[Please note that this post first appeared on the Forrester Consumer Product Strategy blog. Over the coming month or so I will be migrating all of my activity there. I will soon be posting new information here for you to amend your feeds and subscriptions. Thanks]
MySpace today launched its UK music offering, over a year after its US launch. However tempting it is to position this as a Spotify challenger (and the BBC and many others do) it simply isn’t. It isn’t, both out of intent (more on that later) and also out of poor execution (more on that later too).
Music matters to MySpace more than ever before. Why? Because it is has lost the race with Facebook for social networking supremacy, in fact Facebook is about to lap MySpace. But MySpace remains undisputed leader as the global social music destination (a position consolidated by the recent acquisitions of iLike and imeem). If you are a band, you’ll have an artist page because that’s where the online music audience coalesces for engaging with bands. Sure there are better, more innovative alternatives, but MySpace has the momentum and the scale. And if you’re an artist looking to reach audiences that is exactly what you want. Bebo and Facebook have both tried to challenge MySpace’s position here but have not had meaningful success (a recent report indicated that 77% of Facebook fan pages have less than 1,000 fans).
So whilst the mainstream social networking momentum may be shifting elsewhere, MySpace remains at the heart of the social music experience. In many ways MySpace is in a similar position too YouTube, which is getting left behind in the online video revolution as the momentum moves beyond skateboarding dogs to full length shows on the likes of Hulu and iPlayer. But it remains the number one destination for music video. So MySpace and YouTube both find themselves repositioning around music, perhaps more out of necessity than out of choice.
All of this leads to why MySpace Music is not a Spotify challenger:
- Strategically: MySpace is building its music experience firmly around social and community. It knows that is its differentiation point and the essence of the artist-fan relationship which MySpace delivers. So the music experience is wedded to that. Spotify is a straightforward music experience. No community (at least within the application itself) and no artist-fan dialogue. So the music content is deeply integrated into the social experience (hence the focus on playlists for example).
- Execution: But it is also not a direct challenger to Spotify because it isn’t executed well. That deep integration brings great challenges also. If you are looking for a Spotify-like experience on MySpace, you won’t find it. But the odds are you won’t easily find the music you want either. For example, MySpace poster girl Lily Allen is one of the featured artists on the home page (despite her just announced career break), but finding her music isn’t easy. As you can see from the screenshot at the bottom of this post, you have to go all the way to the bottom of the page to find a genuine song. And the top result, which is out of shot here, is for the ‘This is not the real Lily Allen’ profile page. Those results below are all songs by unknown and small time artists. Yes that is part of the essence of MySpace’s music community, but they shouldn’t be pushing the genuine Lilly Alen track to the bottom. Also note all those ads by competitor music services!
All that said, MySpace Music is an important part of the digital music landscape and I expect to see much more fromo them over the coming 12 months as the leverage the iLike and imeem assets to the full. But they also need to innovate hard. There is a huge amount of activity in this space and MySpace can’t simply wait for each of the competitors to fail and then buy them up on the cheap. The fact MySpace music is a Joint Venture sets them in good stead, with reportedly significantly below market-rate license fees (as this artist’s account also seems to suggest). But MySpace doesn’t have a JV by accident, its financial security makes MySpace an important partner for the music industry. It can plan ahead with MySpace in a way that you cannot with an unproven start up, however well funded it may be right now. Here’s hoping MySpace use that power to the full and don’t rest on their laurels.