During the height of its popularity MySpace Music was synonymous with youth, cutting edge and cool. Providing a showcase for some of the best unsigned talent in the industry, artists such as Lily Allen, My Chemical Romance and many others launched mainstream careers on the back of its success. In 2005, with a reputation as the UK's no 1 music site and a News Corp buyout of $580m, its dominance over the market was seemingly cemented.
However, fast forward just a few years and it is a different story. Press reports indicate that News Corp has sold on the company for a diminished $35m, and an estimated 1m US users are leaving MySpace Music every month. So what went wrong?
Well, a useful starting point might be to look at why artists used MySpace Music in the first place. In its heyday the site was unique in providing an easy-to-use platform for artists looking to exploit the internet and get their music heard. The beauty of the internet is its accessibility, and this was something MySpace really tapped into. Bands in the UK could be contacting promoters to organise gigs in the UK, whilst at the same time be communicating with fans in about their latest tunes.
However the music industry, somewhat inevitably, quickly cottoned on to the MySpace phenomenon. As the major labels jumped on board, MySpace Music became integrated into the day to day promotional schedule for labels and has increasingly been used to market well known artists. However, savvy music lovers do not need or want to be told what to like any more - the beauty of the internet is that you can go and discover new talent all by yourself!
At the same time, today's up and coming artists now have much more choice in how they interact with the internet and as a result have become increasingly savvy. Most bands these days will ask themselves: is MySpace the best way to interact with fans, or is Facebook better? Is Soundcloud a more sophisticated platform for our music? Is You Tube the best place to upload videos?
As the internet has developed, artists are using it in a much more fragmented way, yet in my view not to its greatest potential. Interaction with fans, and a platform for music is one thing, but what about access to and support from industry experts, who can advise musicians and give them opportunities to launch their careers? The Sundance Film Festival model is a key example of how giving independent artists (in the film world) support from the industry can make a real difference. At BOBCOM we're trying to do something similar: providing an interactive multi-media platform, run by industry advocates and built solely to empower independent musicians.
Ultimately, we believe that in order to attract a community to your network, you need to be able to support it. Perhaps with the high-profile appointment of Justin Timberlake as MySpace Music's investor cum advocate, they might be able to revitalise the brand in the eyes of its artists, but what are their plans to keep them there?
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