Over two weeks ago, when I decided to review The Sixtyone's interactive / social features, I mainly had all recent spam measures in mind. But when I started to give it some real thought, I realized that there's more to communication at T61 than meets the eye.
The developers of T61 wanted to supply all kinds of tools for interaction and social activity, but they didn't want their members to take over. After all, T61 is not a community site, but the venture of two young developers. They probably developed appliances with a certain usage in mind, but then saw people use it in ways they didn't like. The most memorable listener to do so was the one called KosmikRay.
KosmikRay was a high profile member who used to set up all kinds of crazy events, like having a song bumped to 1000 before it could hit the homepage or getting as many comments on a song as it had bumps. He used to put a lot of effort into showing new artists around and getting listeners involved in the community (as he thought there was such thing as a community). He was also the driving force behind a number of so-called upload parties, which were like massive online rock festivals with a lot of stages and spectators.1.
In June 2008 KosmikRay's account was terminated by the owners of T61. His profile was deleted, together with a huge amount of either usable or entertaining comments on walls and songs. Officially because he continued to violate the Terms Of Service, but the owners never explained which terms exactly were violated. This led to a lot of speculation and co-founder James Maio wrote an open letter to the T61 members, which also mentioned spamming and upload parties.
It is true that before June 2008 some bands would visit almost every Comment Wall available to promote their music. And KosmikRay would stop by to promote upload parties or radio bumping. But there was always the possibility to block members from walls. Then in October, just when we were organizing the Max Bumps awards - coincidently or not - another measure was taken against spamming. From then onwards it was no longer possible to copy and paste the same message onto more walls. Finally last month, when the redesign took place, the number of characters allowed in a comment got reduced to a mere 250. In addition, the forum was taken down, tuneboxing (the ability to send song discoveries and messages to other members) got turned off and the listener bio editor stopped accepting links, images or other html tags.
Without tuneboxing , unrestricted messaging, the freedom to create a profiling bio and a forum to interact with the site owners, there's not much left of the social features of T61. We have to trust that the developers to have their own good reasons for these measures. Maybe it's all for the better that no new KosmikRay or Maxbumper will arise to organize events that alter an unbiased music discovery. But it's hard to understand how the new Sixtyone can still be beneficial to artists.
A new music industry, one that is not directed by only a few major record companies, needs a community to evolve. But there's no community at T61. There are listeners and artists, who are members of a private site, where they need to obey the rules the owners impose. The success of new songs is not in the hands of the listeners, where it belongs, but in the hands of a few developers who are probably thrust worthy, but then again, maybe not.
1The idea behind the upload parties was to get at least 30 artists to upload a new song within just one hour and to get as much listeners as possible to bump the sparks out of them. The most exciting party was the one KosmikRay and friends organized as a tribute to the late Michael Paul Miller.