Exclusive: MySpace Launches New Music Player, Search Function, Facebook Integration
Exclusive: MySpace Launches New Music Player, Search Function, Facebook Integration

MySpace Sees Growth Potential in Internet Radio Player
MySpace says it has nabbed "over 1 million" new registered users since it debuted a new music player on December 19. A MySpace spokesperson tells Billboard.biz that MySpace now has "over 25 million" registered users.

MySpace attributes this growth to its "user-friendly" music player that accesses a catalog of "42 million songs" with the help of a "highly sophisticated recommendation engine and easy integration with Facebook."

The music player could be part of it, but the use of Facebook for account creation and log-in appears to have helped, too. As TechCrunch noted Monday, app usage numbers available at AppData.com show that MySpace's Facebook app went from 900,000 monthly active users (MAU) on January 14 to 1.6 million MAU one month later. TechCrunch chalks this gain up to third-party integration with Facebook. Strong growth in MAU is also seen for Facebook apps by Pinterest, Yahoo!, Digg and Rockmelt since Timeline debuted last month.

Whatever the factor behind MySpace's recent growth, the move to a "lean back" Internet radio service was a good one. It faces a more challenging environment in on-demand music services. Spotify, Rdio and Mog are specialists in on-demand music services that offer both free and paid levels of service.

MySpace, on the other hand, doesn't have the same focus as pure-play on-demand services - it's a social network, an entertainment portal and a music service all in one. MySpace might be understandably tempted to cross-promote an on-demand service to its sizeable user base, or leverage its entertainment editorial to enhance an on-demand service. But it's always easier said than done, especially when facing a set of companies concentrating on just on-demand music.

Internet radio is also a competitive landscape. In addition to Pandora there is everything from Clear Channel's iHeartRadio on the mainstream end of the spectrum to the blog-powered Hype Machine on the niche side of the spectrum. But Internet radio has its advantages for MySpace. It has lower switching costs and lower barriers to entry. And because Americans spend more time listening to radio than on-demand music, Internet radio represents more listener hours. All in all, Internet radio is a more universally appealing product. ( Press release)

Mobile Backstage Plans To Hit 1 Million Users in 2012
Direct-to-fan platform provider Mobile Backstage has announced it topped 4 million interactions with 100,000 users in 2011. CEO Paavo Bäckman said in a statement the company plans to have 1 million users and "no less than" 50 million user interactions by the end of 2012.

The Helsinki-based company counts among its clients EMI, Universal Music, Sony Music, Atlantic Records and Island Records. It operates an "interactive fan club service" targeted at mobile phone users. Launched in July 2010, the service has three tiers. The free tier includes a Facebook version of Mobile Backstage and a web version for blogs and websites. The "Basic" tier goes for $699 plus $49 per month for hosting. It includes a version for iPhone, and additional mobile platforms can be purchased for extra. The "Premium" tier costs $2,299 and includes service for iPhone, Android, Nokia, Facebok and web. It includes a personal account manager and one year of hosting. (Press release)

Echo Nest Hack Tries To Out-Predict Billboard's Grammy Picks
Man won the latest round of man vs. machine - but just barely. A music hack created by the Echo Nest director of developer platforms, Paul Lamere ( @plamere), predicted winners in 13 Grammy categories by tapping into the Echo Nest's API to measure "thousands of the most recent news and blog posts" that provide a measure of online buzz (the Echo Nest's music intelligence dataset covers the characteristics of music as well as songs' and artists' social characteristics). After creating the app, Lemere set up a web page that compared his app's automated picks to those of Billboard's staff. It was a fun way to show off the capabilities of the Echo Nest's platform while gauging the predictability of Grammy voters.

Lamere's app correctly predicted Adele's "Rolling in the Deep" would win Song of the Year while Billboard chose Bruno Mars' "Grenade." Lamere's app correctly predicted Bon Iver's win for Best New Artist while Billboard went with the Band Perry. Lamere's app correctly picked Adele's "Someone Like You" to win Best Pop Vocal Performance.

But online buzz doesn't reflect the unpredictable mindset of the collective Grammy voting block. And so Lamere's app failed to match Billboard in predicting that Tony Bennett would win Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for "Body and Soul." Nor did it choose Chris Brown's F.A.M.E. to win Best R&B Album. And Cut Copy's Zonoscope may have been the talk of the blogosphere, but Billboard smartly picked Skrillex's Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites.

There were times when machine intelligence failed just as much as well-informed humans. Neither Billboard nor Lamere's app correctly picked Lady Antebellum's Own the Night to win Best Country Album. In terms of overall score, Lamere's app had Own the Night closely behind Jason Aldean's My Kinda Party. Billboard picked Taylor Swift's Speak Now, which the app had ranked fifth out of six nominations. And both picked Calle 13's Entre Los Que Quieran over eventual winner Drama Y Luz by Maná for Best Latin Pop, Rock or Urban Album. ( Paul vs. Billboard)