve provided what the letter calls a “reflection on the dynamic between us and you” to preface the simple call to please go out this week and buy their record.

I might add that a friend loaned me his complete Wilco collection a few years ago and I ripped it. After listening for a month or two I went downtown to the local indie record store and bought them all. I’m clearly not alone in putting my money where my ears are.