Five months after launching the new Myspace to the public, Justin Timberlake and friends are making their social service for creatives, artists, and their fans available on the iPhone, perhaps where it was meant to be all along.
In 2011, Specific Media co-founders Chris and Tim Vanderhook and their music-mogul pal Justin Timberlake acquired what was left of the forgotten social network for $35 million. Since then, a Los Angeles team has set about rebuilding Myspace into a destination people actually want to visit — not for traditional social networking per se, but for streaming music and connecting to everything associated with the music business. In January, an early version of the new Myspace was released to the public.
Wednesday, Myspace arrives on iPhone and mobile Web, and also sheds its beta label. The mobile application mirrors the overhauled Web site in both style and function (save for one iPhone-only surprise). For the unfamiliar, that means you’ll find a delightful design that centers around an image-heavy stream of stories related to the people and content you’re connected to on the service.
You also get a free streaming radio service with access to 53 million tracks. Just as on the Web, Myspace’s radio feature is ever-present, meaning you can start listening to songs and stations wherever you are in the application by swiping up to reveal the music menu. In addition, play buttons sit atop artist profiles and offer people personalized radio stations tuned to the tastes of that particular artist.
“When you play an artist radio station, you’re not just listening to their music, but you’re listening to what they’re interested in and the music that inspires them,” Ali Tahmasbi, Myspace’s VP of product marketing, told CNET. “We think it really helps establish a stronger connection between artists and their fans.”
The iPhone application’s claim to originality is a funky GIF creator that assists people in automatically stitching together frames from video capture or stills to build animated images. The feature isn’t wholly original though, as it’s definitely reminiscent of Twitter’s Vine for creating sharable looping six-second videos.
Still, on the whole, Myspace and its companion iPhone application look like a fresh new space. There a few distinct features that could inspire people, particularly those with a creative bent, to take a second look. Tahmasbi declined to share how many users had signed up for the new Myspace to date but said he’s happy with the company’s progress thus far.
With the mobile release, new Myspace is now just Myspace. The network for creatives has supplanted the former place for friends at the Myspace.com domain and all classic profiles have been transitioned over to the new platform.
The Myspace relaunch of Myspace Music with Justin Timberlake as prime spokesperson is close to completing its redesign, and ready to launch a new experience that combines music, video, social media and news with reviews into Myspace 2.0.
To make things even juicier, Business Insider leaked Myspace documents showing that Myspace Music fully intends to challenge Pandora, Spotify and the the rest of the streaming music services with the new web site experience. Its owner, Specific Media, is pouring $50 million into Myspace, with Business Insider breaking this down as: “$10 million will go to marketing, $15–$25 million will go to licensing deals with the music labels, and another $15 to $25 million will be reserved for “general working capital.” They’ve already poured $35 million in to buy it, so $85 million into Myspace means more than serious money, the outcome is tantalizing.
Myspace is clearly positioned to revamp this whole streaming music thing when combined with the entertainment publishing arm it has for new, reviews, video (including live streaming shows) as a whole concept. If you’re laughing at Myspace’s chances right now you’re looking backwards in time, instead of forwards and recognizing the trend. Nobody has combined everything that Myspace had in the wake of its demise: social media, streaming music, video and news/reviews/editorial content. If they play their cards right, it can go over big.
Think Pitchfork + Spotify + YouTube + Twitter, and you’ve got a potential redefinition of music discovery as a web site. Each of those sites does what they do well individually, but Pitchfork isn’t social, YouTube and Spotify have no written content, and Twitter just lets you socialize and point out links to interesting things. Myspace does all of that, in one place. Plus, the one thing we all remember Myspace for: Myspace Music, the place where bands go to network with the world
Justin Timberlake won’t post “drunken pictures” on his social media profiles.
The entertainer purchased shares in MySpace last year and has been involved in giving the social media website a makeover after the concept began to get overlooked thanks to rivals Facebook and Twitter.
Explaining the main difference he sees between the three sites, the singer-turned-actor explained he wants to use MySpace to connect to fellow artists – and not to publish pictures of himself going wild.
“I don’t want MySpace to be who I was last night through a bunch of drunken pictures, in a drunken stupor, and I don’t want it to be who I am right now on what I’m typing on the Internet,” he told MTV. “I want it to constantly be about who I’m going to be, what I have to offer the next day and the next day.”
Justin also insisted that he hasn’t retired from music.
After enjoying a hugely successful solo career, the 31-year-old has focused mainly on movie and fashion projects in recent years.
But the Bad Teacher star promised when he releases new material, it will be on a grand scale.
