MySpace Music Goes Live; All Majors On Board

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MySpace Music is now opening its eyes to the world, the beginning of an aggressive experiment by labels, artists, and the social network.

The early-morning launch includes participation from all four majors, including EMI Music, an eleventh-hour partner.  As expected, those majors will carry an equity stake in a joint venture structure, and receive payout percentages on related advertising and purchases.

The independent collection is far less complete, at least at launch.  The Orchard is among the early participants, though discussions with other groups remain ongoing.  For example, Orchard rival IODA is not part of the initial appearance, and independent label consortium Merlin is also absent.  “We are actively working with the indies,” MySpace senior vice president of Product Strategy Steve Pearman told Digital Music News on Monday.  “From a systems perspective, an artist is an artist is an artist.”

But independents are not expected to become equity stakeholders in the joint venture.  According to Orchard chief Greg Scholl, the group is receiving a share of advertising revenue but is not a partner, a structure that will most likely extend to other independent groups.  That is a major sore spot for Merlin chief executive Charles Caldas, who blasted MySpace on Wednesday and warned of “a situation that is both unhealthy and dangerous.”

In a discussion with Digital Music News, Scholl seemed less focused on a broader equity position, and more interested in negotiating a share of a liquidation event.  “It’s easy to say we want equity too, but I’m more interested in when does equity matter,” Scholl explained.  “Instead of focusing on equity, let’s focus on what happens if there’s a dividend, a sale, or an IPO.”

The Orchard content is now being positioned, though the entire catalog of 1.3 million songs will take some time to load.  “The rollout will happen over time,” Scholl explained.  “Everything is uploaded and in the queue, but there is a large volume of content.”  Additionally, major-owned, independent-focused units ADA (Warner Music Group), RED (Sony Music), Fontana (Universal Music Group) and Caroline (EMI Music) are also launch partners.

On the publishing side, MySpace also pointed to commitments from major publishing groups, including Warner/Chappell Music, Sony/ATV Music Publishing, Universal Music Publishing Group, and EMI Music Publishing.

In terms of structure, MySpace Music revolves around on-demand access to a library of millions of songs.  In a demonstration earlier this week, MySpace executives revealed a service that allows users to create endless playlists, share those playlists, and explore a multi-million-strong catalog.  Outside of on-demand access, MySpace is tapping AmazonMP3 to deliver paid downloads, as expected.

Those elements matched the live experience this morning, though the launch process was described as iterative.  Other aspects, including merchandising, ticketing, and related assets, will be included at a later date.

As expected, McDonald’s, State Farm Insurance, Toyota, and Sony Pictures are sponsoring the initial splash.  Additionally, MySpace has tapped Jamster to deliver artist ringtones.