In ye olden days of social networking, MySpace was an unrivaled beast; it was undoubtedly the most popular option. All notions of MySpace’s uncontested manifest destiny were destroyed by the rise of its admittedly less-creepy, user-friendly Facebook. At the height of MySpace’s reign in December 2008, there were 76 million unique visitors.
However, in December 2012, only 27.4 million hits were recorded—a misleading travesty of a number when comparing the total number of Internet users in 2008 with the 2012 number. Currently, there are about 2.4 billion Internet users, which represents a billion more users than the 1.4 billion in 2008. Taking that into account, the number of individual hits on the MySpace website were…dismally low. With the website already on life support, management rebranded the website, adding an entertainment focus and to be spearheaded by none other than pop idol Justin Timberlake.
Wait a second—you just can’t ignore the eerie similarity of MySpace’s situation to “The Social Network” (2010). The Fincher film dissects the real-life lawsuit filed against Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg by two of his Harvard classmates. In the film, Timberlake plays Sean Parker: co-founder of the computer service “Napster” which allowed users to share files, namely music, with one another for free. Timberlake’s character eventually becomes a detriment to Facebook and damages the company’s reputation, resulting in Parkers ejection. In an ironic twist, Timberlake was hired to pioneer the rebranding of MySpace as a music hub for artists to share their work with the public. MySpace boasts a collection of more than 50 million songs, which makes it the largest music library on the Web.
However, Merlin, a group that represents “thousands of small labels” (Sisario, New York Times) claims that the website uses “members’ music without permission.” Merlin’s contract with MySpace ended more than a year ago, which means more than 100 of Merlin’s labels are still readily accessible on MySpace. As a rebuttal, management released a statement saying that all material used without permission has been, for the most part, uploaded by members and that it can be removed at the request of the creator.
MySpace is down-for-the-count but willing to get back into the game by changing its image and focusing on promoting “social entertainment”. The barriers to entry are high—up and coming names like “SoundCloud” and “bandcamp” offer similar services for artists trying to make a name for themselves. A shiny new exterior and a focus on entertainment…is it enough to turn MySpace on its head?