If you think of the new Myspace as a comeback album, the redesign unveiled in its public beta last month was the first single. It was polished, clean, and catchy as hell—a major departure from the Myspace of old. The design, with its horizontal navigation inspired by tablets, was intriguing, no small feat for a Web brand that many had left for dead. Now the act is going on tour with today’s announced partnership between Myspace and Thrillcall, a concert listings provider.
The deal illustrates what Chris and Tim Vanderhook and Justin Timberlake intend to do with the site that they bought in 2011 from News Corp. for $35 million. The strategy, as the Vanderhooks explained to Fast Company recently, is creating a central music portal in an increasingly fractured and competitive sector. "One thing that I always thought was interesting," says Myspace COO Chris, "is you have tens of millions of people coming to Myspace to stream music, but when Rihanna is playing in L.A., do you even know about the show? And where do you buy tickets—StubHub or Ticketmaster? Or if I like the Black Keys, I want to buy a Black Keys T-shirt, but where in the world do I find that?"
The new Myspace is far from a one-stop shopping music site yet. But adding Thrillcall’s concert listings is a step in that direction. When you visit an artist’s page—just start typing and the name appears in big letters followed by results listed by song, video, artists, and so on—click on "events" to retrieve their tour info. You see, for instance, that Elvis Costello plays Madison Square Garden tomorrow, Alicia Keys hits the road in March, starting at Seattle's WaMu Theater, and Beyonce kicks off her U.S. tour at the Staples Center in L.A. in June. Selecting a specific event takes you—for now—to an outside site for primary and secondary tickets.
A year ago when Thrillcall cofounder Matthew Tomaszewicz mentioned to some peers that he might work with Myspace, he encountered skepticism. News Corp., after all, had attempted to turn the former social media giant around and failed. "People were like, ‘Myspace is still out there?’" he says. "But once they saw the product design, that changed. Myspace's artist tools are tremendous."
By artist tools, he means the features that performers can use to learn more about the fans that "connect" with them (Myspace’s version of like, friend, or follow), such as the geographic distribution, which allows for more-strategic touring. Thrillcall’s data could prove equally valuable for artists on Myspace. For the past several years, the company has served up listings in social media and through ticket sellers like Ticketmaster. "We have an understanding of how people purchase tickets and which promotions work," says Tomaszewicz. "We know that video is a stronger leading factor than audio. I can tell you how many people come back 15 times or more. We know the inflection point is two weeks before a show and then the Tuesday and Thursday before the show. We have so much data on our side."
As for the music fans on Myspace, the benefit is accuracy. Concert listings are a data nightmare. When Thrillcall’s software pulls event info from secondary-ticket sites, it must steer clear of fake shows, a common ploy to procure buyers’ email addresses. It also has to avoid other potholes such as confusing band names. "If you tell someone the Foo Fighters are playing and it’s a [Foo Fighters] tribute band, you’re in a whole hell of a lot of trouble," says Tomaszewicz. When human error and machines intersect, his algorithms need to recognize that "Closed For The Holiday" refers to a venue’s hours, not a band. (At least, not yet.)
The Vanderhook brothers and Timberlake are banking on that attention to detail, from Thrillcall as well as their own design team, to win back music fans to the revamped Myspace. "If you give people a great product and great experience," Chris says, "consumers are willing to give you that second chance."
We'll soon see if that's the case with Myspace.
[Image: Flickr user Derrick Austinson]