“You’re the ones who stopped talking about me as a musician. You guys act like I said I’ve retired,” he laughed. “I can tell you this: when I’m ready to say something, you always know that I’ll say it in the biggest way possible. [My music] really comes from the heart, and for me, I just don’t take it for granted. If anything, I’m honouring it in the best way that I know how, but when it’s time, I’ll be ready. I’m not less inspired, I didn’t give up, but until I have something to say, I was taught to keep my mouth shut. That’s how my mother raised me.”
i am the queen of doing that lol
Billboard magazine’s Andrew Hampp was among the media invitedto a Thursday LA Myspace press event. The objective: to keep fourth estate Facebook and Twitter users excited about the return of the platform that preceded those ubiquitous social media networks.
Myspace will remain in private beta through the beginning of 2013. Its redesign from scratch was and is all about appealing to the site’s loyal main constituency – musicians, singers, songwriters:
“The important thing up until this point as far as all the artists we were talking to was to have a community that feels like it really has an identity,” Timberlake said.
The new design has a horizontal scroll where users can find updates on friends and artists’ latest song-listening and playlist activity from MySpace’s album-length library of over 42 million songs (a la Spotify), a music player at the bottom of the screen that plays music continuously as you surf to other pages (a la Pitchfork) and artist pages that rank the act’s most-played songs and music videos as well as most active fans.
Myspace is still a Top 50 comScore music site (26 million unique visitors in September). Timberlake’s Specific Media partners Tim and Eric Vanderhook said they also received a lot of feedback from users wanting the site to provide a user-friendly, single-point anchor for a band or musician’s various social media and Web footprints. Read Hampp’s full report here.
In the years since News Corp. bought it, the name “MySpace” has become a synonym for a certain type of epic freefall, the kind that can only happen in the frictionless atmosphere of the internet. When something so big plunges so far so fast, it generates a lot of downward momentum. Anyone who tries to reverse its trajectory risks getting pulled down with it.
But what if MySpace wasn’t really a disaster in the first place? Or, rather, what if there was a substantial success concealed within the failure, one that could form the nucleus of a healthy new business?
That’s the view of brothers Chris and Tim Vanderhook. A year ago, their ad network, Specific Media, bought MySpace from News Corp. for the fire-sale price of $35 million. Their partner in the deal was singer/actor Justin Timberlake.
Investing in tech companies is quite the fashion now for young entertainers, but Timberlake’s no mere digital dilettante. Nor is his presence a publicity stunt. His role is to help MySpace rediscover what the Vanderhooks say ought to have been its core mission all along: connecting musicians to their fans.
Musical artists were among the first to flock to MySpace, and they were the last loyalists to stick around when most casual users had moved on to Facebook and Twitter. “If you think about the MySpace brand, to the average consumer it was negative, but to the artist community it was positive,” says Tim, Specific Media’s CEO. “They need MySpace to succeed.”
Musicians only soured on MySpace after a relaunch in October 2010 that took away a lot of the functionality they relied on to promote their music and touring to their fans. “They ended up alienating who their core was,” says Tim.
Still, the orientation lingers. When Specific Media surveyed the site’s remaining registered users last year to find out what they were hoping to get out of Myspace, 60% said they were there in hopes of getting discovered.
The Vanderhooks approached the idea of buying MySpace with a vague idea of refocusing it around music. They approached Timberlake — “We knew we needed a third leg of the stool,” says Tim — who convinced them that they key was to win back artists by giving them a platform from which they could run their businesses and manage their brands.
The new MySpace is just that. It’s not a social network per se but a socially-powered venue wherein music fans can experience artists through every facet of their output — music, videos, photos, profiles, social feeds, live events and ticket sales. “MySpace is the only site in the world where you can get everything an artist does if you’re interested in that artist,” says Chris. “To do all those things would probably take you 30 different properties.”
In essence, MySpace is going from being a Facebook also-ran to being a more comprehensive Spotify alternative. In fact, its music catalog, at 42 million songs, is more than twice as large as Spotify’s. “It’s the world’s largest library of music,” says Chris. “It dwarfs anybody else’s.” (To be fair, the bulk of the difference consists of long-tail stuff from unsigned and unknown artists.)
After a year of rebuilding both the site’s front-end and back-end, the new site is almost ready for its public debut. “We had to take a billion dollars’ worth of technology investment and trash it” because of unfixable problems such as slow page load times, says Tim.
An employee-only beta period is now under way. Later this year, it will open up to artists, followed by the public.
Even now, with the site still showing its News Corp.-era face, MySpace’s tighter focus is starting to show results, say the Vanderhooks. After shedding audience at the rate of 3 million unique users a month for two straight years, it has stabilized at 30 million uniques and begun slowly climbing back up.
Would progress be faster if MySpace didn’t have that troublesome name weighing it down? The brothers say no. They never considered changing it. “Why would I have bought it if I were going to change the game?” asks Tim.
“We believe in the brand,” says Chris. “We’re not into positive territory yet, but we’re starting to notch it toward neutral.”