The d-future is now with MySpace Music

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Denver — As the dust settles from Thursday's launch of MySpace's new music service, the broader implications of the initiative are becoming clearer.

A joint venture of the News Corp. unit, the major label groups and Sony/ATV Music Publishing, MySpace Music Service represents a turning point for the recording industry and MySpace itself.

For the labels, MySpace Music is the culmination of more than 18 months of experimentation in new business models and a launching pad for their digital music strategies.

During the lead-up to the launch, the majors signed deals opening the door to ad-supported free streaming, DRM-free music sales and reduced licensing costs in return for revenue share and/or company equity.

All these elements are present in the MySpace Music deal. As such, the service represents less of an experiment and more of a template for future agreements.

"It's the single largest thing we've done to change the way we do business around the way the customer wants to experience music," said Rio Caraeff, exec vp at Universal Music Group's eLabs.

For MySpace, the service represents a expansion from a simple social networking site billed as "a place for friends" to a content-driven service billed as "a place for music."

"The whole consumption patterns for both music and video have changed a great deal in the last five years," MySpace co-founder and CEO Chris DeWolfe said. "We wanted to put together a music service consistent with those changing patterns and layer a business model around it."

MySpace's first foray into digital music sales was an indie-led effort. But in launching a service meant in part to take on Apple's iTunes Store, MySpace is focusing on the content its members use most. That means major labels.

Time will tell whether this new focus will have better results. But for better or worse, neither MySpace nor the majors plans to do things the old way anymore.

Antony Bruno is a contributor to Billboard.
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