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MySpace Music: Finally, a Serious iTunes Competitor?

We all know the drill. A new music service comes out, the press or the company itself proclaims it a “iTunes killer,” the company gets its fifteen minutes of fame, and then it either flames out or is relegated to also-ran status just like the rest of them. But could there finally be a viable alternative to Apple’s juggernaut?

Enter MySpace Music. Monday brought news that the company has secured three new major advertisers for the service: McDonald’s, Toyota, and State Farm Insurance. Advertising is expected to be a major component of the service, allowing it to offer services that other competitors can’t at no charge.

Like Rhapsody, the service will allow for free streaming of the full song, much like it does already in many cases. (Fortune says the service would pay a penny to the labels each time a song is streamed.) Users will then have the option to purchase the song free of digital rights management, as well as purchase ringtones and merchandise.

While some may accurately point out that this is not much different from what the site already is doing, MySpace Music appears to be an attempt to more prominently promote its music offerings — and position it as one of the go-to places on the Web for such content.
There are some differences however. For example, the site would now allow for users to post playlists to their site — which would allow for multiple songs to appear on a profile as opposed to a single track. When a user wishes to purchase a song, it would be sold through Amazon’s MP3 store.

Three out of the four major labels are already on board: EMI is the lone holdout, although it is reported that MySpace is currently in discussions to bring them on board.

So how does this truly compete with iTunes? What makes it different from other attempts is the fact that it already has several things going for it. First off, take MySpace’s massive user base: about 115 million unique visitors per month frequent its pages.

At the snap of a finger, any launched service by the social networking giant is going to have a tremendous reach. It can be argued quite convincingly that no one else started in such a favorable position.

Sony suffered from its unwillingness to part from proprietary formats, and Microsoft shuttered its own music store after its own PlaysForSure basically flopped in the market as people opted for Apple players. Even Yahoo, which boasts a similar reach to MySpace, was unable to break into the market — also bowing out.

MySpace Music would start with a huge advantage, considering a large portion of its users already frequent its artist pages. I’m probably out of the target demographic here for MySpace by a bit, but I will even admit I’m frequently on the music side of the site.

If just a portion of these users begin to use the site to download music, it could seriously pose a threat to Apple as social networking has proven to be a way to spread word quickly about just about anything.

Users love convenience, and if it is easy enough for a friend to send a friend a link to a certain song, and it’s competitively priced with iTunes, and on top of that it’s compatible with the iPod (and they stress this in the marketing), and MySpace is able to automatically import the songs into a users iTunes library as it is being reported, what reason does a user have to go to the iTunes Music Store?

Of course, MySpace is not going to challenge Apple overnight. But the power of social networking should be enough for those in Cupertino to take MySpace as a serious threat to their considerable dominance in digital music.

[A note from Harry: This is the first post on Technologizer by someone other than me. But it won’t be the last–as the the site grows, a variety of contributors will pop up. Ed Oswald is senior writer for BetaNews, a site I’ve long enjoyed; I’m pleased to welcome him to Technologizer’s…er, pages.]


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