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Myspace has crawled back to relevancy; now here’s what it needs to stay

myspace welcome backThis week, the new Myspace (of the lowercase “s” variety) finally opened its doors to the public. With a little help from a friend part owner Justin Timberlake – and his new single, the next era of the original social network is upon us.

Amid all the shiny, sleek, new-ness of Myspace, however, let us not forget the grave the site is clawing its way out of. It was less than two years ago that MySpace (the former, of the capital “S”) was sold by News Corp for the bargain price of $35 million, becoming the Internet’s favorite punchline.

Myspace’s public fall from grace and much-hyped, Timberlake-infused journey back to relevancy means it had better nail this. Fool us once, shame on you. Fool us twice… and we’re deleting our accounts, wiping our hands, and never coming back.

I’ve had a beta Myspace account since November, when new owners Justin Timberlake and Chris and Tim Vanderhook gave a handful of us an early look at the site, as well as our own accounts. And while giving into snark is tempting (it’s just oh-so-easy to make Myspace a punching bag) I’m not doing to do it. The new Myspace is an inventive, interesting platform for music and media junkies that Tumblr-types will definitely want to experiment with. Instead of bashing it, here are the things that could help Myspace stay a part of the Internet’s collective consciousness.

Share and share alike

One element that has eluded music streaming services up until somewhat recently is sharing. Embedding tracks into a blog or social site wasn’t always available, people. It’s now nearly universally, and applications like Spotify are making it easier and easier thanks to integration that make it possible to directly send tracks via Facebook.

Of course, Myspace isn’t going to feature built-in Facebook integration – but there does need to be a better way to share out mixes, videos, and tracks directly. Example: I just made this great mix. I really want to share it with someone. My options? Grab the URL… paste it, and send it along. You can send it as a message within Myspace, but here’s the thing: Not all my friends are here yet. In fact, almost none of my friends are here yet. Give me the option for in-line emailing, and not only do I feel better about it as a user, the recipient just got a little prompt to join Myspace. Come back in, friend, the water’s fine! Things are happening here! Me, a person you know, is actually doing things on Myspace – check it out!

share album myspaceThe ability to embed a playlist into my Tumblr (or WordPress or Blogger, etc) would have a similar effect.

Where my apps at?!

Back in November, the Myspace team explained it was currently focused on the Web version but that mobile was coming. I took this to mean that by the time Myspace opened up public access, mobile apps would also be available. Wrong. The old apps are there… but that’s not good enough. It’s time for unifying – and for a reliable, mobile music player.

What’s great about Myspace is that it has the music rights to back up its service. As of this past fall, the platform boasted an audio catalog of 42 million songs, and video catalog of 100,000 videos. That’s extremely competitive; Spotify has the rights to 15 million songs, Pandora to 21 million, and neither have video rights (obviously, as they don’t offer that type of content).

But try as I might, I can’t forsake my Spotify account in favor of Myspace – because I move. At my desk, I’m perfectly content to hitch my wagon to Myspace all day, but the second I leave the office to go running, to drive somewhere, to walk home, to do anything else, I have to switch back.

This means that the mixes I’ve made lose their value to me a little, and mobile music usage is too important to ignore. Those apps are important, Myspace. Let’s see ‘em, sooner rather than later.

Be a little bossy

Right now, when you sign into your new Myspace account, the site offers a gentle prompt to help you get up and running. You can discover new music, edit your profile, or just dive in and start listening. But… then what?

There’s been some early criticisms of Myspace as confusing – and I’m willing to bet much of that has to do with the horizontal scroll. It’s disorienting and different; it’s also unique and interesting. But there’s something about this new format that just doesn’t feel right, and that “What’s the latest?” status box just doesn’t really inspire me to write or post anything. It’s all a little open-ended.

myspace whats the latestYou have the ability to customize your stream, which works fine for all intents and purposes, but if you want there to be anything in that stream, we need to be motivated to contribute to it. Take a note from Tumblr: an icon-heavy, no-room-for-confusion hub that prompts you to add to the stream. So far, my stream is full of tracks people are playing, but not a lot of anything they’re posting – which is supposed to be part of new Myspace’s pitch: All things multimedia. A creative content hub, with a streaming function attached at all times.

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Again, it’s really easy to rip on Myspace. But there’s a lot of good here – it’s just that the platform doesn’t have a very long grace period to work out the kinks. Still, welcome back to mattering, Myspace! Glad to have you. Now get to work.