MySpace is going back to its roots. A new music competition series, " Take The Stage" debuts this week with a concept that harkens back to MySpace's origins as a music-discovery platform that helped artists like Katy Perry, Adele and Colbie Caillat, among others, develop fan followings before their major-label deals. The series was created in partnership with online talent network Yobi.TV, and will let online viewers vote on the winner of the 18-week competition.
Though the series isn't even the third new music competition show to be announced in the past month (ABC just debuted "Duets," E! is prepping "Opening Act" for a July premiere and The CW has "The Star Next Door set for a late-summer debut), one particularly appealing crown prize is at stake for nine unsigned artists -- the chance to sign a contract with manager Johnny Wright, whose star client Justin Timberlake also happens to be MySpace's creative director. The competition is also devoted to singers composing original music, rather than covering existing songs.
"Singing other people's songs can really be a disadvantage to the singer," Wright tells Billboard. "It doesn't matter how you sing it. The audience already has the image of the original singer in their head, so you're competing against the original performer of that song. In this particular case you get to really see them as performers and understand what their music's all about. I wanted to get involved with a web series that encourages the user to discover -- that's what MySpace is all about, is discovering."
Helping Wright mentor the contestants is producer Rodney Jerkins, a music reality TV alum who served as the producer-in-residence during "American Idol"'s tenth season last year and also appeared alongside Wright on "P. Diddy's Starmaker" on MTV in 2009. Jerkins was drawn to the show's take on "the internet as our new A&R system," he says, a more efficient way to develop new artists. "Back in the day you would have to go to different showcases which, you know, with flights and travel and all those things it can be too much to track down different talent. With all this new talent being birthed online, the internet has created this new strategic platform for talent to be discovered and allows the people to tell us what they want to hear."
Though a formal relaunch is still months away and the one-year anniversary of its purchase by Specific Media coming at the end of this month, Wright is pleased with the direction the site is headed under Timberlake's creative guidance and co-CEOs Tim and Chris Vanderhook. "In this crazy world of the music business where we don't know what will happen from day to day, there's great talent and fans making connections. That's what MySpace is going to do," Wright says. "It's going back to up and coming musicians and giving them a platform to take them all the way to the top 10 that we have on our charts right now. As far as the exact technologies and things they're going to do, I'm not privileged to say that right now but I've seen a lot of it and I'm really excited about it. So is Justin. We're not too far off before we start making some announcements.