Justin Timberlake says the new Myspace is no mere redesign

myspace teamThe phrase of the day was “This is not a redesign.” Nearly everyone on the Myspace team who took the time to walk a handful of us through the new site made sure to tell us that this certainly isn’t a makeover. Although, of course, they also all pointed out how very sleek this new look is.

Owners Tim and Chris Vanderhook and Justin Timberlake bought the site back in 2011, and since then all’s been quiet on the Myspace front — until this past September when Timberlake tweeted out a preview of the music and media-focused social network. Since then, minds have been curious and inquiring as we inch closer to an official launch.

We now have an early preview at the new Myspace (albeit a beta and relatively quiet version), and this first look combined with the Vanderhooks’ and Timberlake’s discussion about the relaunch have made it clear that the old Myspace is on its way out.

“You’re not going to see something that’s ‘Myspace 3.0.’ This is not another social network that you have to keep up with and maintain. It’s a totally new experience, one that delivers on three things: Design, discovery, and insights for our community that actually empowers them,” says TimVanderhook. “Overall, what you’re going to see is that design matters. We wanted to deliver something that was visually stunning … and we wanted to give tools to the artist community that really help them.”

While stressing that it’s out with the old and in with the new, the owners still had positive memories about the original Myspace. “So I’m 34, so I was directly part of the original Myspace and I loved it because I get satisifaction out of finding new music, surfacing it, and seeing my friends like it,” says Chris. “Watching the feedback from that was great.”

“Just finding new stuff — people, bands …” echoes Tim. “That discovery, and that was something we really wanted to bring to the new site: How do we really solve discovery for people?”

Timberlake agrees. “The constant discovery of the new, but also, the way of promoting individuality in a way that I don’t know that a lot of the newest places that you can go actually do.” And as an artist, he directly saw how the site could launch a career. “I watched my friends become … One Republic. I’ve know Ryan [Tedder] for a long time, and to see that type of connection with a fan base that grows and grows and grows … that was exciting to see.”

And that love for artist promotion isn’t going anywhere. Myspace will remain a hub for unsigned and indie artists. “Their story is our story,” says Chris, who says he sees the top eight spots as well as the profile song becoming important promotional areas for artists. The ever-present, very functional, and downright good-looking search function will also give users immediate access to finding who or what they want. “We’re just getting started,” he adds.

As to how Myspace will more specifically help artists, the team says the site’s capabilities will follow the users. “We’re going to build what the community wants,” Tim says, mentioning that if artists want a way to directly sell their music and users want to download it, the feature will be added. Or if they want a way to sell merchandise, the platform will provide.

“There’s a section in the site called Spaces, and it isn’t built yet, but think of it like our app store. An API that connects to anything on the Web, to bring in your own space to the site,” Tim says, explaining how brands could eventually leverage the network.

Right now, Myspace is home to 53 million tracks and 42.3 million artists, which is a lot of music. Still, a lot of that is from unrepresented artists, and the catalog will continue to grow, as will the team’s plans for the platform. Advertising is a natural evil that will be introduced, though a marketing rep says they’re looking at doing very integrated, natural, uninterruptive experiences. And eventually, as the site has more users, more artists, and more content, Myspace will need a way to filter this — something Facebook has been challenged by. According to the team, this will largely be based on an algorithm that measures Affinity, or the metric assessing how much you have in common with users and content on Myspace. 

Mobile reach is in the works as well, though slowly rolling out the Web version remains the top priority, as is keeping the site clean of spambots … something the old Myspace struggled with. “We’re obsessed with this, actually,” says Tim. “It’s part of why we’re rolling out on an invite-only basis.”

“We’ve got a lot of very smart people working on this problem.”

Back-end processes aside, it’s clear that connecting artists and their work with fans and users remains at Myspace’s core. “It’s not about bridging the gap. It’s about blurring the gap,” says Timberlake. But make no mistake, this time, they’re going to do it better. “This is an invention, not a reinvention,” he adds.