I was born in 1994. I'm 28 years old, which means I effectively grew up in the 2000s. My Chemical Romance were my first favorite band. As a teenager, metalcore, post-hardcore, pop-punk and emo were my favorite genres of music. I sung along to "Sugar, We're Goin' Down" at middle-school dances. American Idiot was my Green Day album. I have a nostalgic fondness for the first Chiodos record. But I was never on MySpace.
I feel like I'm a part of this very specific microgeneration of first-wave Facebook users who were also too young for MySpace. Or maybe I was the perfect age for MySpace when it had its glory days between 2006 and 2009, but I just wasn't there. To some people reading this, maybe that doesn't register as particularly consequential. To others, especially those who are roughly my age, who know the type of music I've covered for years, and have a familiarity with the genres I just stated were my bread and butter in high-school, the fact that I never had any meaningful interactions on Myspace might seem profoundly odd. What if I told you I never watched MTV either? Welp.
I realize that for a suburban kid who grew up in the aughts, I had a somewhat unorthodox cultural upbringing. I was surrounded by music in my household, but MTV, VHI and Fuse were never on our TV. My parents were slightly too old for the music video era, and while they likely would've sheltered me from watching the sultry pop and rap videos that dominated those channels in the early 2000s, I didn't even know enough to ask and try to convince them otherwise. I don't remember any of my friends talking about MTV as a medium for consuming music (just reality TV and Jackass), and I had my first real exposure to music videos when YouTube started taking off in 2007. By that point I was already in 7th grade, but I still didn't get any social media accounts for another two years, so I just barely skipped over the pinnacle of MySpace.
I wasn't anything close to popular or cool in middle school, so while I knew that many of my classmates were using AIM to chat in the evenings, my dearest pals were, like me, more interested in playing games of kickball or twiddling around on Gamecube after sports practice. Moreover, I didn't have a cell phone until high-school, so I kept in contact with my two or three middle-school friends over email. I basically had the online experience of a 13-year-old in 1998, but I was a 13-year-old in 2006. It wasn't until the end of eighth grade when I finally got a Facebook and began living life online. By then, MySpace was already being eclipsed.
The first time I remember hearing the word MySpace and realizing what it was — as more than just this abstract "computer thing" that didn't make sense to me as a kid who only used the computer to play video games or check the Mets score — was in sixth grade when I saw my first concert. My dad took me to see a local ska-punk band called The Levar Burtones in a DIY hall in downtown Rochester. It was formative in showing me what a punk show looked like, but also because one of the bands told the audience to find their music on MySpace, and I realized, "Oh, that's a thing that bands use."
That was in 2006, the year bands like Panic! At the Disco were using MySpace to become mainstream, VMA-winning sensations, but when I had only recently gotten my first email address (solely so that I could play fantasy baseball with my dad). MySpace was becoming this gigantic phenomenon, but I was virtually blind to what it really was, how young people were using it to socialize, and why bands were using it to jumpstart their careers. I received my first iPod (a second-generation Nano) in 2006, and all of my Mp3's either came from ripped CD's or stuff my dad pirated for me. We weren't a Limewire house, but he was very hip to the Blogspot terrain by then, and eventually taught me how to use the Pirate Bay on my own so I didn't have to ask him to download any more Marilyn Manson albums for me.
Again, MySpace was right there during all of this, but I was completely unaware. By this point (2006-2007), my favorite bands were My Chemical Romance, The Hives and the White Stripes. My parents were into the whole garage-rock revival, and I had heard "Welcome to The Black Parade" on Top 40 radio and instantly fell in love, which led me to checking out the full record from my local library and throwing it on my iPod. MCR were too big to need MySpace by that point, so the platform didn't have any involvement in leading me to that band. But so many people who were my age or just a little bit older probably heard MCR on the radio (or on MTV or Fuse) and used MySpace to delve further into that scene.
My fandom stopped there. I liked the Fall Out Boy singles from From Under the Cork Tree as much as the next 13-year-old, and definitely heard Panic!'s "I Write Sins, Not Tragedies" once it infested the radio. But I didn't know what Decaydance was. Didn't know Hawthorne Heights. Loved those big-ass All American Rejects songs, but had never heard Cute Is What We Aim For. Even going back a few years to the pre-MySpace years, since I didn't watch music television, I didn't know Thursday or the Used even though I loved MCR. I didn't know Taking Back Sunday yet. I didn't have an older sibling or friend (or frankly any friends my age who knew about this shit) to guide me, so I just listened to The Black Parade over and over again for years and didn't think to search for similar-sounding music.
