Ugly MySpace
An entrant in Ze Frank’s Ugly MySpace Competition

Another one I get asked an awful lot – particularly by musicians who are just getting started in the online environment. They’ve heard about MySpace, and that it’s where all the musicians are – but they’ve had a bit of a look through and are a bit bewildered.

Let me help: What should be on your MySpace page?
Frankly – as little as possible.

While it’s true that the purpose of having a MySpace page is to direct people to your own site, that doesn’t mean your profile should be so ugly that it has them running and screaming. Zen levels of simplicity and design are paramount.

Assuming that you’re a musician, or in a band, then as we’ve discussed, it’s pretty important to have a MySpace page, even though that might seem to defy common sense, taste and decency. So let’s talk about how to avoid the worst MySpace crimes and use it to its best advantage.

Here are five things that SHOULD be on your MySpace page:

1. Your photo
This should be a photo in which we can see your face. Humanise the interaction. You have a cool logo? Great. Put it on your website. That’s where you can concern yourself with professional design. On MySpace, you’re just trying to make the best of a bad situation and abandoning all other hope.

2. A short bio
Tell people who you are. Be really brief. Nobody is here to read your life history or an essay about why music is important to you. Just the facts about who you are right now, please.

3. A clear link to your band’s website
Make it obvious that this is a place where people can stumble across your music and listen to it. This is not where you do your business. Why? Because you’re a professional.

4. Some pictures and videos

These do not go on the main page. At most, there should be just one video on your MySpace page (though none is my clear preference), and it should not under any circumstances autoplay when you land on the page. But you’ll notice there are links to Pics and Videos under your photograph on the main page. These links should lead, as promised, to Pics and Videos.

5. Your music
Put your music on MySpace. It’s the one thing it’s good at. Let people hear your music. Let them add it to their own profiles. Let them download it. If at all possible, DO NOT make it autoplay when they arrive on your page. People tend to browse multiple pages simultaneously and have several tabs open at once. If more than one thing is making noise, things get closed without getting looked at. Let people see everything, get a sense from the picture and the bio – and then let them press the play button. They’re FAR more likely to listen that way.

Here are five things that should NOT be on your MySpace page:

1. A background image
Sometimes background images look cool. Mostly they don’t. The most important thing is that people can read your text and see what to click on. A background image against which text disappears or is difficult to read is a problem.

2. Spammy comments
If another band wants to put a flyer on your comments section, say NO. Be utterly ruthless about this. It’s not impolite. Your MySpace page is not a wall for posters and nor is it a place for people to say ‘Come and check out my page!’. Comments are for fans to say how much they loved your music – and when are you coming back to play in their town. Show some respect for your audience and don’t make them read crap and other people’s ads. This is your garden. Weed it.

3. Anything animated
Flying text, moving pixels and flashing bits and bobs make you look ridiculous and it detracts from the message rather than adds to it. If you have an animated music video that you’re featuring as the one YouTube embed on your profile, then that’s obviously fine – but otherwise, if it moves – kill it.

4. Your influences
These should be a good indication of other (probably more well-known) artists whose music is like what you do. This is not to show off how cool and obscure you are, and nor is it to place yourself within a pantheon of legends. This is purely for search. If people like band A, and you are like band A, then band A’s name should appear somewhere on your page so that when people google band A, they find you. Influences is the place to do this. Don’t go overboard – ten’s a good number – and be accurate.

5. Blog entries
Let me make this clear. This is NOT your blog. But blog entries on MySpace are useful as news updates for the casual visitor. Make sure you have compelling headings, because that’s all that shows up on your profile. People need to click through to get to the MySpace blog. You might as well show them something interesting – and make sure it leads back to a link to your own site.

But don’t waste your time obsessing over MySpace. Make it as clean, presentable and usable as it can possibly be under the circumstances, then go and spend your time working on your real online profile, where you can actually customise properly and have some control over your communication.

If you want to add me as a friend on MySpace, be my guest – but do bear in mind that I spend very little time in that environment. My dislike for it borders on the pathological.

What’s on YOUR MySpace page?