I got psychologically suckered into signing up for Bebo this morning (everyone else was doing it), which in my circles has been getting the reputation of being a more music-oriented MySpace. The feature that intrigued me was playlists -- users can create and display playlists on their homepages of songs that Bebo bands add to their pages. Why MySpace hasn't added that, I have no idea. Here are my thoughts as I signed up and created my beautifully lame Bebo page:
- The username "bradsucks" was taken. Weird.
- You seem to be able to upload an unlimited number of songs which is way nicer than MySpace's limit of four.
- Drag and dropping the order of my top 10 songs is sweet, though arranging the songs on my album was done with cumbersome "up" and "down" links, which I gave up on.
- I still swear to the lord god above something needs to be done to make it quicker and easier to sign up for these sites. All of my music and data are available for the taking -- why must you force me to upload and label everything manually?
- You have to have a regular Bebo account and then you make band accounts inside them, unlike on MySpace where you have to set up a separate type of account. I guess this is neat but I have no interest in having a non-musician account.
- Instead of allowing the type of eye-gouging HTML customization that MySpace does, you're restricted to using Bebo-approved skins. They're pretty but they're not customizable in any way, which sucks.
- I now have two Bebo blogs (my regular user blog and the band blog) that I will not use and I can't hook up to this blog I have here. Get some RSS going or allow easy cross-posting or something.
- The search sucks, it's just a full text Google search of the public pages. So there's no way to search by location or interest in musicians or playlists or anything cool that would help me find people who are or might be interested in my music.
- Crazily there seems to be no way to link to my home page here. The profiles don't allow HTML and there are no fields for pointing to external band home pages. Additionally you can create albums of your music but can't provide a link to any place that the visitor could download or buy it. What in the sam hell.
So I like the additional song storage. MySpace users are often asking me to post additional songs so they can add them to their pages, but if I remove any of the original four I put up there, it breaks every page with those songs on them.
The additional songs and the playlisting are probably what give Bebo the reputation as being more musician-friendly than MySpace. But it's worse in that without links back to my site here or to a place they can buy my album it's hard to believe it'll sell any music for me. Not only that, it's unlikely almost anyone will make it back to my site here and sign up for my mailing list so I can keep the relationship going, keep them in the loop on future releases, etc.
The social networks are definitely useful for spreading music and that's certainly cool. But I find them frustrating -- like there's a huge barrier between the fans and the artist and that any contact between the two is almost accidental and always totally fleeting. And with Bebo's lack of external links it's driven home to me that, as a musician, it would be hard as hell to build anything lasting out of my social network "groupies" or "friends".
And I guess I wonder: is that the nature of the post-Napster musician/fan relationship these days or is it just a side effect of crappy web tools?