After teasing a few key advertisers with a short presentation in September, MySpace has debuted its first major product offering under new owners Specific Media. The new MySpace music player launches today with enhanced music recommendations and built-in search engines to increase time spent with the player, as well as a Facebook integration that should mark the official end of MySpace's attempts to compete for the social-networking crown.
"This is a natural partnership," MySpace chief operating officer Chris Vanderhook tells Billboard.biz. "Because of the users they have and the integrations with Spotify, Mog and Rdio it makes sense to open up our catalog to their users."
And the size of MySpace's catalog is what Specific's looking to tout the most. With over 42 million songs total, MySpace has exclusive access to 30 million songs from independent, unsigned artists, which still make up the bread and butter of MySpace's user base.
That audience, however, has been cut by more than half from November 2010 to November 2011, with unique monthly users dropping from 54.3 million to 24.9 million during that time period, according to ComScore. But MySpace is looking to re-establish itself as a leading music site rather than the social-networking destination News Corp. tried and failed to make it for over five years.
"Music is white-hot right now and we want to be able to capitalize on our music catalog and our history in music. It's something the previous management didn't really highlight," Vanderhook says.
The music player is ad-supported and free to users, with no audio ads airing mid-stream a la Pandora. That consumer-friendly offering plus a much easier-to-use search function are what Vanderhook believes are MySpace's top two killer apps this time around, based on audience research. "What we started to see in data was that the average user only knows four to five song-and-artists combos. Ask someone to name more than five songs and artists and most people can't. Most people didn't know what else to type in so then they would leave. It was clunky having to search for an artist."
But the music player is still just a first step in what Vanderhook promises will be a much bigger, full-scale relaunch slated for some time in the first half of 2012. "The great part about [MySpace CEO] Tim [Vanderhook] and I is we own the company, we don't answer to anybody. We're gonna build great product and we're gonna put it out when it's ready. I think under previous leadership they put out a timeline and put out whatever product they had. We haven't said, 'This has to be out by this date.'"
As for the advertisers MySpace began pitching in earnest this September, Vanderhook says the site will be focusing on creating and customizing premium video for their ad partners as part of its new MySpace Entertainment division helmed by former Fox branded entertainment exec Roger Mincheff. "If you're watching a video for Alicia Keys, for example, and there's a marketer who wants to be attached to Alicia Keys they probably also want to be a part of that video content," Vanderhook says. "So if you're watching that Alicia Keys video, it makes sense for me to recommend that you might be interested to watch that video and the behind-the-scenes of Alicia Keys as brought to you by a brand."