MySpace Music features virtually every band in existence, yet it also features a cluttered interface, bottom-scraping CPMs, and an uncertain monetization path.
Sound like a site worth heading? A number of prominent executives turned the offer down, based on a confusing success path, divisional reporting structure, and other negatives.
But ex-MTV and Interscope executive Courtney Holt accepted, and is now sinking his teeth into a tough challenge. So, can this site win? The challenge is undoubtedly difficult, though during a keynote interview at EconMusic in Los Angeles on Thursday, Holt displayed ample amounts of acumen and surprising levels of candor.
For example, why is the MySpace Music interface so cluttered and confusing? On that question, Holt admitted to layout-related issues. At a top level, MySpace Music revolves around four components: the user page, artist page, front door, and search. “Each one of them is somewhat of a cul-de-sac, you [follow] what you’re looking for and then you’re stuck,” Holt shared. “If I find an artist then I have two options: out or back, and that’s not a good user experience. But we have all of this great data,” Holt continued.
And data, according to Holt, is a critical part of the strategy moving forward. That includes the ability to understand who is listening to what, and how those listening experiences are connected to other bands and friends. That information opens the possibilities, and theoretically allows MySpace Music to tighten connections with fans and bands. “My goal is not only to provide that data back to the consumer, but also back to the artist.”
And, properly presented, dissected and relayed, the data opens innumerable possibilities. Fans are more engaged, discovery is piqued, and connections are tightened. Similarly, artists can theoretically gain a deeper understanding of the demographics of their fan base, and discover related groups. “At the end of the day, those artists that engage MySpace will get something out of it,” Holt said.
But what about right now? What is Holt doing during his first one-hundred days? The executive pointed to quick upgrades on the player, independent label deals, “lots of time with the product guys” and “lots of evangelism” both “inside and outside the building”.
But the future is far more interesting. Playlisting was the big blow-up of 2008, yet startups like Muxtape floundered amidst label lawsuits. Holt, eyeing the opportunity and holding major label relationships, pointed to serious playlist upgrades ahead. “The next thing that we’re launching is public playlists, which is the first time that playlists get their own pages,” Holt stated. The playlist development map includes 100-song lists, as well as playlists that are search-enabled, feature drag-n-drop functionality, and stir a high level of collaboration. “We really want to make it much, much easier for users to create and publish playlists, that is going to be the heart-and-soul of our business,” Holt envisioned.
The rest is big, blue-sky thinking, especially in the face of a tenuous business model. “I’m focused on brand-building,” Holt stated. “The brand – and brands we are creating – will help drive our business forward, and the effective CPM on an artist on MySpace is not going to be subject to the same rules. Our revenue spread is going to be much broader than that,” Holt envisioned.
Report by publisher Paul Resnikoff in Los Angeles.