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Why the original social network refuses to die

It’s like the mid-2000s all over again – but this time it’s all about the music.

ONLY A FEW YEARS after appearing destined for the internet scrapheap, the world’s first major social-networking success is going through a renaissance.

MySpace, almost a byword for faded fads of the 2000s, has been making a quiet return under its new owners after shifting to Spotify-style music streaming, radio stations and video sharing.

Last year it was the fastest-growing media platform in the US, expanding its unique visitor figures 469% between December and the same month in 2013 – albeit from a low starting point.

MySpace general manager Ron Nielsen recently proclaimed the site had “evolved” from being purely a social network to a “music platform” with added social elements.

Myspace helps individuals and artists manage their presence, find their audience, collaborate with like minds, and grow.”

Its nearly-40 million users late last year put it ahead of more in-vogue offerings like Vine, Snapchat and Soundcloud, according to figures from ComScore.

ComCast Source: ComScore

A surprising renaissance

ComScore said it had been a “surprising renaissance” from what was the world’s most-popular social networking site until Facebook overtook it in 2008 and the former leader went into steady decline.

It reportedly even had the chance to buy out Facebook in early 2004, but baulked at the deal because of the $75 million pricetag.

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation bought MySpace for $580 million in 2005. In 2011 it sold the social network again for only about $35 million to Specific Media, which teamed up with Justin Timberlake for the deal.

Tim Vanderhook, the head of Specific Media’s parent company, Viant, recently said MySpace had been attracting a new audience of 17- to 25-year-old music fans – as well as having access to its old database of one billion registered users.

While the bulk of its 53 million songs come from unsigned artists, big-name acts from Beyoncé to Mumford & Sons and Lorde have been offering a limited selection of their tracks on the site and its selection of themed “radio stations”.

Lorde Lorde's MySpace page Source: MySpace

The site also sells its credentials as a platform for up-and-coming artists to get noticed, with many high-profile acts – like US rapper Nicki Minaj – crediting it with kick-starting their careers.

She was first noticed on MySpace in 2007 by Dirty Money Records boss Big Fendi, who signed her to his label.

57th Annual Grammy Awards - Arrivals - Los Angeles Nicki Minaj Source: Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

Rebuilding a community

During its heyday, there were an estimated 300,000 members of the MySpace “community” in Ireland – although it’s not known how many of that number are still active on the site.

Scott De Buitléir, from Dublin digital marketers TinderPoint, said the site had a long history – in digital terms, at least – as the go-to place for musicians to showcase their music.

But he added that digital exposure long since stopped being confined to any one social platform and the new generation of MySpace users would be looking to cross-promote their material on networks like Twitter and other, more music-focussed sites.

“Facebook stole their thunder as the new social platform, but Facebook’s features and appeal for bands was relatively short-lived, and soon people were moving onto other sites like SoundCloud and BandCamp,” he said.

With Justin Timberlake’s investment into MySpace, we’re now seeing the returns on his work, as MySpace is now designed predominantly to showcase musicians, which will appeal to those working in, or aspiring to work in, the music industry.”

This month, as part of TheJournal.ie’s ongoing startup and small and medium enterprise (SME) focus, we are looking at the music industry.

To view other stories from our collection, click here.

READ: Watch out, One Direction – these talented Irish teens are after your throne >

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About the author:

Peter Bodkin  / Editor, Fora

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