In November, when MySpace Music hired industry veteran Courtney Holt as president, the site had features that didn’t add up into a comprehensive strategy.
The former head of new media and strategic marketing at Interscope and executive VP of digital music and media at MTV brought a mix of content-industry perspective and media distribution experience to the job at a time when ad-supported music businesses have been facing serious challenges.
Economic conditions have wreaked havoc on Internet ad sales, and free music streaming services like imeem and Last.fm have been forced to renegotiate licensing terms or consider changing their business model. Holt must also contend with the managerial conundrum of trying to build an innovative online business hand in hand with all four major labels, which are joint-venture partners in MySpace Music with MySpace parent News Corp.
So far, Holt can boast a positive record. Tweaks to MySpace Music’s search engine, the addition of new playlist features and improvements to its music player have contributed to what the company says has been a 40% spike in search traffic, the creation of 105 million active playlists by MySpace Music users and more than 5.3 billion average aggregate minutes spent listening to music in January alone. Advertisers and sponsors include leading brands like Toyota, Visa, McDonald’s, Kmart and Adidas.
Holt says this is only the beginning. He recently discussed with Billboard what’s ahead.
You started after MySpace Music launched. What are you working on now to advance the service?
When I got here, MySpace Music was four things—not really a full service but areas where music existed. Those were the artist pages, user profile pages with the playlists, the search engine and the editorial front door. I wanted to focus on making the service more usable. The first week I got here I sat down with the product teams and technology guys to understand a little better what we could do and needed to do in response to what users have been asking for. We whittled down a 35-product road map to eight that we knew we could get done in the first two months. And all of them are live now.
All these projects are a work in progress. There are things that we’ve done that I’d say are first steps to a broader opportunity.
Click here for the full Q&A, including Holt’s thoughts on the working process with the major labels, MySpace Music’s music video plans, how the Live Nation-Ticketmaster merger is affecting the company’s ticket sales plans and more.