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Will Hagle isn’t with the conspiracy theories that the feds did a sweep.
1. “Brick Shithouse. Less Than Free. Galileo’s Daughters.”
Those are the names of bands you never knew existed. You needn’t not know that they did exist, because those bands were important only to the people who were in them. To the people who were in them, though, those bands seemed like they’d live on, in some way, forever. Although tastes changed, friendships diverged, paths branched off, and the bands broke up, it seemed as if the music they made, at least, would never die.
Now all three of those bands, plus the innumerable others who fell victim to MySpace’s recent accidental data wipe, are gone. Completely, and utterly, gone. One day, out of nowhere, the music—that last sonic reminder of a bygone time—died. The day it happened didn’t feel anything Don McLean made it seem like it might.
Anyone who grew up in proximity to some combination of Fruity Loops, GarageBand, a guitar, a microphone, a USB interface, and an internet connection is going through a similar sense of grief. All songs uploaded to Myspace between 2003 and 2015 are no longer streamable or downloadable.
You’ll never hear the music these three bands played. You probably wouldn’t have, anyways. But maybe you have some of your own music that you liked to revisit, from time to time, to remind yourself of what you once created. Maybe you listened to artists on Myspace during rare visits to that nostalgia graveyard, because that’s where you discovered those artists in the first place. Myspace might’ve been the only place you knew to find those songs.
It’s been a year since the music player stopped working, a few days since widespread news broke confirming the data loss, and the company still hasn’t given a clear-headed, reasonable explanation.
They don’t care about us, or our music, or our memories. We should have seen this coming.
2. “Due to a server migration files were corrupted and unable to be transferred over to our updated site. There is no way to recover the data.
That was the exact content of an email sent from an account entitled “Legal – Data Privacy Officer – Internal” to a Myspace and Reddit user named austinjckson. Austinjckson, like others on r/techsupport, had been concerned about Myspace’s music player ever since it had inexplicably stopped working without any public-facing update or acknowledgement.
In the comments section of an innocuous thread, in which u/JodiXD consulted the wisdom of the tech support subreddit crowd for help downloading mp3s from Myspace, you can read through the slow process of people discovering what the once-behemoth company had pulled behind their digital backs.
Austinjckson’s comment, linked in an official story from The Verge announcing the data loss, is oddly emblematic of the way our post-Myspace digital society operates. There’s nothing to confirm the legitimacy of the email or its source. Our natural instinct might be to trust the company itself, to seek out an official statement. The language used throughout the message seems far too concise and straightforward to be true.
3. “It can’t be true, can it?”
That’s what we asked ourselves, when the news broke beyond the niche subreddit that, until that point, had been the only ones who cared.
4. “As a result of a server migration project, any photos, videos, and audio files you uploaded more than three years ago may no longer be available on or from Myspace. We apologize for the inconvenience and suggest that you retain your back up copies. If you would like more information, please contact our Data Protection Officer, Dr. Jana Jentzsch at [email protected].”
That was the update that Myspace placed at the top of their music player’s page, when it became clear that they could no longer hide from the people who still used their platform, or those who had returned to demand answers.
This notice, posted a few months before Austinjckson received his email confirming the irrevocable nature of the data loss, was a heartless display of cowardice that only a faceless company could be capable of uttering. Despite likely knowing that the songs were gone forever, Myspace kindly apologized and made the polite suggestion that users back up their data, despite the impossibility of doing so within Myspace itself.
This statement wasn’t a lie. It was, instead, a blatant dismissal of the most important aspect of the truth. For whatever reason, Myspace wasn’t prepared to admit what they’d done. Conspiracy theories already abound, but are pointless to indulge.
The point isn’t that Myspace screwed us over. It’s that we screwed over ourselves, and we continue to do so, by placing faith in tech companies that care nothing about us or our precious content.
5. “There’s an insane amount of noise about SoundCloud in the world right now.
And it’s just that, noise. The music you love on SoundCloud isn’t going away, the music you shared or uploaded isn’t going away, because SoundCloud is not going away. Not in 50 days, not in 80 days or anytime in the foreseeable future. Your music is safe.
That’s an excerpt from a July 14, 2017 Soundcloud blog post, intended to reassure Soundcloud’s loyal fanbase that what would eventually happen to Myspace would not yet happen to them. Despite persistent claims that Soundcloud “is here to stay,” Alex was careful in his statement to avoid using words like “never” or “forever.” He would be a fool to do so, and we would be a fool to believe him.
When news spread that Soundcloud might go under, the platform’s rabid users and appreciators went into a frenzy. Chance the Rapper said he would buy it, like he did the Chicagoist. Even though Soundcloud survived under its current ownership, anyone attempting to make the platform immortal would be akin to Bashar Al-assad trying to make himself and his leadership eternal, or, on a lesser scale, trying to resuscitate a sunken media outlet. There’s simply no reason to do so, because we all already know how this ends.
It still seems impossible that a platform currently synonymous with rap’s most successful subgenre would ever go extinct. For further evidence of the contrary, however, we need look no further than Purevolume: that once overpopulated cess pool of emo, hardcore, punk, and scene kid music.
6. “Oops! Page not found!
The article you were looking for was not found, but maybe try looking again!”
That’s the verbiage that greeted me when I attempted to access the page of my former Purevolume namesake: Willville. I’m not surprised that the company tossed out whatever recordings it was harboring of myself and countless other 14 year old voices, frozen in time like a terrible, open, visitable cryogenic chamber. I just wish they could say “We deleted your shitty music, you idiot,” rather than remaining vague about whatever nefarious “rebranding” process they had trotted out to utter failure and disinterest.
7. “Since 2013, millions of people have turned to Vine to laugh at loops and see creativity unfold. Today, we are sharing the news that in the coming months we’ll be discontinuing the mobile app.”
That was the opening paragraph of the company’s official statement, in a Medium post entitled “Important News about Vine.”
Vine is yet another classic example of individuals placing far too much trust in a corporation that cared nothing about them. The platform fostered creativity like a haiku. By placing the 6-second limitation, the most clever videographers established careers for being funny, absurd, or inventive.
In the grim days after Vine announced its terminal illness, some speculated that the form could live on through different platforms. It hasn’t. Looking back at Vine, it feels like our harshest lesson in digital fatalism. The companies enable us to connect with each other, make money, and grow followings. They help us accomplish things we couldn’t do on our own. Then they rip it away from us, and their PR departments only pretend to care.
8. “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
That’s a quote that hung on the wall of my physics teacher’s classroom, (mis?)-attributed to Albert Einstein. I used to contemplate that photo, staring off into space rather than learning about it, around the same time that Less Than Free was uploading classic tracks like “Ice Nine” to its Myspace page.
It’s a basic quote, but what better than a basic quote to emphasize our fundamental failure of the modern age: we repeatedly place unjustified trust in corporations to protect our data, rather than to sell it for maximal profit, or dispose of it without warning.
The confusing legalese of tech “Terms & Conditions” have become an easy joke. Our tendency to agree without having the slightest clue what we’re getting ourselves into has been ridiculed better on South Park’s “Human CentiPad” episode than is worth getting into here.
We know how powerless we are against the tech giants. We recognize that they monitor and predict our behavior, and advertise accordingly. Despite this knowledge, we buy into their lies, and begin to believe them ourselves.
We direct our anger towards their incompetence when the server transfer slips up, or when the new owners do something incongruous with the platform’s history, or when the site shuts down and takes our content with it.