MySpace Music President's Public Debut At MidemNet

Just 11 days into the job, MySpace Music president Courtney Holt outlined his ambitions for expanding into new services and territories during his first high profile public appearance.

Holt was in conversation with Billboard editorial director Bill Werde at the MidemNet conference in Cannes. The two-day conference, which started today (Jan. 17), focuses on the digital music business.

Talking about the challenges facing him in the new role following his appointment in November, he was enthusiastic about the opportunities offered by a platform with 125 million users. He was previously EVP of digital music for the MTV Networks Music and Logo Group.

Holt said it had been "difficult" to "transform it [MySpace Music] from a promotional landscape into an active business." But, at this point at which he joined, he was confident that a lot of the "heavy lifting has been done."

"This is the moment where we can change what the consumer sees," he said. "We are working on some great ways and unique ways to monetize that content."

Differentiating MySpace Music from the competition, he added: "I wouldn't call it a traditional music store."

Holt also talked about plans to offer merchandise and tickets, and stressed the value of branded events such as MySpace Secret Shows that also result in unique content online. He also wants to provide artists with more data so they understand exactly how they benefit from being on MySpace Music.

"We can go well beyond 'plays' and 'friends,'" said Holt.

He also confirmed plans for an international roll out, including Europe, although would not confirm whether Amazon would also be the transaction partner for downloads outside of the U.S.

"We would like to be in the market in quarter two this year," said Holt. "We are working with the collecting societies." The interest from brands and advertisers means he's eager for that to happen "as quickly as we can."

The partnership with Amazon could also work better in the U.S., Holt believes, in order to make the intent to buy and the final purchase more "seamless."

The potential revenue to the biz offered by those 125 million users explains the feverish speculation last year about who would take the role at the MySpace venture, and the expectation surrounding the service. But Holt said the last 11 days had been his "easiest professional transition."

"The good news for me was that I worked extensively with Myspace, when I was at Universal," he said. Prior to the MTV Networks Music and Logo role, he was senior VP of new media, creative and strategic marketing at Interscope Geffen A&M.

The News Corp.-owned MySpace controls MySpace Music, but Holt said there was an "operational distance" day to day. "It gives us some independence to talk to consumers and brands differently," he said. "We are the music engine of MySpace proper."

Following concerns among some indies at the September launch last year about their lack of partnership on an equity stake, like the majors, more indies have been signed up including recent partnerships with Nettwerk and Wind-up. And Holt was in the mood to continue that process in Cannes.

"I'm meeting with a bunch of key indies," he said. "I'm hoping to get some deals done."

MySpace Music started with a bang, scoring 1 billion plays in its first few days and securing exclusive streams from acts including Guns N' Roses. But Holt said that mobile delivery is an area that needs to be exploited further.

"Mobile is obviously very important to us, especially in certain territories," he said, noting the popularity of the MySpace application for Blackberry. "It's definitely something we're looking at. It's a primary objective."

Holt believes the majors will fully support MySpace Music and he insists that the terms "that we are cutting with everybody are fair deals for us." With the market dominance of Apple's iTunes, Holt believes that the labels "want to diversify their revenue streams" and see other download services prosper.

He was also asked about the failure of Facebook to get a music service off the ground, which offered a lighter moment for Holt as he faces up to the challenge ahead. "It's killing me," he joked.

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