MySpace first friend Tom leads music efforts
By Katie Hasty
NEW YORK (Billboard) - It's been a little more than four years since MySpace launched another cyberspace revolution.
While giant strides have been made in terms of the social network's influence on photo and video sharing, blogging and even classifieds, MySpace has meant a whole lot more for music.
MySpace president/co-founder Tom Anderson -- a.k.a. each member's default first friend "Tom" -- guides a number of the site's music initiatives, from enabling bands to upload MP3s to launching the MySpace Records label.
This fall brought the first MySpace-branded tour, featuring headliners hellogoodbye and Say Anything. The company recently hosted the second annual Rock for Darfur event, which featured 37 concerts on four continents, with performances from the likes of Fall Out Boy, Maroon 5, Suzanne Vega, Megadeth, the Decemberists and Brandi Shearer.
1. WHAT IS THE FUTURE OF MYSPACE SELLING MUSIC? WILL YOU CONTINUE GOING THROUGH THIRD PARTIES TO SELL SINGLES AND ALBUMS?
What's unique about MySpace is the user's ability to embed Flash and widgets into their profile, to link anywhere they want. Any tool works. We have a deal with Snocap to sell directly through their page. There's no DRM (digital rights management) solution to it, and it doesn't have a wide adoption, but the music industry is heading toward selling music without DRM anyway. We feel agnostic about it.
2. WHAT ABOUT HOOKING UP WITH AN AD-BASED SUBSCRIPTION SERVICE?
We've kicked around the idea but have never found a partner that made any sense for us. We're still trying to find something on that end. It's just a matter of resources, its profit, how much time would we spend putting it together like this and how much will it really return. We want a killer product that users would take off-screen with widespread adoption and (have) a mobile phone-as-payment gateway.
3. YOU HAVE DIFFERENT WAYS OF EXPOSING UP-AND-COMING ARTISTS WITH SUB-SITES AND VIDEO DESTINATIONS LIKE THE LIST,SECRET SHOWS AND HEY, PLAY THIS. HOW ARE THOSE ARTISTS CHOSEN?
We hope to break new acts all the time. That same thought also determines who we feature on the home page. We don't have any deals with record labels. They're not paid spots. It's all editorial's decision. Like most people do nowadays, we pay less and less attention to an artist's friend count. It's weird how people think that it means something. From our perspective, that just means a band was successful at marketing themselves.
4. WHAT'S IN IT FOR MYSPACE TO DO SOMETHING LIKE A MUSIC TOUR?
This isn't about finding out about MySpace in the first place. We didn't expect to get more members out of this. I would guess that 90% of the tour's audience are already active MySpace users. It's more about doing something good for the users. We're being vocal about making music a big part of the experience. We're already well-known, so we're tending to focus on associating our thing with what's good for the community and the things people like about it.
5. HOW HAS MYSPACE BEEN TRYING TO IMPROVE OR EXPAND ITS MUSIC COMMUNITY?
One of things we've focused on more is making efforts to reach out to the hip-hop/rap community. Before, (MySpace) was very rock-based, or alternative rock or emo. We're starting to see more pickup with country artists. We have people in the marketing group do different kinds of outreach to get influential and underground artists and labels onboard. I've even seen classical artists on there. Every musician realizes it's worth making a page on MySpace. It doesn't matter how punk rock you are.
6. CLEAR THE AIR: WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE COMPLAINT OR RUMOR ABOUT MYSPACE?
If there ever was a backlash, it was when (politically active English folk singer) Billy Bragg raised some issues about some of the fine print about the site, like it said we could own everybody's music. But then we'd own all the music of every major label in the world ever, right? That got cleared up pretty quickly. A more reasonable concern has been about ownership by News Corp. and the idea that News Corp. could ruin the music experience. Fortunately, we're two years into it now. The way I know we haven't messed up is that I get e-mails like, "Don't change MySpace! Don't sell it!," from people who don't even realize we were sold already.