For some of us (read: older folks and those with no interest in MySpace), MySpace Music holds little interest. But to the tens of millions of kids and young adults who cruise through MySpace daily, MySpace Music might be just what they want.
Developing MySpace Music is an excellent strategic move by MySpace, but how successful it will be in the long run depends on its execution and relationship with Amazon’s MP3 store.
I spent the day playing around with MySpace Music, and this is what I found — besides a wonderful R&B album by Raphael Saadiq.
MySpace Music Basics
The catalogues from Universal Music Group, Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group, and EMI Music includes full-length songs, the freedom to create playlists (see below), and the ability to buy DRM-free (yeah!) tracks from Amazon’s MP3 store.
There are not many indie labels participating just yet, a contentious point at the start of MySpace Music.
There is no subscription fee. MySpace Music is supported by an unbelievable amount of advertising.
Beyond selling advertising, MySpace Music is designed to attract its 120 million global users to a mix of unlimited free music and concert tickets, merchandising, and other social entertainment features.
About those 120 million global users, MySpace Music initially will be available only to those in the U.S.
Using MySpace Music
You must have a MySpace account and be logged in. Easy enough. Working your way around MySpace Music depends on your familiarity with MySpace. I find it frustrating, but The Kid has no problems with it.
You can create an infinite number of playlists, each containing up to 100 songs, and share these publicly or keep private. This works well, although the interface implementation could use some work — just like the rest of MySpace. Clicking on the plus sign adds a song to a playlist, but the UI doesn’t remember your last list, forcing you to re-select it each time. Painful.
Supposedly, every song will be searchable by title, artist, and album, unlike the current setup that requires you to go to each artist’s MySpace page in order to listen to or add songs to playlists. That alone is a great addition to MySpace Music. You can browse songs entered by friends and top songs from major artists, indies (limited), and unsigned talent (limited).
You will be able to follow friends’ playlists through a simple newsfeed interface.
The music only can be played on a computer connected to the Internet.
The MySpace Music player is quick to start but slow to load, depending on the amount of songs you’ve saved in playlists. It’s not bad quality, really, although the giant ad in the bottom right corner is annoying, but who’s really looking at it? A nice touch is the artist update (their MySpace activity) in the upper right corner, if the artist makes updates available.
As it is streaming content, you cannot fast forward or rewind to certain points in the song.
If you want to transfer a song to a portable device like an Apple iPod or Microsoft Zune, you must buy it through Amazon’s MP3 store. All tracks are free of DRM.
Supposedly, MySpace Music makes purchasing music from Amazon easy. Click on the Buy Album button or a Buy link and go to Amazon without leaving MSM (only works if you are logged in to Amazon). But I found this to work intermittently, but I expect this will improve over time.
MySpace Music vs. iTunes
Many pundits pit MySpace Music against iTunes, but after seeing MSM in action I’m not sure it will make a dent into iTunes’ success unless Amazon itself is involved. To learn more about this dynamic I went straight to the experts — kids, not tech media.
The majority of MySpace users are kids and young adults. Music and video fans of all ages pop in and out of the site to search for new artists and talent.
Before MySpace Music, kids would download free music from the site, if available, and if they really wanted it they’d hop over to iTunes to see if it was for sale there. Others would simply check Bit Torrent.
iTunes is noted for its downloads, whereas MySpace has been known for its streaming content. iTunes’ store is set up for music and video lovers of all ages. This is especially important for kids without credit cards, whose parents often buy iTunes Cards to fill up their “music bank,” so to speak. iTunes Cards are given for birthdays, Christmas, and other special events.
Amazon doesn’t have a program like this. You must have a credit card attached to the account to download music. Even if you have Amazon credit (which, sadly, I am without at the moment), I am not sure you can apply it to music purchases like you can books and DVDs.
Except for the well-off, I don’t know many parents who give their kids credit cards or free reign to download music on iTunes, Amazon or any other site. Paying for their text messaging and cell phones is bad enough.
Lack of indie bands and unsigned artists
Another point of contention for MySpace Music is a perceived lack of indie artists and self-produced music made available by unsigned bands — who, don’t forget, use MySpace to make their work available to fans and to be (hopefully) discovered. These are the ones kids say they are most interested in, not necessarily the established stars signed to one of the four big labels.
As it stands now, kids will continue to look for free downloads from indie artists and unsigned bands on MySpace, but if their work is not available through MySpace Music/Amazon, then they will continue to go to iTunes.
For those who like and are familiar with MySpace, MySpace Music is a strong beginning. These are the ones who will put up with the clutter, the claustrophobic ads, the clumsy interface. On this alone, MySpace Music should be successful as kids will stream music from their playlists as they surf the site and the Web.
But MySpace Music’s ultimate success depends on making not only music from the big four labels available but also content from indie artists and unsigned bands. That and having a kid-friendly, parent-approved, iTunes Card-like payment method will go a long way into taking a bite out of Apple and iTunes.