Relaunched Myspace Faces Uphill Battle

Myspace, part music service and part social network, has exited beta and is ready to welcome a larger audience. The company is coming out swinging: it has two promotional videos — one for digital, one for TV — and a $20 million advertising campaign.

MySpace works well as a music service. It has a large catalog of music, offers editorial and exclusive mixes, and allows users to create their own playlists and mixes. All in all, it’s a good free streaming product.

However, the web version’s many features are a burden. It seems convoluted relative to other music services on the market. Consumers reward simplicity and punish complexity, and the web version is better suited for only to the more hardcore of music fans. The iOS app is simpler and is a more enjoyable way to use Myspace. It succeeds by limiting the number of options available and cleaning up the user experience.

In its marketing and in interviews, Myspace emphasizes the service allows for creation and self-expression. Indeed, users can create their own music mixes from the catalog of licensed tracks and share them with friends. Its iOS app has a built-in GIF maker.

But a service built for creators will face a limited future. The 1% rule of the Internet dictates that only 1% of people actually create (blogs, animated GIFS) while 10% contribute by editing or modifying that content (add to a playlist, comment to a blog post). The remaining 89% of people view content without creating or contributing. These numbers don’t always hold, but this doesn’t impeach the general idea.

Myspace bends the 1% rule by changing the definition of creator. Its iOS app’s “create” button provides quick access to write posts, create GIFs and take and upload a photo. While these are not the cultural creations that make Myspace a rewarding place to discover content, they are the fuel for social networks.

Myspace needs to work as a social network to succeed as a music service. The world can stand another music streaming service. Competition is good for digital music and the pecking order is far from settled. Competition could be good in social networks, too, but the social pecking order is far more settled.