After spending five years in online purgatory following the collapse of its social media empire, MySpace is ready for a relaunch as we first reported back in May, and revealed new details about what can be expected from the redesign with a brand new video teaser last September.
But what Myspace, now helmed by Justin Timberlake, didn’t tell us was that they planned on removing old personal and band profiles in favour restarting the site from scratch in design and user data, asking users to create an all-new profile via MySpace, Facebook Connect, Twitter Connect or classic MySpace.
“This was about a completely new platform,” Timberlake said. “The name was acquired, that was a good thing, but the important thing up until this point as far as all the artists Tim and Chris and I were talking to was to have a community that feels like it really has an identity.”
Users of the old service will still be able to use their own login for a limited time as there will be two sites operating simultaneously for a little while until the new Myspace becomes widely available.
Timberlake acquired MySpace in 2011 for $35 million with a consortium of investors from Specific Media. When the deal was completed, Timberlake said it planned to make MySpace the “premiere digital destination for original shows, video content and music.”
Though traffic to Myspace.com was halved in the period from 54.3 million unique users in November 2010 to 24.9 million unique users in November 2011, according to Comscore, that drop-off appears to have stabilized and even seen a little rebound, with 26 million users in September 2012 — enough for Myspace to still rank as one of Comscore’s top 50 sites on the web during the month.
While Myspace may never exist in its old format again, it’s clear that the market for a music-discovery medium is still standing strong, and looking promising at that, particularly for the 5 million unsigned artists who’ve uploaded 27 million songs to Myspace.
News of the complete refresh come just weeks after the newly designed Myspace was first unveiled.
The new website contains a blurb and flash image of a vinyl record spinning, which demonstrates that the MySpace facelift is staying true to the previous promises that the website would be holding fast to its fundamental commitments of synergising social networking with music.
“We’re hard at work building the new Myspace, entirely from scratch,” begins the teaser. “But we’re staying true to our roots in one important way—empowering people to express themselves however they want. So whether you’re a musician, photographer, filmmaker, designer or just a dedicated fan, we’d love for you to be a part of our brand new community.”
On closer inspection it appears that there’s a mixed media approach going on, including linking music mixtapes with photo albums and separate ‘walls’ to focus on specific interests – especially music. Including a ‘Discover’ page that again lists a ream of artist interviews, reviews and songs – presumably linked from various internet sites and media – in a deliciously visual format.
But not everything is going to change. Despite building the entire reboot from scratch, Timberlake has decided they should keep two nostalgic features — the top eight, and the profile song.
But the similarities quickly stop there. Instead of making a play at former rival Facebook, the new Myspace team have music discovery and data firmly in their sites and hope to work with a number of existing services to make all the data out there more useful.
“If you think about today how everyone is obsessed with YouTube play counts, there’s no depth behind that,” said Specific Media’s Tim Vanderhook at a recent Myspace showcase for the music industry.
“Some of the aggregate fan data that already exists in places like Twitter and YouTube hasn’t been extrapolated in a useful way to artists. Is it big in L.A., is it big in Detroit, is it big in another country? What type of people are consuming the music?” he said.
According to Billboard, Myspace hope the can incentive musicians to rejoin the community by providing analytics on who is listening to their music — ages, gender, location, tendencies. They’ll also connect artists to one another. Justin Timberlake will be able to see if his fans are just as inclined to listen to him as they are to Kendrick Lamar, and maybe that will result in a collaboration.
“One thing the old Myspace did was it had the ability for one artist to message another and collaborate on creating something new one,” Vanderhook said. “That’s a feature that got lost never got replaced by anything. When we can facilitate that, we’ll be successful.”
“Imagine what the room would be like if Andy Warhol, Liz Taylor, and Stanley Kubrick all got together,” Justin Timberlake added. “What was that conversation like? What type of collaboration did that breed? And how can we make that happen?”
Centralising artists’ online profiles across the web is another priority for Timberlake and the Vanderhooks.
“One thing we keep hearing is, ‘How do you make this my space — literally?'” added Tim’s brother Chris Vanderhook.
‘”I have six or seven different social platforms. In order for me to make it in today’s business I have to be a tech wizard when all I wanna do is record. I need someone to make it easier for me.'”
“That hit home for us — how do we develop a place to actually make it their own and house all these different areas they do on all these other platforms and make it simple for the artist?”
Many in the music industry agree, with one major-label marketing exec telling Billboard, “I don’t think anyone’s really been that voice of the fans for a really long time. The Hype Machines and Pitchforks all have a place, but that’s very far away from the mainstream. As much as I love and respect what those sites do for our artists, I feel like that spot somewhere between the hipster and the mainstream is a very empty place right now.”
While the new build of the site is still in beta period, there is no Steve Jobs sized launch planned, and the next phase of the music-centric Myspace will remain an invite-only beta through early 2013.
For five years the name MySpace has been synonymous with the punchline of many a tech-geek’s joke. Having been bought by News Corporation in 2005 for $US 580 million, only to be sold last July for roughly $US 35 million.
However, the details of the new site – along with the sole video teaser – demonstrates that the new direction of its focus sounds like good news for music lovers, and may just be what the site needs, to reignite its once dominant status in the social media universe. Only time will tell…Write a Letter to the Editor