Sensing it was about to lose the social media war, MySpace once tried to buy Spotify and go all-in on music, the social network’s former VP of online marketing Sean Percival revealed in a talk at the By:Larm conference in Oslo this week, where he gave an insider’s view as to what went so wrong for the company.
As reported by The Guardian, Percival said MySpace’s acquisition attempt was in vain: “They sure as hell weren’t selling to us. They didn’t need to.”
Percival didn’t reveal when the talks took place. He joined MySpace in 2009 and left in July 2011, which means it most likely happened in this time, when the company was under the ownership News Corp. Online ad network Specific Media and popstar Justin Timberlake jointly purchased the company in June 2011.
Percival believes MySpace should have gone “all in on music and cut ship on everything else” once it realised it was about to be overtaken by Facebook. MySpace had around 75.9 million US unique users in its peak in 2008, according to comScore, but that number has since been shrinking and currently sits at around 50 million, according to The Wall Street Journal’s CMO Today (if that number still seems high, it’s because MySpace visits saw a massive 575% surge between 2013 and 2014, largely due to people returning on a Thursday to dig out some old photos for the popular #ThrowbackThursday meme.)
MySpace already had a “very, very unique deal with labels” in which it paid the industry around $US10 million a year to give users access to play almost any song from a major label for free. At the time it was bespoke, but now there are plenty of streaming services, like Spotify, and sites like YouTube where you can do the same. Apple is also gearing up to launch a new streaming service.
But Percival thinks Spotify has the best setup to become the true successor to MySpace in terms of blending music with social features.
He said: “There are companies that do not get social and they never will. Apple’s one of them, Google is the other: they have failed with Google+. When your culture is engineering-focused, you do not understand social. Social is a very emotional experience. Engineers are not so much, in a lot of cases.”
Elsewhere, in what seemed like a very candid presentation, Pervical spoke about the “massive spaghetti-ball mess” of the MySpace website from a design perspective, and the “politics” and “greed” of parent company News Corporation.
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