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Originally published Friday, July 1, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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Night Watch

MySpace is (free) music to the ears of bands, fans

Fourth of July. Freedom. Free. Free stuff. A case could be made that the Internet, with all its free stuff, is a living testimony to the...

Fourth of July.

Freedom.

Free.

Free stuff.

A case could be made that the Internet, with all its free stuff, is a living testimony to the spirit of the American Revolution. This is particularly true when it comes to music (even if the Washingtons and the Adamses probably thought "screamo" was what the British sounded like in retreat and "hip hop" was what ye did after ye horse stepped on ye foot).

For instance: MySpace.com, which has an almost overwhelming amount of music, all free to consume. This site is similar to Friendster.com but way, way cooler; MySpace.com makes Friendster.com seem as nerdy and useless as Napoleon Dynamite's brother. Friendster.com is not as easy to navigate and not nearly as well set up for listening to music; it's more of a message-board and meet-like-people site — and you have to register before you can cruise the site. Nonregistered users can zip all over MySpace.com and listen to thousands of songs (entire songs, for the most part).

Bands — big, medium or small — can sign up at MySpace.com for free. They get their own MySpace sites and can easily set up profiles with bios, show dates, photos and — perhaps most important — upload as many as four songs in MP3 format. This gives them potential exposure to the thousands of MySpace.com users (the site boasts of "12 million users," for what that's worth).

Like Friendster, members can "invite friends"; and some bands actively solicit new fans this way. Others just sit back and let like minds find them.

For the music fan, it's quite easy to use. From the home page, click on the "music" button (between "games" and "classifieds"), then search bands by name, genre or geography.

Think Seattle has a lot of bands?

More than 2,500 bands within 10 miles of downtown Seattle are on MySpace.com. They range from signed bands the Blood Brothers, Postal Service, the Shins and Vendetta Red, to local club stars Crystal Skulls, Blue Scholars, the Lights and Gatsby's American Dream, to total unknowns, such as White Center rapper Ayreon the Don, indie pop band Moogle Charm, emo man Jon Johnson, metal troublemakers Sophisticated Savages (who lead off their profile with a long e-mail from a Seattle all-ages club: "Hi Sophisticated Savages. I wanted to formally congratulate you on your status as '86ed' from the Vera Project ... "), screamo band Dating Deliah ... on and on.

MySpace.com tracks how many times each band's profile has been looked at ("views") and how many times its songs have been listened to ("plays"). One of the most popular MySpacers going is This Providence — Bothell's answer to Jimmie Eat World — which has had 140,000-plus plays and nearly 100,000 views. Eminem-ish UW student 3CE ("threece") has 60,000-plus plays. Seattle bands Verona, Paris Spleen, Antlers and Blane are also hotties in the MySpace.com world — which, naturally enough, can be manipulated or be a popularity contest.

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Even so, it's a useful, low-budget tool for a band to market itself.

"It is a good way to get people to hear our stuff and also acts like a more hands-on version of a band mailing list," says Sean Wolcott of local band Izabelle, which has had 4,500 plays in three months on MySpace.com. "... We have let it grow naturally. Some bands go out looking for fans ('friends') which we think can be a turnoff. Rather, we take the approach of letting people find us and to have it grow naturally."

Izabelle does quite well, offline. Last weekend, it shared a bill with Razrez — nearly 10,000 plays, 5,000 views on MySpace.com — at Ballard all-ages venue the Paradox. Razrez might be the hottest band playing Seattle clubs, but the 200 or so kids at the Paradox meandered in and out of the performance space during the Raz set. When Izabelle started tuning up, it was all hands on deck: the young fans rushed from the lobby to the music room, and most seemed to know Izabelle's melodic pop songs.

Izabelle plays "Said and Done," "Maybe Someday" and other originals at 10 p.m. Wednesday at the Crocodile (10 p.m., $6).

MySpace or Friendster? No question at Sub Pop Records, says publicist Joan Hiller: "For marketing purposes, definitely MySpace. We have MySpace accounts here for all our bands. ... It's a great way to have an additional mailing-list kind of thing we can use to keep fans informed, re: shows, new records, new merch, etc. The Postal Service and Shins MySpace accounts all have tens of thousands of 'friends' ... "

Hip-hop duo Blue Scholars have had their profile viewed 18,000-plus times and had people play their MP3s 25,000-plus times.

"MySpace is a great medium for us to connect with our supporters across the country and keep them informed," says Marc Matsui, who manages Blue Scholars. "And it also allows us to make new fans from folks that check out our music. We're on Friendster, but that site is not nearly as popular right now and doesn't have the same options."

Options.

Choices.

Freedom.

• Portland's Derby — "I haven't been this excited about a band since the early days of Death Cab for Cutie," says Barbara Mitchell of Seattle-based Roslyn Records — brings its Blur-y sound to Ballard's Sunset Tavern at 10 tonight ($7). Derby: 7,000 views, 14,000 plays on MySpace.

• Scout Niblett plays the Funhouse at 9:30 p.m. Tuesday ($7). She sounds like a punked-out Cat Power on her fantastic new CD "Kidnapped By Neptune," produced by Steve Albini. It's weird, it's repetitious, it's chaotic, it's primitive, it's explosive, it's amazing. The album's best song has a title that's a bit too raw for this newspaper, but, of course, you can hear it at MySpace.com: 3,500 views, 2,200 plays.

Niblett, by the way, is originally from England. Now she is free.

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