Do I Have Famous Friends?
Three months ago we were swapping emails. Today her first release is the number one record and download. But do I feel connected to Lily Allen? No not really - we spoke via MySpace that's all and today Lily, quite understandably, barely has time to write her blog let alone chat to all her "friends".
By extreme coincidence, the song is produced by Mark Ronson who I met when he was ten years old (and I was much older and working with his father). We haven't met since.
So, I don't know Lily or Mark or indeed Kevin Bacon, even though I'm connected to him by one degree of separation (by dint of my friend's lovely sister having married him), but they are all part of this allegedly miraculous thing called my social network! No, sadly, they're not.
Lily Allen's music is terrific, fresh and lyrically edgy and deservedly successful but I didn't come across it by scouring through mySpace. No - I am a recipient of a scabrous industry gossip sheet which dropped her name a few months back and for some reason I was attracted to this classic piece of crowd-seeding.
Similarly, Sandi Thom a previous number 1 artist who allegedly got a record deal on the back of webcasts from her flat that started with an audience of 643 on February 24 and rose to one of 86,325 by March 4. This figure was not achieved simply by social networking word of mouth - her mother has run her own marketing company for twelve years, her management had fired off a million e-mails advertising it and a streaming company was persuaded to donate the necessary bandwidth for thousands to view it.
Cream doesn't just rise to the top via social network legerdemain, it has to be pushed. It's still all about sneezers and influencers and there's nothing illegal or immoral about this, it's just not a new paradigm. Moreover, as well as being largely ineffective "networking" for the unimaginative and lazy, I do wonder if the hype devalues the real talent that the cream possess. For how long will The Arctic Monkeys and Lily Allen be known as MySpace acts rather than talented performers?
That would be unfair since MySpace was really just a free website for them. As Mark Cuban puts it in more technical terms in his recent declaration that the internet is boring.
"if GeoCities had the foresite (sic) to add the MySpace concept of friends instead of rings and host people’s media files, would we call it a revolutionary social network ? Or just a webpage and file hosting service? Which is exactly what MySpace and other social networks are."
Worse still, it's got to the point where you MUST have one and that always strikes me as an indicator of an effectiveness tipping point. A DJ friend has been advised by his management that he must have a MySpace profile despite his many years in the business. Why? Because everyone has one and because they've belatedly read about this phenomenon.
The result will be another node on the social networks of some of the world's most influential club DJs with whom he's played, but then what? Will the world beat a path to his door and his schedule of international performances mushroom? No, and similarly, I'm not counting the days till Kevin and I have dinner, while being serenaded by Lily, before Mark drops some beats at the after-party.