New look music-focused MySpace set for 2012

By | Published on Tuesday 4 October 2011


So, MySpace is going to relaunch in 2012 and, as expected, will become almost exclusively a music service. Or at least that’s what Tim Vanderhook, the boss of the one time social network’s new owners Specific Media, seemed to say at a press conference in New York last night.

Vanderhook, whose Specific Media specialises in online advertising, used NYC’s Advertising Week to reveal his plans for the flagging website, though his presentation wasn’t the grand relaunch we had originally expected back in August, rather confirmation a new music-focused MySpace was in the works, probably for early 2012 release. Vanderhook basically said more time was needed, because this time he wanted to launch a new look MySpace that actually works. Which is fair enough.

We’ve heard rumours MySpace will try to move into Bandcamp/Topspin territory, providing tools to help bands monetise their content. While Vanderhook wasn’t that precise, he did indicate that independent bands would be a key target for the new site, an audience he feels former owners News Corp underappreciated (although, to be fair, MySpace’s last upgrade under News Corp did add a whole load of new functionality specifically aimed at that audience, albeit once most bands had switched their allegiances to Facebook, Twitter and their direct-to-fan provider of choice).

But it won’t just be unsigned bands. Vanderhook seems keen to push the major label licensed streaming music service hidden away under the MySpace Music banner to the front, arguing that his company – unlike News Corp and, for that matter, most other streaming music businesses – can make an ad-funded on-demand music service viable. He says he reckons News Corp hid the streaming music simply because it made a loss they couldn’t afford to sustain.

The Specific Media chief was certainly bullish, even if his business model is based on two questionable assumptions – that grass roots bands are still interested in using MySpace to engage fans, and that he really can do what many others have failed to do, make ad-funded streaming music work. But, he reckons, MySpace has better label deals and artist relationships than anyone else, which is why it can still succeed.

According to Billboard, he said: “No other company has the rights MySpace has. Nobody has the relationships we have with the four major labels, the catalogue of 25,000 independent artists and 42 million songs. If you take Facebook’s music announcements with Rdio, MOG and Spotify and you aggregated all those services up and took their audio catalogue, it’s not even half of what MySpace has”.

Bold words. Of course Specific Media does have one very important artist relationship, with MySpace’s new Creative Director Justin Timberlake. He was in attendance for Vanderhook’s presentation – ensuring a media presence – though the Specific Media chief insisted Timberlake’s role was creative and strategic, he wasn’t just a poster boy to ensure Apple/Facebook level hype for future MySpace announcements. Even if he does, indeed, deliver that.