Catching up with MySpace Music

The social network's streaming music, discovery, and retail service is both a return to its roots and a vision of its future.

It's been more than five months since MySpace launched MySpace Music--so how's it doing?

"Our traffic is huge," MySpace Music President Courtney Holt told CNET News in an interview. "Our usage is very high. People are doing a lot of different things with music on our platform." There are currently more than 5 million bands with music on the streaming-and-discovery music service, and more than 100 million playlists have been created, and it was a matter of days before MySpace Music hit its billionth stream.

But the service is still evolving, Holt said, and is willing to change in response to user feedback and criticism. Recently, it's improved a number of search features, tweaked its music player, and added an "activity feed" to artist pages, among other things. There are also "album pages" that not only give users a hub for purchasing albums, but which also serve as surrogate MySpace pages for artists that may not have created their own.

MySpace, acquired by News Corp. in 2005, got its start as a hub for all things independent music before it turned into the world's largest social-networking site--only to be usurped by Facebook last year. Since midway though 2008, we've seen a lot of signs that MySpace has changed its strategy to reflect a return to its music and media roots. The biggest of these, obviously, was the launch of MySpace Music, a joint venture with the major record labels.

What we can expect down the road: a do-it-yourself tool for small-time artists to add their content to MySpace Music, perhaps. More music videos, and more music-centric video programming. And more revenue streams, including merchandise and ticketing. "We're going to be doing that in a big way in the near future," Holt said. Obviously, it's a tricky business, considering the concert world is dominated by huge players like Ticketmaster and Live Nation (which have made plans to merge ) and MySpace Music would invariably have to negotiate with them. "It's hard to do that (independently) because Ticketmaster, LiveNation, AEG--they've got control of venues and they're locking in tours," Holt explained.

MySpace Music, currently only available in the U.S., also has international markets on the agenda. "We don't have a timetable yet, but what I've been saying is we're trying to launch mid-year, and we're trying to pick key markets now and we're doing the work to prepare for that," Holt said.

Recently, digital music in the U.K. has been in the news because of disputes between Google's YouTube and PRS For Music, the country's royalty collection group. Holt said that MySpace Music has already started talks with PRS. "I met with PRS when I was in Europe and we're hoping to form a deal with them...we'd like to get a deal done and be in-market when it makes sense."

Regulations and potential legal spats aside, there are plenty of competitors to MySpace Music--Imeem, Apple's iTunes, and Last.fm (owned by CNET News publisher CBS Interactive) all compete in one way or another. But the real nemesis would be a music offering from Facebook, the social network that snuck up from behind to surpass MySpace in global traffic. That's a rumor that's arisen from time to time and refuses to go away.

"I don't know what they're doing," Holt said on the prospect of a Facebook music service, "and I don't have a comment on it."

 

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