Myspace: Back from the Grave?


Written by Kate Kelsall
20 Monday 20th February 2012

Investigating the numerical nitty gritty, it is clear that the site really still has a lot of hefty legwork to do if it’s to be taken seriously as a rival for the rulers of our online personalities – Facebook and Twitter; a mere 70.5 million unique visitors a month compares to 110 million on Linkedin, its nearest opponent, and a whopping 750 million logging into Facebook. There are no prizes for fourth place, and as such Myspace will have its work cut out if it is really going to climb back to the top. But here’s a pretty impressive number – the new Myspace Player stores a mighty 42 million songs, which puts it streaks ahead of adversaries such as Spotify’s piddling 15 million.

So firstly, where did it all go wrong? It seems the epic extent of the failed Murdoch years (which saw worth of the site dwindling from $580 in 2005 to the $35million it was flogged for six years later, after which he joined Twitter) came down to some pelican’s misguided decision to resort to imitation, rather than finding the courage to carve a unique niche. A series of ineffectual design changes such as successive paring down and a clunky ‘corporate profiles’ concept (whereby businesses befriend users) made the site slowly look suspiciously more and more like minimalist overlord Facebook.

Confidence in the winning formula of erratic and gaudy profiles and music sharing, that had propelled Myspace to success in the first place had clearly been dampened. I read a hilarious piece by the Guardian’s Luke Lewis, in which he suggested that the reason so many jumped on the anti-Myspace wagon, was shame of our former online selves. He’s got a valid point. For a generation of fully fledged tweeters, bloggers and facebook fanatics, the showiness of those early Myspace pages, blaring out choice songs and exuberant backgrounds in a desperate bid to express the owner’s identity, now looks faintly embarrassing. 

So have lessons been learnt? Changing names at a rate rivalling Prince – Myspace (now one neat crisp word) is in its third incarnation and is obviously attempting to fill the hole of News Corporation’s branding,  My____, which ironically delineated the empty cavity which the enterprise became. Mike Jones attested that if News Corporation had risked “an entirely new branding” then it may not have fallen to Facebook in the battle of the titans and this seems to be the tack which new owners Specific Media and - fresh from his part in The Social Network and translating his role to reality- Justin Timberlake, are evidently taking.

After all the negative press that accompanied Myspace to its coffin, it is hard to remember how utterly revolutionary the site was is in its early years. Its influence in increasing the access and distribution of new music can be said to have real impact on the industry and the success of a generation of unsigned bands and DJs. The careers of Lily Allen, The Arctic Monkeys and others were reportedly launched solely by the site.

The direction of the ‘new and improved’ Myspace seems to be a return to it’s roots, firmly focused on the audio side of sociability and this is surely an intensely smart move. CEO Tim Vanderhook has promised his company are “building meaningful social entertainment experience around content, where consumers can share and discover the music they love” and for anyone who has found themselves wasting vacuous hours Facebook-stalking a drunken pull, or your sister’s mates' brother who you’ve never even met, I imagine this pledge of defined purpose will probably be most welcome! 

Initial reception to the new music player seems to affirm Specific Media's boasts. The range of popular artists is pretty exhaustive and there are also plenty of lesser known and unsigned bands to rummage through. The latter can only go from strength to strength if Myspace becomes cool again and bands start to reinvest time and energy into their profiles. As was always the case however, the song selection is weaker than that of rival Spotify which has the grace to include albums in their entirety. Extensive Radio functions play tunes in a similar vein to what you have searched for. Though not a novel and exclusive concept, this fits into Myspace's ethos of helping people discover new music and is something they would do well to develop in the future. Teamed with a slick and easy to use new interface perhaps the new player is Myspace's ticket to a second wind of success.

Another potential route to victory is the evident decision not to compete head to head with Facebook and Twitter this time around. Users are given the option to sync accounts so that you can access all three at the same time. Not putting itself up against the forerunners of the field, but pitching the battle cry against other free on demand music suppliers is a crafty move. Perhaps users will be initially seduced by the promise of 42 million songs and then, in an effort to pare down their crowded online personas switch to Myspace for social networking functions too?

Myspace is after all far more than just another stalking-- sorry social tool, but if enough people revert back then it will perform adequately in that arena too. Nostalgia from the glory days can be fully lived out through the  'Customize'  profile option, complete with zany backgrounds and a mood gauge with a tacky little emoticon. Facebook has ruled triumphant for so long, it seems unlikely that we will ever be free from its grip, but I for one will be wishing every luck to the underdog. Watch this space!

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