We’re willing to cut MySpace Music a lot of slack, because it just launched a few hours ago, and launches are rough — even when you’re not dealing with the copyright and biz dev challenges inherent in the digital content business. And we understand that the site will evolve and improve over time — “iterative” is the term of choice at MySpace.
So we’ll ignore the usual launch hiccups. (Tip: Looking for U2? It’s there — but you have to search by track name, not band.) But all of that said, we’ve been playing with it for a couple of hours now, and… we’re underwhelmed.
Here’s the thing. If you look at MySpace Music as an upgrade to the site’s existing music offering, it’s very nice. Music is already a big deal at MySpace, but until now that basically meant that artists could create pages and stream a handful of their songs there. Now you can hear a lot more streaming music, and there are links to Amazon.com’s MP3 store, so you can buy music that way.
But if you’re looking at MySpace Music as the Web’s best destination site for music — which is the way MySpace execs have been describing the project both internally and externally — it falls flat. We’ve been trying to think of the best way to describe our disappointment, but it’s been embarassingly hard for us to articulate. (Fred Wilson, Maura Johnston and Joe Weisenthal have done a nice job, though.)
So here’s what we’d suggest: Open up MySpace Music on one browser. Now open up Hulu, another News Corp. digital JV, in another browser. Which site makes it easier to immediately find and consume entertainment? Which one seems more geared toward users, as opposed to advertisers and business partners?
Not fair to compare a music site with a video site? OK. Then go ahead and compare MySpace Music to any one of the free but maybe not-so-legal music sites, like Seeqpod or Hype Machine, or with your favourite illegal P2P music “sharing” service. All of them let you get right to what you want — music — and don’t bog you down with anything else. You can’t say that about MySpace’s offering.
If MySpace just wants to extract more value out of its existing traffic and users, then the music site it rolled out today is adequate. If it wants to become the Web’s central hub for music, it’s got a lot of work ahead of it.
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