MySpace to Showcase Music and Sell Performance Videos
MySpace, the social networking site where people create home pages and embellish them as they would a dormitory room, plans today to start positioning itself as a top destination for buying exclusive musical performances.
In a program called Transmissions, MySpace is inviting musicians to choose a studio and select the songs they want to perform. MySpace will show and sell videos of the performance.
It could be perceived as an Internet variation of the popular series “MTV Unplugged,” but with a revenue stream built in. When musicians participate in the MTV series, their work is sometimes released as albums months or years later. On MySpace, the work will be available immediately.
“If I like what I see, I can take it with me,” said Josh Brooks, vice president for programming and content of MySpace.
For years MySpace, now owned by the News Corporation, has served as a promotional platform for artists and labels, primarily through the MySpace Music portion of the Web site. Now the company wants to provide a sales component. Unlike Apple’s iTunes music store, which charges a flat rate of 99 cents a song, MySpace will let distributors set their own prices.
“We’re enabling artists to choose how they want to distribute their music,” Mr. Brooks said.
James Blunt, a singer-songwriter whose signature hit is “You’re Beautiful,” will be the first artist to participate in Transmissions, introducing five songs, including a new single, on the site today. Mr. Blunt said he appreciated the flexibility offered by the Transmissions format.
“Sometimes we can be so dependent on radio, and yet radio is all about a three-minute, 30-second song that is beat-driven and loud,” he said. “Music is about so much more than that. Through MySpace, I can get songs heard that are any length I choose, that are any format I choose.”
MySpace’s first attempt to sell music, through a year-old partnership with a company called Snocap, has not fared well. Snocap allows bands to sell music through small online stores embedded on MySpace profiles and other Web pages, but like most attempts at creating sales models for music, the service has not been widely adopted. Snocap laid off half its employees in October.
Now MySpace is taking a different approach. For Transmissions, it will showcase the recordings and connect users to sites (like the online store for Mr. Blunt’s label) where the content can be purchased — without ever having to leave MySpace.
MySpace representatives said the financial terms for each deal would vary. In the case of Mr. Blunt, the Web site will not get a cut of the revenue.
Mr. Brooks described Transmissions as a new stage of growth for MySpace Music, which began with basic profiles of musicians and has evolved into a platform site with album exclusives, online shows and a national tour.
MySpace Music drew an average of 17.9 million unique visitors in October, making it the third-most-popular music Web site, behind Yahoo Music (22.4 million) and ArtistDirect (19.1 million). The MySpace site has had a 42 percent increase in traffic from October 2006, more than any comparable site.
Mr. Brooks said Transmissions represented the first in a series of new revenue models for music that the company planned to introduce.
“I think a lot of musicians are looking for new ways to forge ahead in the digital space,” he said, citing opportunities in the video and mobile arenas for potential expansion by MySpace.