MySpace is getting into the music business in a big way.
The social networking heavyweight announced Thursday that it has deals with Sony/BMG, Universal and Warner music labels to transform its current music offerings into a full-fledged jukebox of streaming and downloadable music.
As the new features are rolled out in the coming months, MySpace Music will evolve into "what we think is going to be a transformative music experience for the user," says MySpace cofounder Chris DeWolfe. And the improved MySpace Music service will be built upon "a business model that is going to be fantastic for the music companies and help them replace some of the revenue lost for decreasing music sales."
The top social networking site, MySpace has 110 million users and 30 million of those use the music features. Currently, many musicians and bands such as the Foo Fighters and Wilco have songs that can be listened to on their MySpace pages.
Under the new agreement, De Wolfe says that labels plan to offer artists' entire catalogs for free listening and for-pay downloads. "We are considering a subscription model as well if it makes sense," he says.
MySpace did not announce a pricing scheme, but chief operating officer Amit Kapur said that "it's going to be very competitive and in the formats that they want."
He went on to say that he expects many downloads to be available without digital rights management and "they can use them on any devices in a portable manner."
In an earlier interview, DeWolfe did not announce a pricing scheme nor would he say whether downloads would be MP3s or another format, or whether they would contain digital rights management. "Not all the music companies have embraced full non-DRM downloads," he said. "I personally think that is where the market is going but that will be a decision all the music companies will have to make."
Currently, Apple's iTunes store dominates online music sales, with other services from Amazon.com, Wal-Mart, and sites such as eMusic and SpiralFrog also growing.
DeWolfe says that MySpace's goal is to create a joint venture that includes all the major music companies. "We are certainly talking to everyone out there and we want to do business with everyone," he said.
The fourth major music company, EMI, currently sells music on iTunes, but was unavailable for comment on the MySpace Music announcement.
MySpace Music will be about more than just channeling music, DeWolfe says. The service plans to offer one-stop shopping for fans. "When you're listening (to an artist), you may want to also check out the concert schedules and buy a ticket. We have the ability to sell tickets," he says.
"And before you go to concert maybe you want to buy a cool T-shirt and you'll have the opportunity to buy that as well as maybe even a ring tone and video.? Users will be able to use new new music discovery and recommendation tools and pass their findings along.
"You can create a playlist with all your favorite songs you've ever heard in your entire life and put those on your profile and share with it with friends and they can listen absolutely free via streaming," DeWolfe says. "Modern music is about letting the user define their own experience and that is what this does."