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My Space

This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.

The ratings organization, Nielsen, lists My Space as the number one social networking site in America. The site also ranks high in repeated viewings. Over 67% of all the visitors to My Space in March, returned in April. Not only that, compared to some of the other popular sites on the web, My Space boasts a phenomenal retention time, with My Space members logging well over an hour of use each time on the site.

Created in the fall of 2003, My Space quickly grew into the place for folks to build and maintain home pages with a distinctly personalized feel, using blogs, artwork, music and photos to express their interests. Social Networking on the web has become a replacement for real-life social interaction. My Space works particularly well for the young and disenfranchised, who might feel alienated in the traditional social world, but can feel like the most popular kid on the block online.

Now over 70 million members strong, My Space is the ultimate playground for young people to connect. Of course, any destination that offers a personal gateway into the hearts and minds of young adults can be a target for dangerous real world encounters. So last week, My Space began restricting usage between those over the age of18 years old, with younger teens. Not surprising because My Space is an open website, allowing for much artistic expression and communication between strangers.

According to the Internet think-tank, Jupiter Research, 48% of all music discovery occurs between friends. It used to be, you got your best sourcing for new music from mates as school, or a trusted deejay. But today's rock n roll citizens are just as likely to hear about Art Brut, Band of Horses or the latest Calexico CD from their buddies on My Space.

With only a few songs getting airplay on most radio stations, bands search for cost effective ways to connect with their audience and a personalized My Space home page provides the perfect vehicle. The site has become a virtual database for music fans and potential fans. By building a direct and personal relationship with their audience, bands cement long-term loyalty. Amanda Palmer of Dresden Dolls journals regularly to her fans on their My Space blog, giving readers a first hand look at her life on and off the road. Many bands post insider videos from their tour buses and some offer special deals to My Space readers.

Some bands have actually sought to use their new relationships on My Space in new and productive ways. Maybe a touring band needs a couch to crash on or a bass amp for an upcoming gig or a good place to get a home cooked meal. One post on the My Space page, and the offers start rolling in. A fan in Des Moines, Iowa can suddenly become the band's best friend overnight. Nothing says relationship better than delivering something of value to someone in need.

In fact, some bands have made a virtual game out of it, asking fans to bring odd, rare items to shows, just to see what they might get. But it doesn't really matter--as long as the bands and the fans are feeling good about the interaction, the economics of this micro universe will continue to flourish .

This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.

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