When questioned at a conference recently, MySpace Chief Executive Chris DeWolfe suggested the social network would consider launching an MP3 player some time in the future, thus going head on against Apple. It might sound like a logical next-step but it’s not.
The reason MySpace has become so important to the music value chain (both for digital and broader discovery/marketing) is because it has a distinct place. MySpace, like imeem, Last.FM, Pandora etc. works well because it is an explicitly online, consumption and discovery based experience. The launch of the new streaming content pushes it even further in that direction. MySpace doesn’t suffer from the endemic DRM constraints and controversies that mire download services. And because it is free it doesn’t have to develop a value positioning either. In its free, online guise, MySpace sits as an entirely complementary asset alongside the iTunes / iPod combination.
Sure Apple might be (ever so slowly) starting to steal some of social music’s clothes (cf Genius) but its focus remains devices and downloads. As soon as MySpace starts trying to fight Apple on Apple’s home turf, they’ll find themselves having to reinvent and reinforce their value proposition from the foundations up. Consumers tolerate the various quibbles and glitches that are an accepted companion to MySpace as a free, online destination. But those standards aren’t good enough for a paid offering.
When MySpace finally launches its own download store it will need to refine its music DNA, a need which will become more fundamental if an associated device strategy is pursued. But I fear MySpace will shy away from the requisite comprehensive rethink even for the download store and simply launch it and hope/expect it to succeed. If they do so, and launch a device in a similar fashion, then MySpace will sow the seeds for long-term decline.
For now MySpace would be well advised to read up on how well Napster’s branded MP3 player strategy went….remember that? Exactly.