The new, new MySpace’s latest promo video has certainly done a good job of achieving buzz and positive buzz at that…something that hasn’t been associated with the MySpace brand for a long time. Of course there is a big difference between a swish marketing video and the actual product, but the early signs are encouraging. Most specifically the strong focus on music.
Back when MySpace was failing to fight off the inexorable rise of Facebook I argued that it was time for MySpace to stop pretending it was a social network anymore and instead start focusing on being a social platform for artists before it was too late. Of course they didn’t and before long it was indeed ‘too late’. Now they may well have another bite at the cake.
The original MySpace was the trailblazer for bringing artists and their fans closer together, with countless artist success stories. It connected established artists with their audiences and gave aspiring singers, bands and producers the ability to reach global audiences. In the process it created an entirely new strata of semi-pro artists, too good for their garage but not good enough for a traditional record deal – the current staple of contemporary direct to fan services like TopSpin and Tunecore.
MySpace changed the artist-fan relationship for good, transforming a one-directional shouting dynamic into a two-way conversation. ‘Bye bye’ email marketing list and static html website, ‘hello’ real time conversations with fans in a dynamic social environment.
Unfortunately MySpace’s inability to give up the doomed fight for the mainstream social network audience also resulted in MySpace failing to innovate to stay ahead of the pack in the artist space too. An ill-fated foray into becoming streaming music service (when Spotify was but a glint in Daniel Ek’s eye) only hastened the demise. But what did for MySpace more than anything was the fact that artists soon realized that all of their fans were over on Facebook. It didn’t matter that Facebook lacked many of the artist-friendly features MySpace had, as those mattered little if your fans were elsewhere.
A Brave New World Faces MySpace Now
Now, many years on, MySpace faces a much more sophisticated and complex competitive marketplace. The direct-to-fan arena which it helped create is now split across multiple categories and competitors, while Facebook is now firmly embedded in the music ecosystem. MySpace must now compete simultaneously with Facebook, Topspin, Mobile Roadie, Pledge Music, We Are Hunted and countless others. That’s without even considering the fight for the social networking consumer.
MySpace is not about to usurp Facebook’s near 1 billion user lead (see my earlier post for why) but it can realistically aim to become the definitive destination for artists and their fans, combining the best of Facebook and Topspin et al into one rich immersive music consumption, discovery and engagement destination. Not necessarily instead of them, but instead a coexistence strategy, adding value to the existing value chain.
MySpace also has significant legacy assets at its disposal. It remains one of the world’s most heavily trafficked music destination and has tens of thousands of artist accounts. Granted the lion’s share of those are inactive, but getting artists to reactivate existing accounts is a much easier task than getting them to start from scratch.
MySpace is at risk of having had more regenerations than Doctor Who, but this latest one is simultaneously the one with the biggest set of challenges and potentially the best set of assets to compete with. First though, MySpace needs to understand what makes it unique, what would make an artist want to invest time on it in addition to or instead of the many alternatives. Then, and only then, MySpace can start competing, again.