Can’t wait until June 7 to hear the new Black Eyed Peas CD? Don’t worry, it’ll be online before then. Legally. On May 31, the Peas’ fourth album, Monkey Business, will be streamed exclusively on MySpace.com, a Friendster-style lifestyle portal that is quickly becoming one of the music industry’s favorite places to promote new tunes. Since its preview last September of R.E.M.’s Around the Sun CD, the ad-driven site has collaborated with major labels to host prerelease exclusives from such marquee artists as Oasis, Weezer, and Nine Inch Nails, whose recent MySpace offering streamed (meaning it can’t be burned or downloaded) 590,000 times in one week. ”When I’m launching records like the Black Eyed Peas’, I’m saying, ‘How can I reach a broad audience that can influence an even broader audience?”’ says Courtney Holt, head of new media for Interscope Records. ”That’s what MySpace users do.”
Now that the 18-month-old MySpace has grown beyond its roots as a dating and socializing network — sneak-peek footage from House of Wax and pre-premiere episodes of the NBC sitcom The Office are among recent nonmusic content — it’s the Internet’s sixth most trafficked site (according to Media Metrix). And its 16.2 million members, most of whom are in the 18-34 demo, include more than 275,000 artists and bands, who post tour dates, blogs, and songs on their own music pages. For up-and-coming pop-punk group Fall Out Boy, the site has served an even more basic function. ”In the early days when we had no money, we found places to crash and do our laundry through MySpace,” says bassist Pete Wentz. So besides free publicity, what’s in it for the more established likes of Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo, Billy Corgan, and the Peas’ will.i.am, who all have personal MySpace pages? ”It’s a great place for them to forge one-on-one relationships with fans,” says Chris DeWolfe, the site’s CEO. Virtual groupies, log on now.