By Knar Bedian of Evolver.fm.
Yes, we all know, the new Myspace redesign is beautiful. The obvious emphasis on aesthetics is even present in its choice of video platform: Rather than use YouTube, it seems the partially-Justin Timberlake-backed company created an account with designer-friendly Vimeo just to release its preview video (above), as if to make a statement about its boutique nature.
You can read about Myspace’s gorgeous new look elsewhere; here, we’ll focus on what it will offer musicians and listeners. Myspace has us on the list for early access to the new version, but hasn’t granted that yet, so we did some light investigation by hitting pause on its introductory video to see the new look.
The new search is simple, presenting songs, albums, artists, mixes and people simultaneously, bringing up the results side-by-side. Myspace’s social emphasis is fairly evident, in that you’re not just searching for music, but people who like it.
As for the actual listening features, the persistent music player bar at the bottom lets you keep listening as you explore. It should be easy to queue up songs, as dragging a song will make the fixed navigation bar expand so you can play the song next, last, or add it to your mixes.
The mix feature itself is notable too; users will be able to discover new music by exploring the mixes of friends and artists, giving Myspace a bit of an 8tracks feel. And, similar to Facebook’s little built-in play button (which launches the song your friend is currently listening to via Spotify) you’ll be able to click on the recently-played songs on your friend’s stream and listen in or add it to a mix, although unlike Facebook, it only appears to draw from Myspace activity.
Myspace is clearly making an effort to strengthen the connection between our identity and our music tastes. It has incorporated a feature similar to This Is My Jam by introducing the “Profile Song.” In a sense, Myspace is asking the user, “What song best defines you at this moment?” Your song selection could — whether you intend it to or not — communicate a lot of information to friends and anyone else browsing your profile. It might hint at your current mood, display your sophistication in musical taste, and or even convey messages about your personality. By including a “Profile Song” Myspace is providing us with another tool for constructing an image of ourselves.
For artists, the new site offers a stats section to help bands better understand their audience. The map visuals may help artists determine where to tour next, as it will show the number of fans concentrated in each city. Artists can also post only to their top fans, so perhaps we will see promotional methods that mimic the one used by the xx for their recent album, Coexist.
Some artists will provide two ways to listen to their albums: through the album listing on their profile page, or through album mixes, which can include photos (Justin Timberlake’s example mix included behind-the-scenes photos). It will be interesting to see the ways artists utilize this visual aspect of the mix feature; I see some potential here for creating a new type of popular media. Perhaps artists will use mixes to tell a story about the album through a flipbook-like succession of photos, or simply attract attention and listeners through a mix’s creative collages. Regardless of how this feature will be used, it’s interesting to note that there will be more user interactions that involve both image and audio together.
To those who critique Myspace’s facelift when it debuts, I suggest moving past the aesthetics, and taking a deeper look at its new features. Don’t get me wrong — the new interface will certainly contribute to a more pleasant overall experience. But the other aspects of the new Myspace could, against all odds, push the former number-one social network to become a popular place for listeners to check out bands and share music with friends, while offering artists new ways to to attract attention and communicate with fans, all in one place.
So, when will it launch? Earlier this month, Myspace COO Chris Vanderhook told ABC it would become available on a rolling basis, first to artists and super-users, and then to the general community. (Also a copyedit note to ABC… it’s called Myspace now, not MySpace.)