Why MySpace Should Think Long and Hard Before Challenging the iPod

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.

4 thoughts on “Why MySpace Should Think Long and Hard Before Challenging the iPod

  1. Surely Chris De Wolfe is just making threatening noises re MySpace becoming a hardware player. That would, as you predict, be a doomed strategy, tempting tho it must be to try and break the iPod hegemony.

    This is not a great time to start battles on new fronts, especially ones where you have no expertise or legacy. Microsoft and Zune, anyone?

  2. Chris did not say they were going to make an MP3 player. Watch the video or read the transcript.

  3. Hi Andrew

    If you could direct me to a link that would be great – I’ve done further searching and just found more stories and posts refering to the MP3 comment. I completely accept that this could all be Chinese whispers though and want to get any possible inaccuracies fixed.

    Thanks

    Mark

  4. iPod could be taken down. But to do so would require a player which is both outstanding in looks and in functionality, and which avoids the need to use clumsy software to get songs onto it.

    DRM free would be the way to go, coming from Myspace. Of course, the mainstream music industry would never let that happen. And lets face it – though Myspace has allowed a lot of indie bands to have a face, the vast majority of Myspace users are probably more interested in 50 Cent than Dangerdoom.

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