Membership boost at MySpace could signal trouble for music discovery sites

myspace is trying to acquire imeem music logoMySpace’s fall from grace can be measured by two sets of figures: Dropping from 75 million unique visitors a month to fewer than 25 million, and being sold once for more than $500 million and then again for “just” $35 million, all in the space of a few years.

New owners Tim and Chris Vanderhook, who took over in June last year, told the New York Times they weren’t seeing any new signups at all, a statistic that was perhaps even more terrifying than the falling visitor figures. After all, if no one new is turning up to the party, the only way is down.

The Vanderhook’s company, Specific Media, was best known as an online advertising network at the time, but with aspirations of broadening out into the media scene, therefore MySpace was a perfect, almost pre-packaged entrance at a bargain-basement price.

Pop star Justin Timberlake also came on-board to help build relationships with the music and movie industry. Rather than simply being the public face of MySpace, Timberlake is said to have his own team, a hands-on role regarding the creative direction, and even mentor undiscovered artists.

Despite initial fears that Specific Media purchased MySpace purely for the membership list, it appeared the company actually wanted to do something with the site after all. Since then, a new music player has launched and news of a TV platform have been announced.

New signups

From getting zero new members per day, MySpace is now said to have attracted 1 million new signups since December 2011, showing people beginning to take notice once more.

So is MySpace about to see a huge resurgence and mount a challenge against Facebook and Google+? No. Not because it couldn’t, but according to the Vanderhook’s, because they don’t want to. Instead, they want MySpace to become music and entertainment hub, through which content can be shared with other networks.

The site’s music library contains more than 40 million tracks, whereas Spotify has 15 million, and MySpace currently doesn’t charge for access to any of them. If Spotify worried Pandora when it introduced its updated Spotify Radio, then the pair of them should be paying attention to where MySpace is going.

A new look?

However, just because the talent, ideas and music catalog are there, doesn’t mean MySpace is home and dry. It’s all very well getting new signups, but it’s making them stick around that’s the hard part.

Despite some modern, stylish landing pages, MySpace’s profiles all look identical to how they did years ago, and that’s not good at all. It’s hard to believe anyone would prefer building a MySpace profile over the alternatives.

The thing is, living with a look that will inevitably change in the future is a small price to pay for free, legal access to tens of millions of songs. When it does get a new look, or even eliminates extensive profiles all together, it probably won’t just be the dedicated few who will be returning.