Is MySpace the new Whiskey A Go Go?

EMI is mulling whether to cut its Artists & Repertoire budget, the unit charged with sniffing out new music talent for the labels. The plan is to spot hot new acts on MySpace and the Web. Sad news for A&R types is that this makes it hard to meet groupies.

Rapper Saul Williams Atticus Ross

Could John Hammond have discovered Billie Holiday, Bob Dylan, or Bruce Springsteen by scrolling through MySpace pages?

The Babe Ruth of talent scouts, Hammond made Artists & Repertoire guys famous. These music-label reps have a storied history of haunting backwater honkey tonks, nightclubs, and dive bars in a quest for hot new acts. In the future, some may be asked to forget the clubs and restrict their searches to the Web.

Private-equity firm Terra Firma, the company that acquired record company EMI in May, is now trying to attract investors by floating a plan that includes drastic cost cuts at the struggling label, according to a story in The New York Post. The paper said that according to a "confidential investor presentation," Terra Firma is considering slashing EMI's fixed costs by $223 million.

Under the proposal, EMI would slice $58 million from its A&R and marketing budget. The savings would come from requiring talent scouts to rely more heavily on sites such as MySpace to find talent, the Post reported. The company would also use social-networking sites to promote acts. The plan is only under consideration and final decisions have not been made, one of the label's spokesmen told CNET News.com.

Nonetheless, this shows just how much influence MySpace has acquired in music circles.

The site is already teaming with hopeful musicians who may find it beneficial to build jaw-dropping Web pages and MySpace profiles to help them stand out.

Rapper Saul Williams, who is distributing an online-only digital album called, The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of NiggyTardust, said MySpace is helping to boost ticketsales.

"MySpace has made people more interested in seeing live performances," Williams told CNET News.com during an interview two weeks ago. "Its extremely exciting for me to see how the Internet is bringing more people to live shows than ever before That's one thing you can't duplicate on the Internet. You can't get that exhilaration that comes from a live performance from a computer screen."

If that's true, can is MySpace really an effective tool for A&R guys?

"It's true, you can find some interesting music on MySpace," said one music record executive, who asked to remain anonymous because he has dealings with EMI. "Yet, I look for bands with strong live followings and a strong live presence and there's no substituting getting out there and seeing whether someone can actually play. I don't think you're going to find the next Bob Dylan on MySpace."

 

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