Below is an excerpt from the Up Front story "Myspace's Third Act" from this week's edition of Billboard Magazine, which also includes our cover story on Mumford & Sons' massive sophomore album Babel , features on Dr. Luke protege Benny Blanco, songwriter Jamey Johnson's tribute album to Hank Cochran, a Q&A with Cablevision CEO and MSG owner James Dolan, a breakdown of track sales by genre, our incomparable columns and charts, and much more. You can buy a copy of the issue here, and subscribe here.
The new Myspace is aiming to fill the void in music discovery yet to be filled by Facebook, Twitter and even Spotify, and many industry executives and artists are ready to give it their backing.
After unveiling a splashy two-minute video previewing its new design on Sept. 24, Myspace began opening up its new private beta to select artists and label executives to give the music industry a chance to help shape its new look. Though it's still very early days, several key music industry executives who spoke with Billboard like what they've seen -- which is much-needed good news for Myspace, a property practically left for dead when it was acquired by its third owner in seven years, Specific Media, for $35 million in 2011, far short of the $580 million that News Corp. paid in 2005.
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"Hopefully the reality lives up to the demo, but the new owners at Specific are very smart guys and really know the ad world, which is super important for their future success," says a label executive who asked not to be named ahead of seeing a personal demo. "They've created a site for creators and fans that's a more immersive music experience than what we get out of the big social networks, which are more about sharing. This is definitely geared toward music and discovery."
Indeed, developing direct relationships with artists was one of the priorities that Specific Media's co-CEOs Tim and Chris Vanderhook shared with Billboard in an interview. As previewed in the redesign video, the new Myspace will focus on empowering fans and helping artists identify who their most influential followers are through data that will be aggregated from other sites like Facebook, Twitter and Spotify.
"Social networks collect tons of data, and what we're trying to do is put that data in the hands of our community rather than a black-box fashion," Chris Vanderhook says. "Artists want more transparency into who their most important fans are, so we're calculating who those people are and serving it not just for the artists but for the fans to have that recognition."
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One artist who seemed excited about the new platform was Chuck D, who predicted a comeback for the revamped Myspace with "Justin Timberlake in charge," referencing the site's superstar creative director at the Digital Music Forum West in Hollywood, Calif., on Oct. 3. Timberlake, who has an undisclosed minority stake in Myspace, has been personally reaching out to his own connections in the artist community, even bringing alt-R&B artist Kenna (known for his affiliation with the Neptunes' Star Trak Entertainment) onboard to his internal creative team.
That knack for curation is Myspace's greatest opportunity, another major-label executive says. "We have a very disparate music landscape digitally right now. I don't think anyone's really been that voice of the fans for a really long time," the exec says. "The Hype Machines and Pitchforks all have a place, but that's very far away from the mainstream. As much as I love and respect what those sites do for our artists, I feel like that spot somewhere between the hipster and the mainstream is a very empty place right now."
As for those fans of the old interface, the Vanderhooks recently indicated in an interview with ABC News that users will be able to use both versions of MySpace for the foreseeable future. "There will be a separate section for our consumer base using the classic MySpace," Tim Vanderhook told ABC News. "We are going to leave it up for quite awhile. We will make a decision at a later date if we will ever take down the old property."
Additional reporting by Alex Pham.