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Summary:

I got WebEx’d. I saw a well-practiced demo of the new MySpace Music last night, and fell under the impression that the News Corp (NYSE: NWS)…

imageI got WebEx’d. I saw a well-practiced demo of the new MySpace Music last night, and fell under the impression that the News Corp (NYSE: NWS) JV with the labels was a simple, straightforward music destination: You search out a song, you add it to your playlist and you listen to it as much as you want, voila. After playing with it through much of the morning, I’m glad I left myself an out, acknowledging that a demo was not the same thing as a test drive.

But let’s start with something good: This is that rare bird, an ambitious new music site not crushed under the weight of legal limitations and lawsuit avoidance. There’s nothing that screams: We sacrificed usability and listener needs in order to satisfy the lawyers, or because we’re bound by some footnote-laden licensing scheme. Sure, here and there, something might be missing due to specific rights issues, but if the song is in the catalog, you can listen to what you want, as many times as you want, in any order you want, without interruption. As for the actual downloads, if it’s on Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) MP3, it’s on there. Of course, we’ve no doubt that the law firms representing the various parties spent plenty of time on this, but it doesn’t show.

More on the not-so-good and playlists after the jump

And now the not so good: MySpace Music is still MySpace, and with that comes a lot of design baggage. It’s hard to know where to start, really, but we can start off with the fact that the actual search box to find songs isn’t on the front page. There are search boxes, but those just take you to artist profiles and various pages. To actually find a song, you have to go the My Music tab, where you’ll find a very rudimentary search system. As far as I can tell, you can’t refine a search by song, artist or album — it’s just a box. So, for example, a search for the band Luna revealed songs with the word “Luna” in the title, bands with the word Luna in their name like “Luna Halo”, and then also the band I was looking for. And there’s no obvious order to any of this.

Getting the songs into a playlist also takes some practice, with too many buttons and too many dialogue boxes. Think of a *Microsoft* product that assumes nothing, clunkily asking you your preferences at every step — it’s like that. Once they’re in the playlist, it takes another couple clicks to listen to it. And since the playlist pops up in a new player, with its own window, it doesn’t update in real time — that is, if you’ve started a playlist, new songs you’ve added to it don’t automatically show up. Instead, you have to relaunch the playlist entirely to have it update with the new songs.

Ostensibly, these playlists are “public” and so I’d love to link to the one I made here (if only to show off my eclectic tastes: I have Juvenile on there and Phil Ochs), but I can’t figure out what’s public about them. They don’t actually seem to show up anywhere — not on my profile, or anyone else. Even the pre-set playlist called “My Profile Playlist” isn’t showing up on my profile. If someone can let me know how this works, that’d be awesome, and I can add a link. As for paid downloads, they’ve made this unnecessarily complex. To buy a song, you have to add this to your playlist, and then click on the Amazon button. Why not just include that button in the original search results?

MySpace Music says it wants to make finding and listening to music as easy and flexible as piracy, which is a pretty good bar to set. And the good news is that design problems are fixable. There’s no fatal flaw in here, since, as I said, it’s not encumbered by legal limitations. Even with site’s frustrating design, I expect to keep coming back for awhile, if only to keep my playlists open in the background while I work. But I’m only doing the minimum. The site doesn’t lure me to interact with artists, view ads, or even connect with friends on it (my only friend on there is Tom — yes, they still do that). A user like me, running streams in a background window, makes no money for the site at all. That’s a problem they need to solve. Fortunately, as SVP-Product Strategy Steve Pearman told me last night, the plan is to “iterate, iterate, iterate”. We’ll keep following this to see how well they do.

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  1. Marshall Kirkpatrick Friday, September 26, 2008

    Good to see this critique, I started having similar thoughts after awhile today as I expect many people did. There are a lot of nice little design touches there, too, though! When I think about how I'm interested in testing this new music service and yet there's no music coming through my computer right now, I also wonder whether I want to go back to something that keeps the tunes coming ala Pandora, Last.fm and HypeMachine.

  2. I was torn between two thoughts: Their search and navigation was implemented by design–solely to push page views and help advertising revenue than give consumers what they want. This doesn't bode well for the service. Your review makes me feel somewhat better in that it looks like their really inept implementation and poor usability is the result of poor choices and will be fixed. I sure hope so, because as it is MySpace Music is little more than an extension of MySpace into music, rather than a music destination and tool in and of itself.

  3. im having trouble putting this music update to my profle, i've been trying to do that over 3 weeks aleady, but everytime i do that, i get this error msg saying

    "Sorry! an unexpected error has occurred.
    This error has been forwarded to MySpace's technical group."

    please help me!

  4. My myspace, well Evertings just dandy. But my music player is messed up. I have no code to hide my player yet is still is hidden. Making it impossible to put anything with noise such as videos on my profile.

  5. ITS BETTER THAN NOTHING ,. BUT i DONT KNOW BECAUSE FOR AUSTRALIANS,. AND MAYBE OTHER COUNTRIES.. WE CANNOT ACCESS THE MYSPACE PLAYLIST. THERE IS NOWWHERE TO DOWNOAD IT AFTER BEING RUDELY STOPPED FROM USING PLAYLIST , JUST LIKE THAT , MYSPACE DELETED /STOPPED US USING PLAYLOST AFTER SEEMINGLY HOITS OF FINDING AND DOWNLOADING SONGS ..SO .. .1. WHY CANT AUSTRALIANS ACCESS MYSPACE PLAYLIST ? AND HOW DOES MYSPACE HAVE PRIVI;EDGES THAT PLAYLIST DOESNT HAVE? AND WHY DELETE US ALL WITH NO WARNING. . NOW ALL I CAN USE IS A 'SNIPIT' SITE CALLED ILIKE… . I DONT LIKE AT ALL .. . PLEASE EXPLAIN WHY MYSPACE PLAYER IS NOT AVAILABLE FOR WE HEATHENS DOWN UNDER ????

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