MySpace CEO on Music Plan

NEW YORK To MySpace CEO Chris DeWolfe, the sprawling social network provides the ideal platform to help the struggling music industry to find its footing in the digital world.

“Music has always been one of the cornerstones of MySpace,” he said in an interview with Adweek. “It’s always been something that drives pop culture, and MySpace is a reflection of pop culture.”

MySpace is uniquely positioned to help the music industry for several reasons, DeWolfe said. First, it has enormous scale with nearly 70 million monthly visitors in the U.S. alone. And its music section already attracts 30 million visitors per month and 5 million artists have profiles on the site.

Perhaps most importantly in terms of competition, MySpace has relationships with advertisers and agencies as well as an infrastructure to support large-scale ad programs capable of generating large amounts of revenue.

“We’ve been focused on advertising since our inception. We have a core competency,” he said.

MySpace research showed that its users were consuming music, DeWolfe said. The trends it found are similar to those throughout digital media: Users discover music via friends and want content on their own terms – portable if possible.

“We learned modern music is letting the users define their own experience,” he said.

MySpace then negotiated with major record labels that wanted to find a new business model. In addition to satisfying the labels, MySpace crafted a plan to address consumers’ desire to share and discover music freely.

The company ended up signing three of the four largest labels: Sony BMG, Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group.

One example of the kind of program MySpace can put together is a promotion it ran for State Farm Insurance last summer tied to My Chemical Romance and Linkin Park. That effort included a streamed concert, not just standard ad placements. MySpace also has enabled brands to fashion online and offline music promotions through its Secret Shows initiative.

To be sure, advertising is just one piece of a larger plan to generate new revenue for artists through MySpace. MySpace Music will also help performers sell downloads, ringtones, concert tickets and merchandise. But advertising will be a “significant” part of the music industry’s future business model, DeWolfe predicted.

He declined to specify the ad placement options MySpace would offer, but said it would not change the overall user experience by introducing more intrusive forms.

MySpace and social networks like Bebo see an opportunity to change how media is consumed, injecting the social interaction in their sites with entertainment offerings. DeWolfe said the evolution of MySpace from a place to keep track of  friends to a media-sharing and recommendation engine is emblematic of larger shifts on the Web.

“Media is becoming much more social and the Internet is becoming much more personal,” DeWolfe said.