Have you been on Myspace lately?
Forget the ugly design and poorly-written blog posts. The Myspace you might have known in the mid-2000s has been demolished and a more beautiful and sleeker social network was built in its place. What once was a digital hangout for teens now boasts the participation of big-name recording artists like Ariana Grande and prominent Internet-based companies like Instant Checkmate.
The new Myspace is centered around music: Discovering it, mixing playlists, and sharing it with your connections. Users of the social network can create music mixes and listen to individual tracks from its impressive catalog of tunes. And you’ll find more than pop hits to add to your listening queue. Hip hop, country, indie, classical recordings, and even obscure artists all populate Myspace’s musical database. That might get you wondering: in an age when music publishers are so worried about piracy and their declining profits, how exactly did Myspace get them to agree to share such a massive amount music — for free?
The answer might just be that they didn’t.
Free Music — Poor Artists
In January of this year, Merlin, a group that represents thousands of small artists, claimed that Myspace was using music without permission. While these artists originally negotiated a deal that would allow Myspace to feature the bands’ work, the social network continued to offer the music after the contracts expired. That essentially means that Myspace users are able to enjoy the tracks, but the music creators don’t get paid for it.
“Artists are being exploited without permission and not getting remuneration for it,” said Charles Caldas, chief executive of Merlin.
Myspace, for their part, claimed that they acted in compliance with the agreement and removed all of the artists represented by Merlin. If any Merlin artists were still on Myspace, they were uploaded by users.
Myspace isn’t the only music platform to be the target of artists complaining about compensation. Last year veteran recording artists Billy Joel, Missy Elliot, and Rihanna all fought music provider Pandora over getting their fair share. In July, Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke pulled the band’s music from Spotify because he felt he was being unfairly compensated. It seems that while social media users love their free music, companies haven’t quite figured out how to do that while still appeasing the artists that create it.
Music Is Make Or Break
Since music is central to the site’s redesign, whether or not Myspace can provide the tunes that their users enjoy might just mean the difference between finding relevance again, or having the Myspace relaunch be a bust. The more music that Myspace is able to offer, the more people will come to the site. Myspace’s only hope for success is being able to reach an agreement with music publishers that satisfies everyone — and gives their users the impressive track list that they have become accustomed to.
Jacob Matthew is a blogger from San Antonio Texas. He writes about social media, music, and marketing.