Why Bruce Springsteen on MySpace is a bad idea*

*(and not just because the Springsteen children are so embarrassed they can never go online again)

Let’s start with the easy out: MySpace is no longer relevant. Tastemakers are not hanging out there, looking for musical suggestions. Bruce being on MySpace feels like the out-of-place, afterthought that it is.

On the one hand, I can see the utility of a MySpace promotion. MySpace is good at being a virtual billboard of HEY, THIS NEW THING IS OUT! PAY ATTENTION! But it’s a totally obnoxious, in-your-face kind of way, and for some things, that’s completely appropriate. It could even have been appropriate for Bruce, but not just by setting up a page, and bragging that Tom friended him first. That joke was old five years ago. Please tell me Sony has more money in their ad budget than that, and that there’s someone at Sony who understands online marketing beyond “let’s set up a page on myspace”.

To add insult to injury, the front page blurb on myspace.com reads:

“The man himself Bruce Springsteen FINALLY gave in and started his very own MySpace Page for his new record coming out called Magic! Go to Bruce‚Äôs Page today and show him some respect, add him as a friend, leave him a comment, and thank him for so many good songs.”

Let’s see how many ways this is probably the worst music ad copy written since “The Man Can’t Bust Our Music”:

1) “Thank him for so many good songs”? Are we promoting the new album, or trying to remind people who Bruce Springsteen is? First of all, I really don’t think we need to do that, and to take the condescending position that people need to thank him is already going to alienate any new fans who already think he’s not relevant to them.

Is the point of the page to promote the record (which is actually really fucking good), or to remind the “kids” that Bruce and E Street are touring and you should find $95 to go see him? Or is it both? If it’s both, then do it with respect to the audience. Don’t pander or lecture to them. The MySpace demographic will already give props to Nebraska and Tom Joad. The rest they think is totally hokey.

2) “Show him some respect!” : While I’d argue that “Born To Run: is relevant to just about anyone who loves rock and roll, I’m not sure that we can command that the denizens of MySpace owe Bruce any kind of gratitude, nor do I see that as any kind of valid promotional spin that will attract attention.

“Show him some respect”? You know, there was a whole fucking musical revolution that kind of destroyed the idea that the new generation owed the former generation any kind of respect. If Sony really wants a new generation to listen to the record, then get some tastemakers in the target market to write about the record thoughtfully. Even – gasp! – give them access to interview Bruce themselves, and not through the usual filters.

I also gotta say – although I think this record is actually excellent, I’m not sure that a new generation is going to find this record particularly relevant TO THEM. And you know what? That’s okay. I mean, I don’t find Daft Punk relevant, and I’m pretty okay with that. I’m not sure I’m supposed to.

4) “Leave him a comment”: well, considering how many people on MySpace believes that David Wright from the New York Mets has about 12 “official” MySpace pages, I’m quite sure that people on MySpace, as well as Springsteen fans who still think it’s 1995 in terms of the internet, will come and leave a comment believing that BRUCE HIMSELF is going to see it and give them the “BEST FAN EVER” award.

Now that that’s done (and that was really so easy it’s almost unfair):

Is this an attempt by MySpace to attract Bruce’s demographic? Possibly. However, Bruce’s demographic will largely get on MySpace and not find it useful or relevant to them. The overblown Geocities-type graphics generally turn off the older demographic, who are also more task-oriented when they do go online – they might waste plenty of time on the internet, but it won’t be hanging out on MySpace looking to increase their friends list. (Then again, these are the same people who use the same 16×16 signature graphic EVERY TIME they post on the Backstreets Ticket Exchange message board, even if it’s a dozen or so times in the same thread, so maybe I am underestimating them.)

If Sony wanted to use MySpace to promote Bruce, they would have been better off running an ad, or going whole hog and taking over the main page of the site for a week or two. The idea is to get people to listen to the record and see that it’s valid and relevant and that Bruce can still write great songs. Let’s face it; the MySpace demographic going to find a torrent somewhere to download it, and you’re not going to lose money on them because THEY NEVER WOULD HAVE BOUGHT IT ANYWAY. If they download it and like it, there’s a chance that they might pony up the bucks for the tour – which won’t make Sony happy, but will line the Springsteen pocketbook, so Bruce should STFU about that.

If Sony wanted to use social media to promote Bruce, they would have created a Ning site, or some kind of proprietary, easy-to-navigate, tastefully visually designed community that would attract the thousands of fans that are involved in the various message boards, newsgroups, private message boards, secret mailing lists, and other discussion forums. They would have had ready-made content available immediately, and then they could have promoted that community via targeted ad buys online and off. Stop trying to make Bruce fit into the existing channels, and create a channel that fits Bruce. Create a channel that’s innovative and has some interest and meaning and integrity.

I mean, what next, a Facebook group?