The Hoff, at the time of writing, has 12,379 members on HoffSpace. The site is powered by white-label social network creation service Ning. It’s got all your basic social network functionality – friends, groups, photos, blogs, videos, as well as more traditional artist’s website stuff like a chat room and a message board.
Hoff, for his part, has stated that he’s no longer going to be interacting with fans on MySpace. He also offered a bit of insight into why he felt that HoffSpace needed to come into being:
“In my travels round the world I have always been surprised that no matter where I go people recognize and know me, from Europe, Australia and India to the Philippines and the Zulu Nation in South Africa. This got me thinking… I realized that while two people from two entirely different countries and backgrounds may seem to have nothing in common, the only thing they might have in common is me… So I decided to start a network where people from across the world might come together and get a conversation started over me.”
This story, although a little silly, does raise an interesting question. Hoff is more than likely doing this because he realizes that he can control the content and the ‘experience’ of HoffSpace much more closely than he can on MySpace. Is it good for bands and artists to join up to a massive global community like MySpace, Imeem, Vox or Last.FM (to name just a few) that they have little-to-no control over? Or is it better for them to create their own networks of fans like other bands have?
Radiohead are probably the most notable example of a band creating their own social network, and they and the Hoff both have the fans, and the likely future career, to justify the investment. Smaller bands, on the other hand, can really benefit from the ‘discovery’ features provided by sites like MySpace and Last.FM, even though their terms and conditions can be occasionally egregious. If you’re in a small band, I certainly wouldn’t recommend trying to start your own social network. I would, however, recommend signing up for every social media service you can find, and using them all regularly. If your music’s good, the fans will come.