MySpace – The Once & Future King?

Editor’s Note: Alex Horowitz is a music and tech blogger writing on behalf of Contested. Did we also mention he’s a musician? Check out his band [ghost this] and read his first post for us on Spotify.

If you’ve followed a link to this blog post (it would be quite a feat to be reading this if you haven’t), I must begin by apologizing for interrupting your regularly scheduled line-up of internet consumption. Right now, you could be watching a silly video made entirely with flash, updating your LiveJournal, or even connecting with friends on Friendster.

What’s that? You say all of those things are completely outdated and no longer relevant to the young people currently surfing the interwebs?

Then answer me this — why are you reading a blog post about MySpace?

Weird, right? Don’t worry, it’s not just you — it’s all of us. When MySpace was sold somewhat recently for a fraction of what News Corp originally paid for it, MySpace was once again the laughing stock of the business world and the internet. I don’t remember hearing much about LiveJournal’s net worth recently, do you? So why the fascination with MySpace?

Part of it is just a matter of time (or lack there of). It’s easy to forget (and even easier to want to forget) how recently we all still had a MySpace page.

Another part is that unlike any other social network in the history of the internet, MySpace was among the first true behemoths of the social space. There was a time not that long ago when no one was without a MySpace page, which meant you had one, too.

MySpace’s user adoption reached what is often referred to as a “critical mass” — a point at which so many people were already on MySpace that it was hard not to be there too and still be social in the modern era. That “critical mass” is a trait now most commonly associated with Facebook, generally in the context of being described as an impossible obstacle to potential competitors. MySpace had it, and they fell. Hard.

Perhaps our continued mildly-surprising interest in MySpace stems also from the fact that, unlike so many other fading phenomenons, it simply refuses to either find a comfortable niche of faithful followers and be content with its small sliver of market share, or flat-out die.

Maybe it’s Justin Timberlake.

For you, reading a music industry blog, it’s also because MySpace was probably a part of your life more recently than some of your less-cool friends (ironic, right?). The last frontier MySpace owned was the music space. But alas, it all seemed too little too late.

When I close my eyes now and think of MySpace, I see squandered potential, I see big mistakes, and ultimately I think of collapse. What I don’t see when I close my eyes is any information regarding MySpace’s current positioning or plans for the future, so all I’m left with is doubt.

Ladies and gentlemen, my eyes have been opened.

Recently, MySpace accidentally (or so the story goes) leaked a deck detailing their plan to turn the proverbial ship around, and information to support their theory that they can actually pull it off. I know this sounds crazy, but they don’t make a terrible case.

Let’s try that eye-closing exercise again.  Close your eyes (after you’re done reading this) and try to imagine a made-up company. More specifically, imagine a company that already has something Spotify (in America) spent a ton of time and effort trying to get, Google Music still doesn’t have (though rumor has it they’re closer these days) and Amazon seems to have given up on pursuing (for now) — agreements with all 4 major music labels (and, in this case, 20 thousand other independent labels) to stream music and video content.

Now imagine this company has brand name recognition (albeit not entirely positive) and over 70 million global consumers online each month.

We both know where I’m going with this, so just admit it — what I’ve just described could potentially make for the core foundation of a formidable player in the music streaming market — a market that, for better and for worse, is still coming into focus.

If you’re looking at just assets and not execution, all conventional wisdom would have said that MySpace should be ruling the internet right now, not Facebook. But as they say in sports whenever there’s an upset, that’s why you bother playing the game. If you were to tell me some young company had the deals in play with the big 4 that MySpace has, and access to the kind of content library that MySpace does, and was preparing to position itself as a key player in the ad-supported streaming space, I’d be out buying stock right now. But I’m not. Partially because it’s MySpace.

They have the tools and their plan isn’t half crazy, but the only word that matters in business is execution. I almost wish this company wasn’t called MySpace so I could focus on my optimism rather than being forced to recall that this is the same company that lost control of the future of the social internet. Then again, how did this blog post begin?  With you clicking on a link about the future of MySpace, followed by me wondering aloud why we all still care enough about MySpace to read a blog post about it.

But that’s the thing — we do still seem to care. Aren’t you curious what MySpace does next? Come on, we all are.

And now that you mention it, this post really began with a “leak” by MySpace. Ok MySpace, clever move, I’ll give you that.

So here’s how I see this shaking out. MySpace, you have one more shot. You have all the tools you need to do something big in a brand new space, and you have a limited amount of our attention left. Your move MySpace — just this one last time, we’ll all be watching.

Don’t mess up.

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