I've been reading through Chris Payne's new oral history of third-wave emo, Where Are Your Boys Tonight?. It's a phenomenally detailed and highly entertaining document of the 2000s scenes that essentially devised all of the gaudy metalcore and sugary pop-punk that I loved in the early 2010s. Many of the groups featured in the book are ones I would go on to adore later in high-school, but there're many others from that same time period (Thursday, Thrice, Poison the Well, Killswitch Engage, to name a few big ones) who just missed me entirely. In punk and metal subculture, a measly two years is often the difference between two entirely distinct musical and aesthetic movements, and stuff like Cobra Starship and The Academy Is... were (in my eyes at least) yesterday's bands by the time I showed up.
Here's one that usually wigs people out. By 10th grade (2010), metalcore had become one of my favorite genres, but Underoath — possibly the biggest metalcore band of the mid-to-late-2000s — played literally no role in ushering me into that scene. It was their immediate offspring (The Devil Wears Prada, Miss May I, Of Mice & Men, Attack Attack!) that served as my gateway. Yes, those were all bands who used MySpace to launch their careers, but I got into them a year or two after the fact. They were YouTube bands by then, and that tiny yet highly acute gap between MySpace's apex and the sudden ascendance of Facebook (which I correlate with YouTube's coronation as the premier music streaming destination) made all the difference in informing the bedrock of my high-school music taste.
Not being on MySpace, and frankly not being on social media at all as a middle-schooler from 2006-2008, has created such a distinct gulf in the pop-punk/metalcore I love versus the stuff people who are just two-five years older than me love. I was physically there, but I wasn't there for third-wave emo. What I heard was whatever made it onto the radio, and then it wasn't until I got my own computer in ninth grade and started pirating music like crazy that I began backtracking through the previous decades of metal and punk. I had to ingest a whole middle school career's worth of entry-level music in my ninth grade year. All the classic thrash and NWOBHM. All the nu-metal. The Nineties skate-punk. Rage Against the Machine. Pantera. Queens of the Stone Age. That Eminem guy.
It wasn't until 10th grade (2010) that I truly took a liking to metal "with screaming," and by then, MySpace was over! A Day to Remember were who I associated with Victory Records, not Taking Back Sunday and Silverstein — both of whom I ended up really loving, but who felt like the previous generation's bands. The "Defend Pop-Punk" movement was in full swing, and I was a 16-year-old kid who wanted to be a part of what was going on around me, not listening bands like the Starting Line and Midtown who had already broken up, or bands like Thursday and Alexisonfire who were making their "mature" fourth or fifth albums. I loved The Wonder Years. Set Your Goals. Asking Alexandria. The bands who were playing my era of Warped Tour that coming summer, which wasn't quite the MySpace generation. It was the early Facebook generation.
And that's where I think I exist. I'm a first-generation Facebook teen. I got a Facebook at the end of eighth grade, and I've been addicted to the internet ever since. As you may remember, Facebook didn't have any real culture attached to it in the way MySpace had music, which is why it was able to become such a behemoth. It appealed to anyone who wanted social connection, which was everyone, especially old folks. Not just gossipy teens who wanted to rank their friends and set a diaristic song to their profile. Eventually, Facebook began to develop its own subcultural music "scenes," but it certainly wasn't as musically-oriented as MySpace. And yet, it totally stomped MySpace out of relevance as a medium for spotlighting music.
Here's my most vivid memory of using MySpace. By the middle of 10th grade, I learned that my local scene had several serviceable pop-punk and metalcore bands kicking around it, and I remember sitting at my dining room table poring over a local venue's calendar and googling all the band names that looked vaguely "scene." Again, this was 2010, and several of those bands still had MySpace pages, but by this point they were already a couple years out of date and looked dusty. YouTube was the new platform for hosting music, and Facebook was where bands promoted themselves, and that whole sea change happened (from my vantage point) between my 8th and 9th grade school years — the years between me going from Sandlot-character-offline to plugged-in-scene-kid online.
Between Payne's Where Are Your Boys Tonight? and Michael Tedder's upcoming book, Top Eight: How MySpace Changed Music, I'm going to be reading a lot about MySpace and MySpace-era music this summer, and I'm really looking forward to it. It's an era of music and culture that obviously interests me, but it's funny. Reading about this stuff sometimes feels like when I read about music from the Nineties, a decade I really wasn't conscious for (I was a small child). I was of-age for My Chemical Romance. I got into them when so many of my friends did. I get a visceral pang of nostalgia when I see the album cover of From Under the Cork Tree. I'm the target audience for all these fucking Emo Nights. I was around for all that shit — but I wasn't on MySpace. So was I really?