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Is MySpace becoming Windows of online music?

Digital-music companies are acknowledging that MySpace is a part of every musician's online kit. Instead of creating an alternative, they are letting users tap into what MySpace offers.

A couple days ago, Sonicbids CEO Panos Panay posted about his company's new MySpace plug-in.

If you're not familiar with the company, Sonicbids caters to independent musicians, giving them a quick way to create an online press kit, which they can then submit to venues and concert promoters to get shows. The MySpace plug-in enables artists to incorporate their MySpace info--including that critical measure of online popularity, the number of MySpace friends they have--directly into their online press kit, where promoters and bookers can see it.

Microsoft's early success in drawing developers to its platform is one reason why Windows is so dominant today. Could MySpace follow the same path?

This struck me because it's the second time in a week that I've heard a company acknowledge that MySpace is becoming a standard for online musicians. The other company is still in start-up mode and isn't ready to go public yet, but it's going to provide an online listing service for musicians to post gigs, and for fans to find local live music.

The service sounds similar to Jambase and Bandloop, but with several interesting distinctions. A big one: instead of having to list their gigs themselves or rely on their fans to do it for them, bands will be able to connect their MySpace page to this service. Any gig they post on MySpace will automatically be fed into the system.

As I told an audience member at SXSW who asked about essential tools for online musicians, MySpace may no longer be considered hip or cutting-edge, but it's an absolute essential first-stop for all musicians.

As a band, if you don't have a MySpace page, you might as well not exist. And it appears that third parties are reaching the same conclusion--instead of trying to build new communities from scratch, these companies are using MySpace's APIs to let their customers tap into what's already on MySpace. It's becoming the Windows of music--it's not trendy, it doesn't always work the way you expect it to, but for better or worse, it's ubiquitous.

MySpace might want to take note. Its current business model seems to be based around building yet another online distribution channel for major label artists. In early '90s software terms, it's banking on becoming the Egghead Software of online music.

Instead, maybe it ought to think about how it can become the Microsoft of online music. There's money in the hundreds of thousands of independent musicians and their fans who use MySpace today, but it'll take a clever entrepreneur to figure out how to unlock it.

Of course, I have to wonder: if MySpace is Windows, what's OS X?