“Back in my day music was good.” “When I was your age people worked harder, walked to school, and didn’t get lost in this fangle-dangled web of lies that is the Internet.” And there are countless other examples of people reminiscing and insisting when they were growing up things were better.
Therein lies the conundrum. Somewhere within the bias and cobwebs of lies mixed with semi-truth is what could be a sparkle of reality. This is for the sparkle of reality which many may agree with.
Remember when the Internet was good?
It was 2002/2003. I was immersed in songwriting and sharing my music with others. MySpace, Facebook, Bandcamp, and SoundCloud weren’t “things.” They were but tiny twinkles in some developer’s eye. Instead, traditional online music communities were where you would share your music. I would Google, “music community,” to find the hottest ones. Not, “social network,” or “social media.” It was about community. There’s a big difference between “social” and “community.”
”Social” could be annoying chatter and small talk. “Community” is coming together as one and truly creating an experience—a sense of belonging, empathy, and love.
One of the top music communities back then was SoundClick. There were also sites like Pure Volume, but SoundClick had a uniquely supportive forum.
Side note: I’m talking about these as if they don’t exist anymore. Pure Volume doesn’t (it’s now an entertainment blog), but SoundClick is still there. Still hanging on.
I joined SoundClick back then and uploaded my poorly recorded original music. I would then go to the forum and talk about various music and songwriting topics with other musicians. SoundClick wasn’t necessarily a place to get discovered, but it was wonderful for meeting other songwriters and musicians.
I met people who I still think about from time to time today. I wonder if they are still out there. What they are up to these days. I do know that one person passed away. I discovered that via Facebook before I deleted the app.
What was so nice about this forum and other forums like it back then was that people gave you feedback, showed support, and there would be contests and other fun activities within the forum boards. It was a concentration of musicians. A niche. Which made it stronger and more fun than Facebook and Twitter. I even collaborated at one point with another musician. He sent an instrumental track my way and I added vocals. There’s something about “old school” forums like the SoundClick one I’m talking about that just felt… different, in a good way, compared to something like a Facebook group.
I can’t quite pinpoint it but I have a guess around why I miss “old school” forums.
Forums are laid out and designed for discussion. They are laid out by categories and sub-categories. You can easily zero in on a very specific niche you like, such as a board about acoustic songwriting maybe. So, that’s one thing, they are easy to navigate. A column of eye catching post titles versus endless scrolling through full social media boxed posts.
Then in that space you start strong and meaningful connections because everyone there (besides the occasional troll who gets banned quickly hopefully) is there because they truly care about that topic. Plus, usually, the people who are there sought it out.
With social media, things spread like viruses. (Hello? Viral videos and posts?) That’s why they took over. The problem with this is that more trolls and people who truly don’t care appear. Because your post fell into their lap. They didn’t necessarily seek out your Facebook group for example. It appeared in their feed or a friend’s feed. This is good for the mega companies behind the platform making money off of you, but not necessarily good for meaningful discussion.
Then there’s the likes. Now, modern forum software, even modern forum software that I currently use and like, has features such as likes. Likes aren’t a horrible feature. But, before Facebook made likes popular, forums didn’t have that. It was just discussion. Period. Which could be another factor that makes me long for the good ol’ days. People weren’t out to get likes. They were out to get replies.
Outside of the forum at SoundClick was also nice. They let musicians purchase ad space. You could advertise your latest song or album. Then you’d get more plays, and you would climb SoundClick’s music charts. And even me, a musician with very little money at the time, could afford to purchase an ad every now and then because they kept the cost low enough so that a musician could buy them. The way you paid was simple too. You paid for impressions. Not clicks. You knew if you paid X amount your ad would be seen X times. And it worked. One time an ad got my song “Katie” to the top of one of the charts. Not #1… I think it got to #4 or #3.
Now, remember I said it wasn’t about getting discovered. That is true because there weren’t a ton of normal music listeners who were members of this site. I think is was mostly other musicians. But, that still made getting to the top of a chart exhilarating because it was fellow musicians who thought your song was good.
These types of places still exist and who knows? They could make a comeback.
And I’m not talking about Bandcamp or SoundCloud… they aren’t the same. They are more like social networks and/or simply for selling music. Not for being a part of a nice community.
But, until they do come back, I will continue to long for the good ol’ days of the Internet. When we had communities and not endless scrolling and yelling and liking. It’s just a cluster now. A cluster which helps no one but the people trying to make a quick buck.
That’s my opinion anyway.