origin stories:internet music — WECB

Imagine it: it’s 2014. You run to your room and slam the door. You rush to your desk, where many Polaroids are taped next to your Lana Del Rey vinyl. You reach for a desktop computer and immediately log on to Tumblr to check out what your favorite fan pages reblogged this week. Through endless clicking and scrolling, you find unfamiliar feeds embedded in your feed. Who are arctic monkeys? Why is everyone talking about Marina and Diamonds? The year 1975? Sky Ferreira? Why is everyone bringing up all this music?

Over the years, the process of accessing your favorite social media platform and discovering new artists has been killed and resurrected several times. Even though I wasn’t in the MySpace era, I definitely remember the rush of going on Tumblr and hearing snippets of Sky Ferreira’s “Everything’s Embarrassing,” reading poetic lyrics from 1975, and seeing screenshots from Lana Del Rey music videos. After Tumblr’s tragic downfall, the process was restarted with the younger side of Gen Z. TikTok has massively impacted the music industry and paved the way for artists like Doja Cat, Lil Nas X, PinkPantheress and Olivia Rodrigo. The beauty of this reincarnation of “Internet Music” is that each era has a distinct sound, creating a new generation by creating niche subcultures.

The most notable introduction to social media is the invention of MySpace in 2003. The website spawned the Emo and Scene kid subcultures of the early 2000s, and more importantly, Internet Music as we know it today. A 2005 New York Times article described MySpace as “a place to keep home pages, often decorated with lavish artwork, intimate pictures, and blogs full of frank and often biased commentary on their lives, all with homepages. is a place associated with friends.” Pioneered by platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, which we now use, MySpace allowed users to not only interact with their friends online, but also to customize their profiles with different layouts, graphics, and most popular music options for your followers to listen to. . With MySpace members sharing their favorite singers and bands on their profiles, the social media website created a strong online music community. At its peak of 75 million users, several artists created MySpace pages to post their demos and communicate with fans. At the time, Lily Allen and It paved the way for smaller artists like Soulja Boy, who built up a following on the site who listened to their music and eventually became household names. Bigger bands like My Chemical Romance also gained popularity through MySpace. The band performed at The List, a MySpace-sponsored event. did, here fans got their first taste of The Black Parade album in 2006.

MySpace died around 2009, but Internet Music lived on. Over the years, Tumblr, a social media platform in 2007, gained popularity in 2013. This resulted in a defining moment of the 2010s. Unlike MySpace, the site focused more on the “blogging” experience than networking with friends. In 2012, there were over 42 million blogs on Tumblr, each with a different aesthetically pleasing profile and hours of admiring on your computer. Among the various subcultures that emerged from the site, the most notable had to be the “Tumblr Girl”. The Tumblr Girl was trendy, stylish, effortlessly beautiful and listened to mostly alternative/indie records on her vinyl. The Tumblr Girl was an icon that many users on the platform (myself included) desperately aspired to be. Often associated with this term, alternative music often featured on the website was a crucial element in achieving this aesthetic. Artists such as Arctic Monkeys, Lana Del Rey, Sky Ferreira and Marina (formerly known as Marina and The Diamonds) have gained a dedicated following on the website for their remarkable melancholic aesthetic. After that, a new era was born in Internet Music. Tumblr popularized the “Sad Girl” aesthetic, mostly by discovering artists with a gloomy mood and reblogging their content. The lyric from Arctic Monkeys’ 505, “But I totally break down when you cry,” was copied and pasted behind a black-and-white grid background and placed on the platform, contributing to the energy of “Sad Girl.” The attempt to become the next Tumblr girl resulted in teenagers copying the flower crown from Lana Del Rey’s “Born to Die” music video and slipping into an American Apparel skirt as seen in Sky Ferreira’s live performances. It’s almost as if the subculture has created a secret code for Tumblr users to recognize each other from a mile away, with their choice of clothing and music. The influence of music through the social media website created a movement in the 2010s that was a significant part of Tumblr users and is still remembered today. Since it was temporarily removed from the iOS App Store in 2018, Tumblr decided to ban sexually explicit images on the platform, resulting in its slow death over the years.

Today, the reincarnation of Internet Music has changed drastically from what we have seen before. Instead of relying on a friend’s music tape or the reblogs of beautifully placed words on our computer, we’ve settled for short thirty-second clips on our phones as we scroll endlessly for hours. TikTok is dominating the internet today with youth in fashion, politics, pop culture and of course music. After rebranding in 2018 from Musical.ly, an app where users could lip-sync their videos and post them online, TikTok has expanded content and promoted itself differently. The app gained huge popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic and gained about 28 million online users. TikTok’s ability to add any sound to a video has had a huge impact on the music industry. Doja Cat’s “Say It” became a quarantine anthem as millions of users danced to the catchy pop song and posted it on the app. Similarly, Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” took over the charts after its popularity on TikTok. Not only these established singers but also underground independent artists have gained fame from the app. Singers like PinkPantheress and CoCo & Clair Clair have a following on the app, allowing them to break out of the underground scene.

From the emo era of MySpace, to Tumblr’s Sad Girl aesthetic, and today’s TikTok dances, the death and rebirth of Internet Music is inevitable. It’s hard to imagine pop culture today without Internet-derived subgenres. No one can predict when and how this process will end and start again, but it is likely to affect the next generation as it did for the generations before us.

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