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The unveiling of MySpace Music last week was eagerly anticipated and was notable because the site managed to launch with all four major record labels as joint venture partners.
But as a product, does MySpace Music live up to its promise? I decided to give it a test drive to find out.
Since MySpace Music obviously revolves around music, I wanted to listen to some music first and headed straight for MySpace Music's player and playlist functionality.
These are similar in nature to the player and playlist functionality on other services and therefore were fairly straightforward to use.
Unfortunately, the search functionality for locating music to add to playlists did not work very well.
For instance, a search for 50 Cent and "50 Cent" returned no results for me, yet knowing that MySpace Music has licensing deals with all of the majors, suspected that there must be a mistake.
A search for 50 produced results, seeming to indicate that MySpace has trouble with multi-word searches. Assuming that I'm not experiencing some isolated problem, how something like this was missed is beyond me.
Moving on, I found that the streaming and sound quality was quite acceptable but was disappointed to learn that not all music appears to be full-length.
Several songs I tried listening to ended before the song was actually over. Whether this is due to restrictions placed on the music by the record labels or a technical error is unknown. Either way, if MySpace Music is going to promote that it offers full-length streaming music, it needs to deliver that.
Interestingly, the "Buy Album" link was unavailable on a number of songs I listened to that are on multi-platinum (and widely-available) albums. This seems like a lost monetization opportunity.
When I progressed to the Music Videos section, I was disappointed to learn that clicking on a video takes the user to MySpace Videos, which is not integrated with MySpace Music and has a different navigation structure. This, of course, leads to a most unpleasant browsing experience.
The same is true for the Classifieds and Forums sections of MySpace Music, neither of which has any direct integration whatsoever with MySpace Music.
The Featured Playlists section of MySpace Music is functional but a bit sparse. There's certainly more that could be done here and given that MySpace is a social network, it would be nice to see the Featured Playlists section turned into something "social." For instance, popular playlists and playlists that are being listened to "now" could be featured.
Like the Featured Playlists section, the Shows section is functional if a bit sparse. It's easy to search for local shows and to add them to a calendar but once again, I was left wondering why MySpace hasn't implemented additional features.
Why not allow users to connect with others who plan to attend? Why not attempt to offer a ticketing sales platform (which would probably appeal to many smaller artists and venues)?
Finally, while MySpace provides some general pointers as to how to use MySpace Music, more comprehensive FAQs and documentation is definitely in order.
In terms of MySpace Music's business model, at the time of my test it appeared that McDonald's had bought much of the premium inventory.
Integration with the MySpace Music player was decent but quite frankly, I was surprised that a "Pimp My Profile" text ad served by Google AdSense was actually displayed on the MySpace Music homepage - the most valuable real estate.
I think there is an opportunity for far more brand integration (and far more effective brand integration) but given the issues with the MySpace Music design and user experience, believe that great integration is going to be difficult for MySpace Music to supply at this point.
All in all, I was disappointed by MySpace Music. It's quite rough around the edges, the problems I experienced with search are very strange and the
disjointed experience seems to indicate that little thought was given to the user experience.
All of these things lead me to believe that MySpace may have been more focused on dealmaking than in implementing a game-changing online music property.
While I have no doubt that MySpace Music will make money given the scale of MySpace's audience, for MySpace and its joint venture partners to full capitalize on the opportunity, a lot of work is still needed.
The interface and user experience needs to be improved, more compelling functionality needs to be offered and obvious yet curiously-untapped commercial opportunities need to be exploited.
In conclusion, the launch of MySpace Music may indeed be an important development in the world of digital music but as far as I'm concerned, it's no iTunes competitor and has a long way to go before it can be considered a polished product.