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If I’ve Seemed Absent Lately…

I’ve been noticing lately that the level of activity on MySpace seems to have tailed off significantly over the past year or so. Is it just me, or has the party peaked or even left the building? Meanwhile, after having been on Facebook for a half a year or more with virtually no activity, the communications there seem to be flowing at a fast pace.

I’ve noticed that I am spending less and less time on MySpace. I might be tempted to say that is because I’ve been spending so much time on Facebook because the party has moved, but that would only be partially true. Yes, it seems like more and more people are engaging over there, including some of my MySpace friends who almost never contact me on MySpace anymore, but have been in even more regular contact since Facebook started picking up (i.e. for me personally — I know a number of people who have been much more regularly using Facebook for a long time). While I initially found Facebook’s quirky interface concepts kind of like trying to sit down and read a novel written in Greek (I don’t read Greek), either they’ve made some vast strides or I’ve just gotten used to the quirks, because it does seem like it is easier to keep in touch with friends over there. However, that is only part of the story, not all of which is about Facebook versus MySpace.

Another part of the story that is about Facebook versus MySpace, specifically as it applies to songwriters, bands, and others who initially came to MySpace mainly with the notion of promoting their music or other wares, but who also found that they developed new friendships in the process, is that Facebook makes it possible to distinguish between friends and fans. With MySpace, you’re either friends or not friends. (You can work around this by having two accounts, one for personal use and one for your band, but then it is double the work.) If you invite a musician to be your friend because you like their music, odds are you’re also inviting them into your personal life, to see family photos and such, whether or not you really want to do that. With Facebook, on the other hand, you can sign up to be a fan of a musician without letting him be your friend. You can still interact with the musician similarly to how you interact with friends, but he won’t be able to see your personal photo albums and other info, unless you’ve made that information public. By the same token, you could be personal friends with a musician without becoming a fan, in the sense of signing up for notifications about his musical efforts — kind of like being friends with a neighbor without getting embroiled with all the news about what he does for a living. This is also useful from the musician’s end, because I know that communications I send out to my “fans” (i.e. people who’ve signed up as a fan on Facebook) are going to people who are interested in my music, instead of my brother, my cousin, old high school friends, and so on. Also, I don’t have to worry about sharing personal details with people I don’t know just because they like my music. Of course, people can be both friends and fans if both parties agree to the friend relationship (anyone can sign up as a fan without the musician’s agreement).

Not everything is rosier in Facebook land, though. For example, the music pages are very hard to find — you really have to have a link, because the URLs are totally non-intuitive (e.g. my musician page is http://www.facebook.com/pages/Rick-Paul/6208021724 — you’d pretty much have to be a hacker to figure that out without a link!). While people I didn’t know ahead of time have found me there (and also some people I did know, but didn’t know were on Facebook), I’m always amazed when that happens because I even have a hard time finding the page myself. In fact, I put a link to it in my normal Facebook profile mostly to make it easier for me to get to that page when I want to check it. This makes it not as easy to find new fans, though the facilities Facebook provides to keep signed up fans up to date are quite useful, not to mention easier to use and more effective than those MySpace provides.

Anyway, as I said above, the amount of time I’ve been spending on Facebook is only part of the story on why I haven’t been as active around here as I have in the past. The other key reason is that the last six months or so have been extremely hectic for me, on both the music and life fronts. For privacy reasons, and because I wouldn’t want to bore you with all the details anyway, I won’t go into the personal stuff, with one exception. That one exception is that my daughter is a senior in high school this year. Thus, we started visiting prospective colleges last October, then had all the application-oriented stuff to do. By that time, the holidays were rolling around, with tax season and financial aid application season coming around shortly thereafter. Once decision time rolled around, it was time to take care of the offer acceptance admin, and to make another trip to her chosen college (University of California, Berkeley) to get a better picture of what we’ll need to do between now and the time she heads off to campus in August. If you’re feeling dizzy just reading this, you get the picture.

On the music front, I’ve been busy in two primary areas:

In my capacity as a music software reviewer for CakewalkNet.com, I wrote three in-depth software reviews between December and March, and I still have one more to finish somewhere between now and the end of June. My musician friends may be interested in checking out my recent reviews of Cakewalk SONAR 8 Producer Edition digital audio workstation, IK Multimedia T-RackS 3 Deluxe mastering software, and Sample Modeling Mr. Sax T. virtual tenor saxophone. I’ll also be reviewing the Garritan Authorized Steinway Virtual Piano (Basic Edition) in the next couple of months. All four products have already found their way onto my recent recordings.

My main focus at the moment, though, is finishing my first full-length album as a singer-songwriter. If you’ve been checking out my recordings over the time since I’ve been on MySpace (I first got on here around May 2006), you’ve no doubt heard some of the songs that are currently planned for my album. For example, on my current MySpace profile, “If I Could Turn the Hands of Time”, “Love Holds On”, and “I Can’t Say Goodbye” are tentatively planned for inclusion. I’ve been working on this project a long time, taking brief, and sometimes not so brief, detours to put out other, smaller projects. Well, we’re now getting to the point where the rubber needs to hit the road (translated into English: “I need to finish the project and get the album out the door”). See, I booked a couple of performances at this Summer’s Orange County Super Fair, with the idea that I’d have CDs ready to go in time. The first of the performances will be on Sunday, July 12th, so that sets a deadline in the sand for needing to have everything ready. Crunch time!!! The thing is, I’m pretty slow on the recording front, owing in large part to my doing everything on most of my recordings. Two months to record two additional songs, get the whole project mastered, get all the admin done, and create the artwork is a very short time for me. Thus, alongside all the other stuff I’ve got going on, there’s been a lot of time pressure, though I am making progress, and I’m starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel (English translation: “I think I might actually be able to get it done in time”).

Anyway, if you don’t see much of me around here in the next couple of months, you’ve got a good idea where I’ll be and what I’ll be up to. Hopefully I can come up for air around mid-July. Until then…